LLIS is Back!

Great news from FEMA early this morning – the Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) resource is back.  Quite a while ago they pulled down the LLIS site and have (very slowly) worked to transition the data and management responsibilities to the Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Digital Library.  Information from the FEMA release below.



We are pleased to announce that Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) program has completed the consolidation of content previously available on LLIS.gov with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). As part of the consolidation effort, nearly 23,000 documents were transferred to the HSDL document library. We believe this consolidation will improve the whole community’s access to valuable information. Some of our most recent LLIS products, including Threat/Hazard and Core Capability Trend Analyses, Grant Case Studies, and Lessons Learned and Innovative Practices can be found on FEMA.gov or by visiting HSDL.org.

The content transferred to HSDL will maintain a similar level of accessibility as LLIS.gov. Documents that required a username and password to view on LLIS.gov will also require a username and password on HSDL.org. While your LLIS.gov log-in credentials do not transfer, you can easily create a new HSDL account by visiting the HSDL login page. Please note that some content is available without a password. To search for publicly available documents visit HSDL.org and use the search bar function on the homepage.

If you have additional questions, we encourage you to review our Frequently Asked Questions document. You can also email us at FEMA-lessonslearned@fema.dhs.gov.

Thank you for your patience during this transition. Stay updated on all LLIS program news by signing up for the LLIS newsletter.

News in Emergency Management

Regrettably I’ve not posted in a few weeks due to a very busy schedule.  While that hasn’t broken, I did want to take some time to ensure that my readers have seen some recent news that has been circulating in emergency management as of late.

First, the FEMA mobile app has updated and is now providing the ability for users to receive weather alerts from up to five locations across the nation.  This is a particularly handy feature for those who have family and friends in other states or those who travel frequently to different areas.  With hazardous weather season upon us, be sure that you use the FEMA mobile app or other state or local alerting service to ensure that you, your family, and organization receive alerts.

Second, DHS has provided an update on the status of the LLIS (Lessons Learned Information Sharing) Libarary.  From the release I received this morning…

Dear LLIS.gov User,

This spring, the Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) program will make a significant change. The LLIS.gov website will cease independent operations and will consolidate its content with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL.org) and FEMA.gov.

One of the advantages of this move is that LLIS.gov content such as lessons learned, innovative practices, after-action reports, plans, templates, guides, and other materials will be consolidated with the already substantial database on HSDL.org. This change will allow the homeland security and emergency management communities to find relevant information in one place. FEMA’s LLIS program will continue to produce trend analyses, case studies on the use of FEMA preparedness grants, and webinars relevant to the whole community. These products will be available to the public on FEMA.gov.
They don’t give any timeframe for this migration aside from stating that they will provide updates in the coming weeks.  Personally, I think this is a move that makes sense by consolidating some great sources of information.  I’m also happy to hear that FEMA will continue providing some data and trend analysis, although I’m hopeful that the information they provide is of greater value than what I have seen in the past.  I’m also curious if this will be somehow integrated into the new Data.gov site.  It’s unfortunate that LLIS has been pulled down for so long while they have sorted all this out.

Lastly, good news for coastal communities and those who have suffered inland tropical storm damages in the last few years – the prediction for the 2015 hurricane season is that we will have lower than average activity.  A link to the annual predictive analysis can be found here.

That’s all for now.  Stay safe.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


Don’t Just Prepare for Disasters Passed

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been reading Rumsfeld’s Rules, a bit of a memoir by former Congressman, Secretary of Defense (twice over), and CEO Donald Rumsfeld.  Much of the book is highlighted by quotes which have influenced him in various stages of his life.  One of his anecdotes references the Maginot Line, a multi-layered defensive system created by the French after World War I along their border with Germany, intended to protect France from any future invasion from Germany.  The Maginot Line would have proven a rather effective defense, had Germany used similar strategies in World War II as they had in World War I.  Obviously the Nazis were quite successful in their invasion of France, quickly conquering and occupying the nation.  The difference was that the Nazis were fighting a new war, whereas France was preparing to fight the last war – which is the quote Rumsfeld references with this anecdote.

What can we learn from this in emergency management and homeland security?  It can’t possibly apply to us, can it?  Obviously we base many of our plans and preparations on disasters of the past.  We have an in-depth trove of information from sources like LLIS which allow us to learn from past disasters.  Much of our hazard analysis is based upon what occurred in the past.  We study past disasters, examining them from inception through recovery, arm-chair quarterbacking all facets of response – from command, to organization, to logistics.  From this we learn what practices to embrace and what needs to be improved upon.  Since we’re quoting, it was Benjamin Franklin who said “Experience the best teacher.”

To the contrary, we have a rather prolific saying in emergency management that no two disasters are alike.  So why all this effort to examine the past?  There is a lot to be learned from the past.  As previously mentioned, we spend a lot of time and effort examining earlier disasters so we can learn from them.  While every disaster is different, there are also many commonalities – all of which we can better prepare for.  The past also puts disasters and their magnitude in context for us.  We can’t be stuck in the past, however.  While the next disaster may have similarities to one passed, there will be differences.  It is our job and our responsibility to predict to the greatest extent of our efforts what the impacts will be of future disasters, as well as the hazards they will stem from.  Yes we must learn from the past, but we must always look to the future.

How do we look into the future?  Reconvene your planning groups and discuss this new context.  Engage members to continually reassess what is changing – in the climate, the geography and landscape, and the new or changed technological hazards in our areas.  We must look beyond our borders both literally and figuratively as I outlined in a previous post, and consider all possibilities.  Use exercises which introduce scenarios new to us instead of those based upon disasters of the past to help us contextualize this and better prepare.

My challenge to you – Take an honest look at your plans, policies, procedures, and training – are you preparing to fight the last war or the next one?

© 2014 Timothy Riecker

Does Your Municipality Have an Emergency Management Handbook?

I recently came across an emergency management handbook assembled for municipalities in Connecticut.   First of all, I’m thrilled that officials in CT are openly sharing this handbook.  Doing so makes it easier for their municipal officials to find and, in the spirit of sharing found within emergency management, it is always great to share best practices.  There are a great deal of concepts, templates, checklists, and the sort which are benchmarked and shared throughout the emergency management community, by way of the Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) site and other means, which are of great help the collective profession.  If someone else has already done something and it seems to work, why not adapt it to your own needs instead of trying to create something completely different?

I recall early in my career when handbooks and reference guides assembled by states for their local governments were common practice.  For a period of time we seemed to get away from that for some reason, but the practice now is making a resurgence.  I consulted on a project a year ago for the creation of a UASI regional handbook and have seen others in use.  The CT handbook which I linked to at the beginning of the article is an excellent example of what should be included in a handbook and how it should be structured.  Recall from my training-related articles that my focus is always on the audience and their needs.  This audience-centered approach doesn’t only apply to training – it also applies perfectly well to document development. So who is the audience for these handbooks?  Certainly the chief elected officials of counties, cities, towns, and villages.  Their subordinates (department heads) can also benefit greatly from the content.  How about schools (primary and secondary education alike) and hospitals?  The more people who are familiar with the foundational concepts of emergency management and how it is applied in a particular state, the better.  With some modification to include more information for them, I’d also include private sector entities as well.

The structure of the CT document is also one to be benchmarked.  They make reference with brief explanations to federal and state laws and related authorities of individuals and agencies regarding emergency management and related topics, such as NIMS.  For these and other references throughout the document, they include external links where additional information can be found.  They include emergency management structure and flow, which helps local governments identify who they need to coordinate with and who they should request assistance from.  They break down the document into the phases of incident management and include information on each; including planning, training, exercises, and grants within Preparedness; communication, coordination, notification, resources, and other information within Response; debris management, PDAs, and recovery programs in Recovery; and the variety of common mitigation programs in Mitigation.  Appendices provide information sheets on things like the CT VOAD and 211, as well as templates and checklists for the critical elements of each phase of emergency management.

Recalling the needs of the audience, CT addresses them well with this document, which was a collaborative effort between their state emergency management department, emergency management association, state conference of municipalities, council of small towns, and association of regional planners.  These types of collaborative efforts help ensure that the right information is being conveyed.  Most new elected and appointed officials know little about emergency management and need to become familiarized with it before a disaster occurs.  While response is the most prominent phase of emergency management, the other phases are necessary to promote an effective response and a good, overall program.  Even for those experienced in emergency management, a guide such as this provides excellent references for the critical information.  The handbook is of reasonable size – only 90 pages – so it is easy to navigate.  While it has value in print, it is even more valuable electrically given the addition of hyperlinks which bring you to other information.  As a PDF, it’s handy to keep in the library of a iPad or other tablet where it can be referenced easily.  Overall, the information is succinct, giving only what is needed for foundational understanding.  The templates, checklists, and quick reference guide found in the appendices help turn the information into actionable content.

Lastly, the structure and content of the document lends itself well to a structured review (i.e. training), which gives people the opportunity to look at the document in-depth and ask questions.

Does your state or municipality have a handbook similar to this?  What are your thoughts on the one CT provides?  Would you like to see more content or less?  Have they missed something essential?


Tim Riecker

Emergency Managers as Curators

The training and development industry, championed by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), suggested a couple of years ago that trainer are curators of information. This suggestion caught like wildfire in the training and development community. The ASTD compares a trainer to the curator of a museum who organizes and selects specific items or collections for an exhibit; similar to how trainers draw upon knowledge and information, organizing and selecting certain pieces for training purposes. As a trainer myself, I appreciate the meaning of the analogy and considered that the same analogy could certainly be applied to other professions, particularly Emergency Management.

Do we curate in Emergency Management? Emergency Management is certainly a unique profession. It is highly dependent on a broad set of knowledge, much of which is applied to nearly all activities but some applied very specifically. A county emergency manager could be participating in a nuclear power plant exercise one day and giving a presentation on flood preparedness to local communities the next. Both have to do with preparedness, but each require separate and specific applications of technical knowledge. Emergency managers are often jacks of many trades, perhaps specializing in one or two areas, but typically being reasonably well versed in many other topics. In the event that more knowledge is needed, emergency managers know who to reach out to.

Emergency managers coordinate to a higher degree than most other professions – So much so that the profession is actually dependent upon it. No emergency manager in any community can be successful without coordinating with and having cooperation from other community stakeholders. This premise is applied not only to response, but to all phases of emergency management. At present I’m working on a plan for a community that requires some very specific public health expertise. I can write a plan, but the plan won’t have maximum effectiveness without the input of certain subject matter experts.

Similar to trainers, most emergency managers I know have collections of books and reference materials. Many are from courses or seminars they have attended, text books, trade periodicals, and an extensive collection of electronic files. Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) is an excellent living library of reference materials from contributors all over the nation which I go to often to review best practices.

So what do you think about emergency managers being curators?