Emergency Visions Experts Corner

I’m proud to announce that I have been recently included in the Emergency Visions Experts Corner.  Emergency Visions is a company I have recently been chatting with regarding their technology solutions for THIRA and resource management.  The Emergency Visions software solutions are well thought through to ensure applicability across any jurisdiction or organization helping clients to track data real-time and perpetually to aid in preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. 

As part of their Experts Corner, I will partner with Emergency Visions to provide topical information, similar to this blog, and also have plans to conduct a webinar this October with them and their partner Carahsoft on the THIRA process and integrating THIRA results into other preparedness endeavors.  I encourage you to check out some of the blog posts and webinars already listed on the Emergency Visions website.  I’ll post information on the upcoming webinar once we have the details hammered out. 

Thanks as always for following this blog.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to share ideas with others in the emergency management and homeland security field. 

- Tim Riecker

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An Academic Study in Ferguson Civil Disorder

From an academic and emergency management lessons learned perspective, there will be a great deal to learn from the events in Ferguson, Missouri.  In this brief article on Western Illinois University’s Emergency Management program, faculty comment on how a few of the courses within their degree program expect to analyze this social disaster. 

I anticipate a lot of post-incident analysis once we have the facts of this event.  Respecting the loss of life as we do in any disaster, the practice of emergency management within the greater professions of public safety and even government administration stand to learn a great deal from an after action analysis of this incident to help us improve by preparing for and preventing the impacts of future incidents. 

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Cyber Security Video – Stop. Think. Connect

Students and faculty from Grand Valley State University created a video for the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium and the US Department of Homeland Security’s campaign on cyber security called Tapping In – Stop. Think. Connect.  The information site for the video (including a link to the video) can be found here – Stop. Think. Connect.

It’s a clever video about the dangers of hackers, the importance of individual vigilance, and ways to maintain your own cyber security.  Overall the video is well done and the music is catchy, although I think the production is a bit long (five and a half minutes), leading to the message getting a back seat to the music.  I do like the characterization and the vignettes that drive the video and the overall message.  I’m hopeful they will edit down the piece to provide video segments a bit more palatable to our short attention spans and conducive to inclusion in advertising campaigns. 

More of this is needed.  The public at large seems to pay little attention to cyber security and the role that individuals play in it.  While data infiltrations of large corporations like Target get a great deal of media attention, hackers and phishing scams lead to data and identity theft of individuals on a daily basis. 

How do you promote cyber security in your organization or jurisdiction?  What materials and methods do you use to promote it?  Do you feel you are reaching your audience?  

© 2014 – Timothy Riecker

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Keeping Up With Changes in Emergency Management

As with many things in life, the field of emergency management has changed and will continue to do so.  Much of this change is an evolution – generally positive and productive adjustments to make us more effective and efficient in what we do supported by doctrine and models to guide our actions and provide consistency of application.  Sometimes changes are made which simply give the illusion of progress or are applied much like a Band-Aid as a knee-jerk stop-gap measure which usually fail unless a better implementation is put in place.  Many of the better thought out applications, however, do tend to stick.  While we have seen a great deal of change in the field over the last 14 years, we have largely seen a clear progression with practitioners and policy makers learning from previous programs. 

Yesterday I encountered two separate instances which did not apply current practices and policies. The first was an advertisement for a training program which discussed the four phases of emergency management.  The second was an article in which the author stated that ‘…preparedness is no longer part of the (emergency management) lexicon…’.  The two items, while different, are related in that they both indicate a lack of understanding in the evolution we have made from the four phases of emergency management – mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. 

In a nutshell, these long standing phases began to change soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 with the integration of homeland security with emergency management resulting in the inclusion of ‘prevention’ into the emergency management phases – thus prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.  As minor as this seems, it was quite a change for those of us who had been in the world of the four phases for a while and was a difficult pill to swallow.  Along with the human nature of resistance to change there was still a feeling that the matter wasn’t quite fully settled – in other words, more change would come. 

For several years different models were kicked around but none really gained traction until the issuance of Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD8), which created the National Preparedness Goal and the National Preparedness System.  These begat things like the Core Capabilities (a revamping of the predecessor Target Capabilities) and the introduction of the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) as well as a new way of viewing the major activities within emergency management and homeland security – the five mission areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.  These five mission areas have re-defined, or perhaps more accurately defined what it is that we do in emergency management and homeland security. 

The traditional four phases were often depicted in a cycle.  Taken literally, this meant that you progressed from one phase to the next in a series.  The truth of the matter was that each of the four phases could actually run simultaneously.  There was also a misunderstanding that preparedness was an isolated activity, when in actuality our preparedness efforts applied to all activities.  With the further evolution of homeland security the foundational activities of prevention and then protection were identified and defined.  Pulling together these five mission areas – prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery – the National Preparedness System provides for distinct preparedness activities identified for each mission area, an organization of the Core Capabilities within each mission area, and national planning frameworks which identify the role and goals of each mission area in achieving the national preparedness goal.  Not only has preparedness not gone away, but it has been elevated in status. 

PPD8 was probably the presidential directive with the greatest and broadest impact on our field of practice since Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD5) in 2003 which drove the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  Keeping up with critical changes in our evolution such as these is absolutely imperative for practitioners.  Not only do these policy changes impact how we do our jobs individually and programmatically, but they impact how we coordinate with each other, which is and always will be the foundational essence of emergency management. 

How do you keep up with changes in our field of practice?

© 2014 Timothy Riecker

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Crowdsourcing CPR

Emergency Management Magazine has run a great article on LA County Fire Department linking its dispatch system to an app that will notify CPR trained citizens of the need for their lifesaving skills.  This app, PulsePoint, has apparently been in existence for a while and has, according to the article, 650 emergency response systems linked to it from across the country.

I was not aware of this app, but I think the concept of crowdsourcing lifesaving skills like CPR is great – especially given the narrow window of time that emergency medicine can be effective following cardiac arrest.  This concept leads me to think of what other areas within public safety can be crowdsourced, relying on the good will of citizens to provide aid in times of need.

What possibilities do you see?

- Tim Riecker



After posting this blog I downloaded the PulsePoint app on my phone.  I was amazed at the number of locations PulsePoint serves across the country.  While there were none near me I still activated the alerting feature on the app as I do travel to many of the locations listed.  When searching for the app in the App Store, I also came across PulsePoint AED, which is another crowdsourcing app which allows users to help identify the locations of AEDs in their communities (this database is cross referenced with the CPR app so users can be alerted to the location of an AED).  There didn’t seem to be any indicated in my area, so there likely are not any users around here as of yet.  I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for these locations when I’m out in the community and contributing to PulsePoint’s database.

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Robin Williams

Please forgive this digression from my normal topical blog. Like others in the world I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Robin Williams. He was a brilliant actor and comedian who seemed to touch the lives of every person who saw any of his many comedy acts, TV shows, or movies.

His performances made viewers laugh and cry – Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always amazing.

It is reported that Mr Williams suffered from depression. I think we all know someone who has or is suffering from depression, maybe it’s even you. Through my life it has touched me and people I love. Please be sure to get help for yourself or support those that need it in getting help. It is easier said than done, but depression can be overcome.

Rest in peace Robin Williams. You will live on in your art and in our hearts.

Oh Captain, my Captain!


Having a Resource Management Common Operating Picture

Resource management is one of the most complex aspects of emergency management.  The resource management cycle could be seen as a microcosm of the emergency management cycle with a number of steps operating in sequence and some simultaneously before, during, and after a disaster.  We need to properly establish our resource management systems, procedures, and policies and keep them, as well as our inventories, up to date.

Referencing the Core Capabilities, the capabilities of Public and Private Services and Resources, Planning, Critical Transportation, and Operational Coordination all have bearing on resource management.  Resource management is also one of the key components of NIMS.  The following graphic on the resource management cycle comes from NIMS doctrine.  While this is largely a logistics issue, the importance of it all cuts across all levels of all organizations.

NIMS Resource Management Cycle

NIMS Resource Management Cycle

Consider each of the steps identified in the resource management cycle.  There is quite a bit of complexity to each.  An additional challenge is that they are always in motion as requirements regularly change, new resources are obtained, and obsolete resources are retired from service.  Often one change in a step of the cycle requires changes cascading to other steps.  Also consider the variety of people involved in each step.  No one agency or department has all the resources, therefore we are relying on information from others to create a common operating picture of resource management.  Additionally, the regularity of changes in this information require us to have establish and maintain a system which allows for real-time tracking of this information.

Any information can be viewed in a variety of manners.  A fairly simple web-based tool can allow for multiple stakeholders to input data and change resource status, but the display of that information the reporting available from such as system allows for better utility.  The integration of GIS can help us identify not only where our resources are, but what their status is (NIMS provides us with three resources status indicators: Assigned, Available, and Out of Service), as well as detailed information on the resource such as the kind and type (again, these are NIMS-driven definitions that describe the capability of a resource), the owner of the resource along with contact information, and other information including technical, operational, and maintenance information.

In a pre-incident condition we should know what we have, what capability of those resources, and the conditions for deployment.  Operating under ICS, once an incident occurs, Logistics obtains resources for the incident where tracking becomes the responsibility of the Resource Unit in the Planning Section.  After an incident, these resources return to their owners where they are maintained and re-inventoried.  Depending on the incident, owners may be reimbursed for their use which requires reporting on a variety of metrics.

Wildfire incident management practices brought us the T-Card system – a great low-tech way of tracking incident resources.  A T-Card system is easy to learn and deploy and does a great job of tracking resources but can be very labor intensive and certainly has a delay in reporting.  I’ve also used spreadsheets and stand alone databases, which allow for more flexibility and automated reporting, but still suffer from a delay with a single point of data input and management.  Networked systems allow for immediate inclusion of staging areas, bases, and other mobilization or stockpile areas and are suited for simple and complex incidents.  Consider leveraging technology to maximize your resource management common operating picture on both a daily basis and for incident management.  Of course it’s always good to have a low-tech back up (and the know-how to use it!).

What systems do you have in place for resource management?  What best practices have you identified?

© 2014 Timothy Riecker


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