Emergency planning – A linear approach or ‘choose your own adventure’?

When creating deliberate emergency operations plans, and especially the associated standard operating procedures/guidelines (SOPs/SOGs) that accompany them (you do develop these, right?) there is always a consideration for how to progress through the written plan – chronologically or topically.  There are pros and cons to both approaches you should be aware of.

Chronological progression of your planning efforts assume that an incident starts at A and progresses to Z, in a particular order.  At a glance, this is a lot of structure for emergency management, but an analysis of most incidents will show that they generally tend to progress in this fashion.  It’s human nature for us to like order and to try to put things into a logical progression.  There are, of course, the outliers – those incidents which have tangential or cascading impacts which don’t necessarily have a linear progression.  It’s these unknown factors that make us stumble a bit.  How do we account for these disruptions of our orderly progression?  We have to skip around in the plan.  If our plan isn’t designed for skipping around, it can be rather awkward and not easy to use.

A Choose Your Own Adventure book

A Choose Your Own Adventure book

The other side of the coin argues that if you are likely to skip around in the plan anyway, why not build a topical, or ‘choose your own adventure’ style, plan?  Remember choose your own adventure books?  The story always starts the same, building a foundation for the adventure you will face, but you, the reader, eventually get to decide what the main character will do.  At some point, you will be faced with a choice.  Should your hero take the left tunnel or the right?  If you take the left, go to page X, if you go right, turn to page Y.

Non-linear planning will chunk the content of your plan so individual sections focus on each potential impact and major activity – be it hazard-specific or function-specific – with reference back to a core plan, kind of a hub and spoke approach.  (By the way, ‘chunking’ is an actual term.  We use it primarily in instructional design).  It can make for some flipping around through the plan, and sometimes a bit of redundancy if each section starts with the same concept of operations (thus the need to reference back to a core plan), but it more easily accommodates the unknowns of an incident by looking at separate impacts or major activities as individual components related to a central response.

What are your thoughts?  Do we try to keep things orderly, or do we give in to a modular, ‘choose your own adventure’ approach?  Which do you think is more complex?  Which do you think is more effective?

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

WWW.EPSLLC.BIZ

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National Planning Frameworks: National Engagement Webinars

FEMA is hosting a series of 60-minute engagement webinars to discuss the update of the National Planning Frameworks. All webinars are open to the whole community, which encompasses—individuals (including those with disabilities and others with access and functional needs), businesses and nonprofits, faith-based and community groups, schools, and all levels of government. The sessions are scheduled for:

• Monday, May 18, 3:00 PM EDT
• Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 AM EDT
• Wednesday, May 27, 12:00 PM EDT
• Thursday, May 28, 10:30 AM EDT

Because each engagement webinar will cover the same information, please choose the session most convenient for you. Advance registration is required due to space limitations. Registration is on a first come, first serve basis. To register, please visit: https://www.vjpo.org/private/ppd8/events/frameworksupdate.

If you require accommodations to participate in these events, please provide details in the Disability Related Accommodations field on the registration page or contact us at PPD8-Engagement@fema.dhs.gov.

To review the draft National Planning Frameworks, please visit http://www.fema.gov/learn-about-presidential-policy-directive-8. To provide comments, please complete the feedback form and submit to PPD8-Engagement@fema.dhs.gov. Comments made during the webinars are considered to be for discussion purposes only and may not be adjudicated formally.

The National Planning Frameworks, which are part of the National Preparedness System, set the strategy and doctrine for building, sustaining, and delivering the core capabilities identified in the National Preparedness Goal. They describe the coordinating structures and alignment of key roles and responsibilities for the whole community and are integrated to ensure interoperability across all mission areas.

This update of the National Planning Frameworks focuses on discrete, critical content revisions, and confirming edits as a result of comments received on the National Preparedness Goal. Additional changes in the current draft of the Frameworks are the result of the lessons from implementing the Frameworks and recent events, as well as the findings of the National Preparedness Report.

Questions can be directed to FEMA’s NIC at: PPD8-Engagement@fema.dhs.gov.

For more information on national preparedness efforts, visit: http://www.fema.gov/national-preparedness.

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Finally – an Emergency Management Podcast Worth Listening To!

I’m a bit of a podcast addict.  I listen to them all the time – at the gym, mowing the lawn, long drives, etc.  There are podcasts out there for all interests.  I’ve struggled, however, these last few years, with finding a good emergency management podcast.  Sure, I’ve found a few, but I find them to generally have limited relevancy and also to be boring as hell.  Yes, I want to learn, but I also want to be entertained.  Last week, after seeing a tweet from Brandon Greenburg about guesting on a podcast, I was immediately intrigued.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with Brandon, you should be.  He blogs regularly about disasters and technology, usually together, and has great thoughts and ideas.  Brandon is not only a practitioner, but also an academic, currently pursuing a Ph.D. from GWU in technology and disaster management.  Brandon is one of those colleagues who I’ve never met, yet correspond with via our blogging and social media platforms.  Since he knows EM and he knows tech and social media, anything Brandon would be on immediately gives me cause to pay attention.  For more on Brandon, visit www.disasternet.co or on Twitter @disasternet.

Getting to the podcast, the name is the Dukes of Hazards, hosted by Mitch Stripling and Andrew McMahan.  From their website, the podcast is “… an irreverent (but useful) podcast about disaster response, emergency management, mobilization culture, community resilience, and life in emergency operations.  Also, drones.  Research.  Movie reviews.  Jokes.”  It really is all of that.  And a clever name!

Mitch and Andrew have clearly cracked the secret code of podcasting – talk about any subject (even one that is serious, like emergency management) and make it both informative and entertaining.  They clearly have a good time recording (the beer and cookies probably help with that), they are experienced in EM, and they continue to stay current in the practice.  Their discussion topics are interesting and relevant, and they fully use dialogue – with each other, guests, and written listener feedback – to help you feel engaged in their discussion.

Dukes of Hazards looks at current events in EM, new practices and ideas, and discusses the future direction of different facets of our field.  They even occasionally poke fun at some of our idiosyncrasies and common personality traits, which is a breath of fresh air! There are also some occasional pop culture references like Star Wars and The Walking Dead that make me quite happy.

Bottom line – informative, entertaining, beer and cookies.  Need I say more?

Check out Dukes of Hazards at www.hazardspodcast.com for more info.  You can listen to their podcasts from the website, iTunes, and other outlets.  They can also be found on Twitter at @hazardspodcast. You won’t be sorry.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

WWW.EPSLLC.BIZ

@EPS_LLC

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NIMS Alert. National Engagement Period for National Planning Frameworks

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
NIMS Alert 02-15: National Planning Frameworks: National Engagement Period

NIMS Alert 02-15: National Planning Frameworks: National Engagement Period

Today, FEMA’s National Integration Center (NIC) is soliciting public feedback for the update of the National Planning Frameworks.

This National Engagement Period begins May 11, 2015 and will conclude at 5:00 pm EDT June 3, 2015. National Engagement provides an opportunity for interested parties to comment and provide feedback on the National Planning Frameworks.

The National Planning Frameworks, which are part of the National Preparedness System, set the strategy and doctrine for building, sustaining, and delivering the core capabilities identified in the National Preparedness Goal. They describe the coordinating structures and alignment of key roles and responsibilities for the whole community and are integrated to ensure interoperability across all mission areas. Over the next few weeks, the whole community will have the opportunity to support the update effort and submit their comments and ideas for consideration.

This update of the National Planning Frameworks focuses on discrete, critical content revisions, and confirming edits as a result of comments received on the National Preparedness Goal. Additional changes in the current draft of the Frameworks are the result of the lessons from implementing the Frameworks and recent events, as well as the findings of the National Preparedness Report.

To review the draft National Planning Frameworks, please visit http://www.fema.gov/learn-about-presidential-policy-directive-8. To provide comments, please complete the feedback form and submit to PPD8-Engagement@fema.dhs.gov.

Questions can be directed to FEMA’s NIC at: PPD8-Engagement@fema.dhs.gov.

For more information on national preparedness efforts, visit: http://www.fema.gov/national-preparedness.

 

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The Aussie Model of Disaster Recovery

I had recently found a reference to the Emergency Management Victoria Disaster Recovery Toolkit for Local Government.  I’m always curious to see how other nations approach emergency management and even more curious to see the tools and resources they develop to accomplish their goals.  While there is a great deal of consistency between the US model of Disaster Recovery (documented primarily through the National Disaster Recovery Framework), one of the more interesting differences was in the focus areas of each.  While our National Disaster Recovery Framework identifies six recovery support functions (RSFs): Community Planning and Capacity Building, Health and Social Services, Infrastructure Systems, Economic, Housing, and Natural and Cultural Resources; the Aussie model identifies five environments of wellbeing: Natural Environment, Agricultural Environment, Social Environment, Economic Environment, and the Built Environment.

Australian Five Environments of Wellbeing

Australian Five Environments of Wellbeing

While there are certainly commonalities between the two models, each offers a unique perspective on the focus of disaster recovery and what is needed to support communities.  The Disaster Recovery Toolkit for Local Governments, referenced earlier, identifies that local governments are required through legislation to ensure wellbeing to be maintained in each community through each of these environments.

What interesting perspectives have you discovered looking at emergency management globally?

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

WWW.EPSLLC.BIZ

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EM, HS, and Politics

As the mechanizations of election season warm up their engines, let’s be sure to identify the standing of candidates in regard to emergency management and homeland security policies.  While we will never get a fully accurate picture of their intentions in these programs this early on (I’m sure few candidates are even thinking about EM/HS policy aside from immigration), we can get some indication of what their thoughts are and, once primary season is over, who the final candidates might be considering to head important agencies such as DHS and FEMA.

Any examination of this history of emergency management shows that politics seem to shape the direction of what we do as much as significant disasters do.  If you are interested in reading up on this, there are two great sources I’d recommend – Emergency Management: The American Experience 1900-2010 (Rubin. 2012.) provides good summaries of benchmark disasters and legislation through the years; and Next-Generation Homeland Security: Network Federalism and the Course to National Preparedness (Morton. 2012.) provides an in-depth look at this history with detailed references to the administrations, agencies, and people involved.

Rubin and Morton References

Rubin and Morton References

While we have certainly seen an overall positive trend of progress in emergency management (which is heavily influenced and sometimes dictated by federal policy), this has come despite some political actions which have either slowed progress or sometimes fully did away with positive and effective programs.  Having major changes in policy and programs every few years has become unsustainable for our practice, especially at the local level where EM/HS programs are often coordinated by one person.  Change isn’t always bad, but changes should be put in place only after being thought-through and reviewed by professionals to ensure they are effective and sustainable – not just politically motivated.  FEMA has been doing a great job in the last several years by providing public comment periods on new and major changes to guidance.  I hope this continues.

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

WWW.EPSLLC.BIZ 

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Cybersecurity – What is the Government’s Role with Business and Industry?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology was charged by the President with the creation of a framework for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity, which they accomplished in February of 2014.  This framework and associated documents provides information on critical steps that business and industry, working with the federal government, should take in the protection, prevention, detection, response, investigation, and recovery from a cyberattack.  The importance of this is not only the theft of private information of customers, as occurred in the hacking of Target databases, but most importantly (and the intention of the NIST document) the protection of our nation’s critical infrastructure – most of which is owned and operated by private industry.  What about state governments?  Do they have a role?

Working with various states around the nation, it has been interesting to see how they perceive their role in cybersecurity.  Some are very hands-on, while others are far too comfortable in the back seat.  State governments, it seems, are working to protect the cyber infrastructure they control (their own computer systems and data), but the position they take in respect to the private sector covers the whole spectrum of proactive to wait-and-see.  One wait-and-see-er explains their position away saying that if they don’t own the cyber infrastructure they can’t do anything to protect it.  Interestingly enough, this particular argument came from a larger state which is the recipient of higher cuts of homeland security grant program (HSGP) funds than most and has a significant amount of critical infrastructure, including several nuclear power plants.  They seem to have little interest even working with business and industry to come to common understandings, discuss threat indicators, share ideas, and talk about procedures and priorities.

On the other hand, there are states, both large and small, who see benefit to working with their business and industry to protect critical infrastructure and data interests.  While they acknowledge some challenges with the state not owning the cyberinfrastructure of these companies (nor do they want to), they see nothing but benefits in the formation of cybersecurity working groups and conducting cyber preparedness activities, particularly exercises.  This is the smart approach.

Given the number of cyberattacks that occur every day, it seems inevitable, just like any disaster, that a successful cyberattack on a critical sector of our infrastructure will certainly occur sometime in the future.  Are we prepared?  What are your states doing to prevent, protect, and prepare for such occurrences?  What are we missing?

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC

WWW.EPSLLC.BIZ

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