Prepared for 72 hours. Is it enough?

Most preparedness campaigns share the message that citizens need to be prepared for 72 hours or three days in an emergency—that you need to count on government resources not being able to make it to your household or location within that amount of time. These campaigns ask you to make a plan for reunification and evacuation with your loved ones who may be at work or at school. They also suggest that you prepare a preparedness kit with items such as food, water, flashlights, batteries and even items like a deck of cards. More recently in the current era of social media and the capability to send focused alerts to communities, emergency management partners are encouraging citizens to also get connected—sign up for alerts, join community facebook pages, and know your neighbors. This social connectedness is a strong thread to keep communities together when day-to- day infrastructure and services that we take for granted may not be available. A concerning observation about the 72 hour focus remains that year after year, despite dedicated preparedness campaign investments with tactful messages and delivery, citizens are still not prepared for 7 hours let alone the recommended 72 hours. When it snowed a few feet last year in the DC area (with accurate forecasting), I think 90% of residents went to the store within the first day of the storm to buy the essential items that they should have purchased prior to the storm. What’s even more concerning is that it’s widely recognized by honest public safety officials that in a major disaster (major earthquake, hurricane, blizzard, etc.) that planning for even 72 hours is likely not enough! If a true disaster strikes cities in the mid-Atlantic at a magnitude larger than our last Snowmaggedon, the big box stores, grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and banks will not be open. Electricity could be out for days or weeks. With this type of infrastructure down, all local, state, and even Federal government resources will be completely surged to capacity to try to maintain a basic level of public safety in our communities. They will not have the capacity to knock on doors to give people food, water, blankets, or fans. I am not trying to employ scare tactics by any means, but this is a reality that we need to face and an expectation that we need to communicate. I recommend the following tips to stay prepared beyond 72 hours: Plan to use your electronics but also plan for them to go down. Have backup chargers for your mobile devices charged and ready. Sign up for your local emergency management alert system and join your community Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to improve your...

Read More

3 Areas of Progress Since 9/11

As we take a moment as a Nation to reflect on the horrible events of September 11th 2001, it is important to remind ourselves that our public safety and homeland security leadership at a local, state, and Federal level are thinking about these issues every day. In the spirit of reflection, I would like to take a few minutes to share some of the areas identified as critical gaps by this horrific terrorism event fourteen years ago and point out correspondingly significant strides forward in three areas: interoperable communications, situational awareness, and cross-discipline coordination and command. These issues quite literally keep our best and brightest up at night worrying about saving every life possible and meeting the public’s high expectations in the face of disaster. While we have seen significant progress on these issues, we also have a continuing duty to maintain and improve the safety of our communities. Interoperable Communications: The 9/11 Commission Report as well as impacted jurisdiction After Action Reports (AARs) highlighted significant barriers to voice communications—from building coverage issues to compatibility of radios across some fire/rescue & police partners responding on scene. If 9/11 has done one thing for our first responders and citizens, it has made this issue a foundational area of response that simply had to be addressed. Agencies nationwide have focused their attention on using compatible radio systems with a standards—based approach to ensure connectivity across key response partners. In addition to major technology strides forward, policy makers and public safety leadership have put in the time and resources to develop the right protocols in advance of events and they are doing their due diligence by training and exercising on dynamic scenarios. While it is hard to quantify this type of progress, exercises are showing us that our responders are more informed and more equipped for that future black sky day. Situational Awareness: Having real-time, accurate information to make decisions quickly to save lives was on 9/11 and is always an issue front and center to any Incident Commander or Emergency Operations Center Manager. Knowing where your people and your resources are and where they are going next is critical during an emerging disaster and there were significant obstacles to receiving and sharing this information on that fateful day. It is exciting that today’s technology enables operational decision-makers to see events unfolding on a map on their mobile devices. This capability gives them a visual picture of the magnitude, impacted populations and structures, and even the responding units. That understanding of the wider picture helps save lives. Cross-Discipline Coordination and Command: Large-scale disasters do not occur every day and because of their infrequency and magnitude, first responders and first receivers can often...

Read More

3 Keys to Measuring and Then Sharing Your Program’s Progress

My colleague, March Leh, made a great point in his blog published earlier this month: “key audiences care most about progress towards project completion and visionary goals.” I wanted to hone in on a few critical points that form the basis of the most hard-hitting performance measurement for your government program or organization. While it is harder to track and then articulate progress made towards achieving an organization’s mission and vision, it is worth the investment of resources. Performance measurement and then sharing the facts can seem like a daunting task, but I have found success by focusing on the following: Identify what is most important to your most important audience(s): This step is all about narrowing in on the aspects of performance that will show the value of your program or organization. This can be a tremendous opportunity to engage emerging leaders in your organization to take the reins. I have observed that engaging the full team with many diverse perspectives (and ownership roles) is very valuable in moving this chess piece forward. As a team, brainstorm and narrow: What are we currently measuring that shows the value of our organization to this key group(s)? What are we trying to measure that shows our value, but may not be hitting the mark? What important points are not even on our radar that would mean the world if we could track them and articulate them? Explicitly link everything to the mission and vision: One of the most poignant phrases in the performance measurement world is ‘So what?’ After you have identified or even re-evaluated the essential components of your program or organization to enhance measurement and sharing, make sure the story of why these facts are important in supporting your organization’s progress to meet its mission and vision is crystal clear. Break it down into simple and visual facts: Once organized around the content, one of the most challenging final stretch considerations is how to share this vital information with the people that matter most. Just last week I transformed a perfectly informative (and boring) word document into a tool that resonated with my core audience. I used an infographic, but there is a world of options. By simply changing the format and presentation of this content using dynamic shapes, color, and images, the information was transformed into a tool that resonated with my intended audience. The message was not just delivered; it was received. And it does not take an artist, just some intentional brainstorming about the key points to convey and how to truly convey them. And don’t forget to infuse this effort with regular updates! Stale facts mean nothing. What powerful performance measurement and sharing tips do you find valuable?...

Read More

Why Mentoring is an Essential Trait of Great Leadership

A good mentoring relationship is identified by the willingness and capability of both parties to ask questions, challenge assumptions and disagree. —Debbie Zmorenski I value mentoring as an essential function of our society, but also believe it is fundamentally a priority practice of any good leader—to be both a mentor and mentee.  Upon reading the above point made by Debbie Zmorenski, it reminds me and reinforces the importance of leadership as a two-way street and the role of leadership in fostering the growth of our next generation of leaders and to continually grow throughout one’s career. Because the most successful mentoring relationships are often organic, unstructured, and based upon a strong relationship, I wanted to expand on my observations of the most beneficial attributes of a strong mentoring relationship and how it helps leaders to grow and continue to influence those positively around them. I believe the three key points to a positive mentoring relationship are trust, open communication, and continued growth of both the mentor and mentee: Trust: Trust is an essential element of any strong relationship, and it builds organically and gradually over time as both parties build reliability, credibility, and intimacy (professional intimacy) while building awareness of self-orientation in the navigation of a variety of daily situations. You may recognize these attributes from the Trusted Advisor trust equation (www.trustedadvisor.com). As a leader, the mentoring relationship is an avenue to practice the art of both being trusted and trusting others as you are a springboard and safe place to share challenges and exciting ideas to continue professional development. This trust is earned over time through reciprocity of appreciation and investment from both a mentor and mentee in how they view the mentoring relationship. Open Communication: In line with trust, being direct and open in communication while practicing active listening is absolutely critical to the mentoring relationship and being a strong leader. As a mentor and mentee, we continue to learn and practice giving praise and understanding how much positive impact it can have, providing feedback during sometimes difficult situations, learning how to receive sometimes-hard-to-hear feedback, and I cannot emphasize enough the role of listening.  Specifically in the mentoring relationship, knowing when it is the right time to listen just to listen versus listening to find a solution pays off tremendously in building up the relationship and translates to all situations that require strong leadership. Continued Growth: A mentoring relationship is a two-way street. While the focus of growth is on the mentee more directly, both sides should feel like they are continually growing in their professional skills throughout a successful relationship. The mentor grows through awareness of obstacles across the organization that their colleagues may face that...

Read More

Why Connecting Local, State, and Federal Government Efforts is a Major Key to Achieving More Resilient Communities

Building on one of my last posts, focused on key messages to share to support the shift to a culture of preparedness, I wanted to share a few observations on improving the government’s role in this shift to support more resilient communities nationwide. There are currently a few really big issues that with iterative progress and even some quick and public wins, can make a tremendous difference in how government—from local to state to Federal—executes and is perceived to tackle this wicked societal issue. Ensuring local and state requirements are driving Federal guidance/doctrine: I have observed a major shift toward the bottom-up approach over the last fifteen years and believe that if Federal programs can continue to institutionally design program missions and processes that are driven by the community and response partners (instead of a cool new whiz-bang technology that may not meet their requirements), tremendous strides will be made to perpetuating a more resilient society. These types of Federal programs (such as the DHS S&T First Responder Group and FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Division) exist, and they are successful at making iterative improvements for our collective resilience, but they don’t always make the front page of the news. One idea to support this process would be to ramp up the sharing of success stories—especially with community partners from mission-similar non-profits, faith-based communities and local and state government partners—and then replicate successes nationwide. Policy is only words on a paper until it is executed and touches its intended audience and makes an impact. Frequently, this communication of impact and value is lost somewhere along the process. Local communities understanding Federal government resources to enact Federal policy: In the same vein of the issue above, local communities and government often are in the loop on Federal guidance that impacts and supports them, such as the more recent guidance and requirements around the Threat and Hazard Identification Risk Assessment (THIRA). However, there may be a gap in the local communities’ understanding of how Federal resources can support the local community’s successful alignment and execution of policy and guidance. For the THIRA, there is a comprehensive guide that takes the reader through the five – step process with clear examples to support this analysis that every Region of the US should consider for enhanced preparedness. Connecting neighbors to strengthen the regional approach: Another key area to build more resilient communities is the focused connection of neighboring localities and community organizations as part of a regional approach. In a disaster, the fastest mutual aid always comes from one’s neighbors. If Fire/EMS agencies are using the same operational SOPs for a mass casualty incident that crosses jurisdiction lines and long-term care facilities are...

Read More

Subscribe for Updates