Category Archives: Community Resilience

Preparedness Begins at Home

2016-05-12
Meteorological Spring began March 1st and with it comes a heightened emphasis on severe weather safety and preparation. 2016 has seen an increased number of tornadoes and other severe weather events over the past few years. Is that a predictor of spring weather? One answer is…it only takes one.

It only takes one tornado or severe storm to change lives forever. It only takes one to cause millions of dollars of damage. It only takes one to impact the economy of a community. It only takes one to destroy infrastructure, schools, churches, parks, public buildings, etc.

Photo by Author
Photo by author

As we remind ourselves of safety precautions, we recognize that being prepared can impact survivability reducing deaths and injuries. Damage to property can be mitigated by employing proper construction techniques.

Many states observe Severe Weather Preparedness Weeks in the spring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Ready Nation efforts consolidate information on best practices.

Beyond that information, now is a good time to review threats that are specific to a given location. Is the area prone to flooding, especially flash floods? Are outdoor sports venues equipped with lightning detectors? Are evacuation and sheltering policies in place?

FEMA
FEMA

Another important piece of information is local protocols for operation of outdoor warning sirens. In general, these sirens are NOT necessarily intended to be heard inside homes and businesses. Some communities sound an all clear. In others, a second activation of the sirens means the threat is continuing for an additional period of time. Some locations employ sirens for flash flooding, nuclear power plant issues, tsunamis and other threats. Be aware of local policies. Always have an alternate way of receiving severe weather information…the All-Hazards Weather Radio System, warning apps, web-based warning systems.

Personal preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. Review shelter areas at home and at work. Create appropriate “Go Kits” for each location plus vehicles. Devise a communications plan to aid in reunification of families and co-workers. Be aware of those in the neighborhood or workplace with special needs who may need your assistance. And, always, be extra vigilant when severe weather is a possibility. A community can only be as prepared as its residents.

Being Prepared is Part of Who You Are

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Preparedness Begins at Home

New and Updated Resources

Searching for new and updated resources? Here are a few that have recently come to our attention.

Readiness and Emergency Management in Schools

The U.S. Department of Education offers technical assistance for Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS). The site offers resources for kindergarten through 12th grade schools and districts, and for institutions of higher education. You will find interactive templates for emergency operations plans, checklists, drills, virtual trainings, and much more.

Evacuation Plans for Veterinarians 

Steve Pearson, DVM, in Veterinary Practice News describes why and how veterinarians should write an emergency action plan for a natural disaster. Very practical.

Winter Survival Kit

Now is the time to download NDSU Extension’s Winter Survival Kit. The app will help you find your current location, call 911, notify friends and family, calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. The free app is available on Google Play and in the iTunes App Store.

The El Niño Effect

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has regional impact fact sheets on the current El Niño effect and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) provides resources needed to be ready for weather that can be associated with the event. Be prepared for anything from floods and droughts to land slides and other severe weather this winter.

Washington Wildfires Wreaking Woe

The Sleepy Hollow fire near the north-central Washington State city of Wenatchee started in the afternoon of June 28, 2015. The cause is unknown but natural causes have been ruled out, leaving intentional or accidental human-origin causes to blame. Unseasonably high temperatures, early drought conditions, and high fuel loads have elevated fire risk in the area much earlier in the summer than normal. The fire started outside the city, but wind drove it into residential areas of this city of 33,000. Hundreds of residents were evacuated. It has burned 2950 acres and has destroyed 29 primary residences. Embers blew into the commercial business district and subsequent fires destroyed four businesses; some were large agricultural processing or storage warehouses, raising concerns about hazardous material involvement. Those areas have been secured and hazardous materials contained.

The Chelan WA County Commissioners have issued an emergency declaration of the area as a high danger area, banning all outdoor burning and the use of fireworks. Some roads are restricted to local resident and emergency use only. The evacuation center has been moved from a high school to a church.  The BNSF rail line (a major NW transportation corridor) was closed but has been re-opened.

The number of firefighting personnel involved with this fire is 336; they are primarily volunteers. They have incurred a few injuries including heat exhaustion; no injuries to the public have been reported. With limited numbers of firefighters available, four days of firefighting already, and new fires reported in the area, firefighting personnel is stretched to the limit. With the Sleepy Hollow fire 47% contained as of the evening of June 30 evening, some are being re-deployed to other emerging fire situations.

The majority of efforts have switched from response to recovery, assisting those who have lost their homes and businesses. A local footwear business is offering free shoes to all fire victims. A fruit packing business offered its facilities to a competitor whose fruit packing facility was destroyed, thereby helping the business continue operating during fruit harvest season. These responses demonstrate that even during periods of drought and wildfires, human hearts can contain bottomless wellsprings of compassion and hope.

–Submitted by Susan Kerr, WA State EDEN Delegate

 

Weather Wednesday – Hail

On this April Fools Day, we’ll be discussing hail. Hail is widespread throughout the world, but doesn’t often have the top of mind awareness of other storm-related topics…unless, that is, you’re growing crops or insuring buildings or vehicles. According to the National Weather Service’s hail page, the average loss from hail each year is about a billion dollars. However, in 2001 there was one storm event that eventually stretched from Kansas City to Illinois that caused $2-billion damage on a single day.

Hail is not normally considered a major threat to human life. The last reported fatality in the United States was in 2000 when a Texas man died after being struck by a softball sized hail stone. Two children reportedly perished in Russia in 2014. Livestock losses are reported from time to time.

The National Weather Service rates hail from less than a quarter inch or pea sized to over 4 inches or softball sized. The preferred references are actual measurements or approximations based on fixed sizes such as a quarter or a regulation sized softball. “Grapefruit sized” is a far less precise term. One of the reasons for using common objects as references is it allows storm spotters and others to report the size without venturing out into a storm with its associated risks to take actual measurements.

vivian_hailThe largest hail stone reported in the U.S was over 8 inches in diameter with a circumference of over 18 inches.

corn_field_hail_6-24-14
Phil Katz-MSU Extension

Crop loss from hail is a significant risk to producers. Depending on where crops are in the growth cycle and the extent of the damage, growers are often cautioned to have a little patience to determine if the crops can bounce back. Many state extension services can provide more information.

 

hail carDamage to vehicles is usually pretty obvious in terms of dents and broken glass. There are some DIY fixes for smaller dents including letting the vehicle sit in the hot sun so the metal expands a bit. The best advice though is to contact your insurance carrier and/or a competent body shop. A worst case scenario is when a new car dealer’s lot or other parking lot is hit. Damage can easily escalate into six figures or more. Several years ago here in the Champaign-Urbana area, dozens and dozens of cars parked at the local airport were badly damaged.

thHail can also damage roofs constructed of various materials. Again, working with your insurance carrier to arrange for an inspection by a qualified roofer is always a good idea. Some damage may be hard for the untrained eye to see and ladder work is often best left to professionals anyway.

Siding on homes also can be easily damaged. Steel or aluminum siding can be dented and still maintain its structural and weatherproof integrity.Bad_Siding_Hail_Damage Hail can absolutely shred vinyl siding and immediate action to cover exposed underlayment or insulation is necessary to avoid more widespread water damage.

 

 

howhail
NOAA Graphic

One question that is often asked is, does the presence of hail, especially large hail, tell us anything about the structure of a thunderstorm? Since hail is formed when water droplets freeze as they are lifted above the 32-degree line by updrafts, it stands to reason that the presence of ever larger hail stones in a storm reflects the strength of that updraft so it can be an indicator of both the strength and height of a thunderstorm cell. Hail is easily seen on radar because of its dense mass. Many videos shot by storm chasers show large hail as part of some tornadic thunderstorms.

4th National Conference on Building Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships

Nathaniel Tablante, Extension Poultry Veterinarian and EDEN Point of Contact, University of Maryland College Park, attended this conference on EDEN’s behalf.  Below are his takeaways.

Welcome slide to the 4th National Conference Building Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships

 

The 4th National Conference on Building Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships was held on October 15-16, 2014 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C. I represented EDEN and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

This annual conference is a partnership between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Northern Command. This year’s agenda focused on our interconnected world, from neighborhoods to the global partnerships. Speakers discussed evolving risks to the infrastructure that powers, transports, informs, and otherwise connects organizations and the people they serve. Discussions involved emerging issues such as climate adaptation and cybersecurity, as well as innovative efforts to leverage philanthropy, technology, trained corporate volunteers, and information-sharing networks through public-private partnerships. It was good to see many representatives from both the government and private sectors as well as academia participate in lively and productive discussions on various ways to strengthen disaster resilience though public-private partnerships (P3s).

Here are some highlights:

Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security delivered a powerful keynote address, “The Road Ahead to Partnership.” He stressed the importance of public-private partnerships to homeland security. In particular, he pointed out that the American public is very anxious about the threats posed by ISIL and Ebola and encouraged calm, meaningful dialogue among public officials, the private sector, and the media regarding these threats to national security and public health.

The first session, “The Evolving Threat Environment,” involved three panelists, Thomas Fanning (President and CEO of Southern Company), Keith Squires (Commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety), and Francis Taylor (DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis). This unclassified briefing presented emerging threats from the perspective of government intelligence leaders, risk experts, and corporate CEOs, and set the foundation to examine how preparedness and resilience efforts can reduce the likelihood and/or impact of these threats.

Gen. Taylor provided a government perspective on threats to national security. He stated that the Al Qaeda core and its affiliates continue to be a major threat to the U.S. with aviation as the number one risk. He also warned that ISIL is a terrorist and military organization that has a Westernized propaganda arm that appears to be very effective in recruiting Westerners who become “lone wolf” threats. He stressed the importance of understanding threats at every level and that sharing information with local enforcement agencies is critical to the successful mitigation of these threats. For his part, Mr. Squires shared the State perspective on threats to national security. He cited that information sharing is critical to homeland security. He mentioned that there used to be a government monopoly on information on threat activity with absolutely no information being shared with the private sector prior to 9/11. He emphasized the vital role played by post-9/11 Fusion Centers, a “collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.” Mr. Fanning shared the private sector perspective and pointed out that cyber and physical threats are inseparable and recommended a “bottom-up, top-down” approach to addressing these threats. He also stressed that good corporate governance is the key to success and that everybody has the capability to deliver goods and services when necessary. Gen. Taylor shared a final thought on the importance of educating business and local leaders about risks and threats to national security. He mentioned that “low probability, high impact” events happen every day but we never prepare for them. Mr. Fanning also pointed out that threats are not fixed but continue to evolve and mutate, therefore we should be flexible and focus not only on preparedness but also on rapid response.

The second panel discussion, “The Interconnected World: Challenges and Opportunities,” involved William Beary (Chief of Engineer Operations, NORAD), Shoshana Lew (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation and Policy, DOT), and Nick Shufro (Director of Sustainable Solutions, PricewaterhouseCoopers). This panel discussed evolving approaches to risk management and innovative ways that the private sector and government can engage and collaboratively prepare and protect their organizations and communities from the threats outlined in the previous panel.

Two breakout sessions were held in the afternoon of October 15. The first set of breakout sessions focused on “Badging and Credentialing,” “Bridging the Cyber/Physical Connection”, “Business Continuity and Corporate Philanthropy: Why Resilience is Good for the Corporate Will”, and “Technology and Voluntary Capabilities.” I attended the “Technology and Voluntary Capabilities” session which involved Rakesh Bahraini (West Coast Lead, Cisco Tactical Operations), Deanne Criswell (Incident Management Assistance Team Lead, FEMA), Harmony Mabrey (Senior Operations Manager, Microsoft Disaster Response), Andrew Rasiej (Chairman, NY Tech Meetup), and Ted Okada (Chief Technology Officer, FEMA) who moderated the session. This session explored the role of technology volunteers in disasters as well as collaborations with government and non-government organizations focused on community resilience. Mr. Bahraini of Cisco cited the numerous benefits of involving company employees in disaster preparedness and response, among which are boosting employee morale, doing something tangible, and increasing employee retention. Mr. Okada of FEMA cited that the critical needs during disasters are volunteers and equipment such as cables and routers. Ms. Mabrey of Microsoft stated that employees want to get involved in this effort anyway so volunteers are always available. The panel agreed that Best Practices standards are essential, including pre-credentialing of volunteers and having a reserve of equipment.

The second set of breakout sessions focused on “Driving Mitigation and Resilience,” “Cross-sector Collaboration Opportunities Using Critical Infrastructure Big Data Analytics,” “Business Emergency Operations Centers – Maximizing Coordination at the State and Local Level,” and “Volunteers and Donations.” I attended the session on “Driving Mitigation and Resilience” which involved Michael Grimm (Director of Risk Reduction Division, FEMA) and Sean Kevelighan (Head of Government and Industry Affairs, Zurich North America). Mr. Grimm opened the session by stating that resilience is the ability to act on information. Mr. Kevelighan assured everyone that although insurance usually kicks in after a disaster, insurance companies such as Zurich are also involved in mitigation and risk assessment. He shared Zurich’s program on global flood mitigation and stressed that his company spends a lot of money on information gathering and risk modeling. He also pointed out that Zurich educates consumers on how to mitigate risks.

The second and final day of the conference started with a recap of the previous day’s session. The discussion was led by Assistant Secretary Caitlin Durkovich, Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Director Randel Zeller, J9 Interagency Directorate, NORAD and USNORTHCOM. This brief recap was immediately followed by a panel discussion, “Public-Private Partnerships in Action” which was moderated by Dr. Mark Troutman, Associate Director, George Mason University School of Law’s Center for Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security. The panelists included Susan Maybaumwisniewski (Vice President, Policy, Business Executives for National Security), Seth Miller Gabriel (P3 Analyst, Institute for Public Private Partnerships), John Odermatt (Managing Director, Office of Emergency Management & Fraud Surveillance, Citi), and Michael DeJong (Mational Cybersecurity Branch, Canada).

Mr. Odermatt stated that an all hazards approach works best for companies and localities and must include cyber events. Mr. DeJong reported that Public Safety Canada has a cybersecurity branch and that the biggest indication of a cyber-attack is its physical initiation. Ms. Maybaumwisniewski commented that the government can partner best with industry through planning and organization. Mr. Gabriel stressed the need for political leadership in order to extend resources to educate the right people.

The last panel discussion was a “Leadership Roundtable” involving a Q&A session with Robert Griffin (General Manager for i2, Threat and Counter Fraud Business Unit, Information and Analytics, IBM Software Group), Andrew Guzzon (Vice President, W.W. Grainger, Inc.), and Susan Hartman (Sr. Group Manager for Corporate Security Strategic Partnerships, Target). Russ Paulsen (Executive Director, Community Preparedness and Resilience, American Red Cross) moderated the session.

Q: (Paulsen)- How do your companies approach resilience?

A: (Guzzon) – Resilience is about communicating when an event happens. We help each other after an event and make sure that the supply chain is robust. We help the community and first responders.
(Hartman) – We think about it holistically as a team. We focus on educational awareness of our employees and strategic partnerships with the community which also meets our business objectives. Our team also practices for earthquakes and other natural disasters.
(Griffin) – IBM is a big company. We have a global and local crisis management team as well as a pandemic team for diseases such as bird flu and Ebola. We conduct table top exercises annually, provide essential support to our clients, and partner with government agencies such as the FBI.

Q: (Paulsen) – What are the keys to the success of P3s?

A: (Guzzon): Give yourself the ability to adapt to a changing environment—be flexible. Think of other things to do in times of disasters [other than the routine activities]. Invest in each other’s success.
(Hartman) – It all comes down to people. Focus on increased networking and the opportunity to connect.
(Griffin) – It’s all about relationships and people. As a corporation, make sure you are essential to what your clients do. Help solve local community problems. Identify critical areas to sustainability. Our guiding principle is “resiliency by design”, i.e. adapt to the local situation. Identify risks and liabilities and what you can do to address those.
(Hartman) – Businesses need resilient communities in order to thrive.
(Guzzon) – We are very customer-centric in California. We keep it simple. We keep the “invite” going.

Q: (Paulsen) – What is it that made you come here [to this conference]?

A: (Guzzon) – It’s personal because we have employees who lost their houses [during the forest fires in California]. We won’t exist if we don’t have stable and safe communities.
A: (Hartman) – We have a long-standing commitment to the community. We need communities in order to thrive.
A: (Griffin) – It’s about giving back to the community. It’s also personally gratifying. The character of a company is not built during good times but during bad times.

Wrap-up (Paulsen) – There is no “one size fits all” for public-private partnerships. We have to be more inclusive and get more involved in joint planning for disasters.