Emergency Alerting Systems

At State of Ready we believe in Emergency Alerts as one of the most important ways to share information with the public. It has happened in recent events; a volcano eruption in Hawaii, multiple wildfires in California, flooding in Missouri, and active shooter events around the country.  When you combine Emergency Alerts with social media to let the public know how to prepare, what to do, and where to go for help it saves lives. We encourage you to think about, “in the absence of knowledge chaos ensues.”

Emergency Alerting systems from CivicReady, Everbridge, or QuickSeries offer a lot of different advantages for pushing information out using a system for instant notifications. We encourage you to think about a couple of key points which include having a policy which was approved by someone who still works there or might be a contractor, reviewing how long ago it was developed or last updated, who approved it especially all the stakeholders involved in your communities, and it is signed so everyone is in agreement as to who, what, how, and why an alert will be sent out to people who opted into the system.

Getting people to opt into a system includes some important concepts including developing a chicken and egg approach to make it more robust as you are in development. In order to send messages you need to have people following and receiving information from your organization. This also means development of content (similar to last State of Ready podcast on Social Media) working with Press Information Officers, Communication Directors, Social Media Managers, First Responders, Emergency Managers, and the National Weather Service which are creative, descriptive, and engaging with hopefully a tie into social media and your organizations websites.

It is also important to develop some stakeholder buy in from partners in preparedness such as elected officials, local business, media, religious organizations, community groups, Emergency Managers, the Office of Emergency Services, and residents of the community. We suggest thinking about using grant funds (if possible), or funding from civic groups like Lions, Shriners, Elks, or Kiwana’s to purchase swag. This could include a variety of items including:

  • Challenge Coins
  • T-shirts
  • Emergency Kits
  • Go-Bags (next week’s State of Ready episode).

If you find these methods successful it is easy to include measures of success or goals to achieve in annual reports to show subscriber comparisons among communities and to create challenges of what percentage of the population of the community has more people signed up.

The final piece is developing a solid form of communication looking to the experts like NYDEM, SFDEM, Washington Emergency Management Division @WaEMD, the city of Renton, Washington emergency management @RentonEM , local EMA’s, and communities using CivicReady. If you develop your own templates to handle the issues you have every year regarding fairs, fireworks, etc., run them by your local EMA, CERT, media, and Press Information Officers, to ensure the provide the information that is needed, when it is needed. This also comes with the responsibility to train either from the company you purchased the software from or hosting exercises to test readiness, which allow a chance to review policy, procedure, and conduct after action reviews of what worked, and how to improve the process for the next event.

We encourage you to think about the lessons learned about Emergency Notifications above specifically thinking about:

 

      • Look at what is out there especially CivicReady
      • Develop policy and procedures
      • Work to have people use it
      • Market the system all the times, any way possible
      • Have templates for recurring events
      • Do after action reviews

 

Thanks for joining us this week and look for next week’s podcast and go-bags.   –Ed, Bill, and Mike Sutton

 

Partners in Emergency Management

State of Ready believes in establishing partners in Emergency Management in order to “shake hands before a disaster, rather than pointing fingers after.” Partners come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities. You should seek out as many diverse partners, with various skill sets to allow you to be fully prepared for planning, responding, and recovery to events.

It is important to recognize that the role of an Emergency Manager is to have the 30,000 foot aerial view of what is happening and play air traffic controller to assist responders helping people. We play the role of assisting cities, counties, states, and the federal government to respond to events by providing information, support, technology, and guidance to resources. One of the first steps is establishing or writing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to allow each agency to know what their responsibilities are during an event.

You should be familiar with public agencies such as local law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services, and emergency management agencies within your local area. If you are not, now is the time to introduce yourself and make a connection either in person, or using social media. You can also make the connections you are going to need during a major event with Public Health, Public Works, Animal Control, Transportation agencies, National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and National Weather Service (NWS) and National Office of Atmospheric Admininstration (NOAA). If you do not have friends in NWS or NOAA make them. They allow you to know what is coming your way well in advance to help you prepare for the event before it strikes. You can preposition responding agencies, equipment, and short supply chains needed to recover quicker for your community. If you go meet them and introduce yourself, find out where they publish information online and follow them at Twitter.

Also make friends and get to know people in the private sector. You will need to know members of private healthcare organizations, UAS/drone operators, transit providers which include trains, buses, and possibly package delivery systems like UPS, and FedEx.  If you do not know how to fly a drone, get to know someone who does, and make sure they know the rules of how to operate during a critical event. Drones can provide information used in response, recovery and imaging of areas in need. Also don’t forget to look to private satellite companies which can provide valuable before and after photos like Planet Labs.

We encourage you to think about up and coming responsibilities of Emergency Management to establish relationships with geographic information systems (GIS) and technology providers in your area, or look to them for potential jobs working to establish continuation of operations during a critical events. This also means preparing for an event by storing information on a cloud system either Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box in an effort to make sure plans are accessible from any locations.

Construction and debris management companies are critical partners which help remove garbage, and deal with sanitation issues to help you prevent disease from having an outbreak. They can work hand in hand with partners in different fields to clear the way for other valuable resources to arrive from Tide (Loads of Hope), or Budweiser delivery of water from local bottling facilities.

Finally, we talked last week about CERT teams and National VOAD agencies. You can search for yourself for: Habitat for Humanity, Feed The Children, American Red Cross, Mercy Corp, Team Rubicon.  Additionally, there are technology apps, and groups like www.Pulsepoint.org, and www.Humanityroad.org to help you respond and be prepared during an event. The ability of faith based organizations which already have a structure in place, including the Adventist Community Services, Mennonite Disaster, allow your community to rebuild and come together in faith at a critical time and it is needed. We also discuss the need to be prepared to support “spontaneous volunteers like the Cajun Navy, and Crowdsource Rescue.

We encourage you to think about the lessons learned about Partners in Emergency Management above specifically thinking about:

      • Numerous agencies to be a part of as a partner
      • If you’re interested in emergency management, you can find a place
      • Each agency business comes into play at different times.
      • Technology is creating a new round of volunteer opportunities
      • You don’t have to be in the affected area to respond
      • Out of sight agencies/businesses and include them in planning before an incident. 

Thanks for joining us this week and look for next week’s podcast and blog posting on Social Media and Websites.   –Ed, and Bill

 

Volunteers – Vital in Emergency Management

Volunteers are the life-blood of Emergency Management. They are the ones that hear the special calling to give back and enable areas to recover and thrive during critical incidents. Additionally, VOAD’s, which stands for Volunteers Organizations Active in Disaster, are faith-based, community-based and other non-governmental organizations are members of a community which come together in order to ensure a safe, and well prepared group exists in times of crisis to serve the community. Emergency Managers, Public Safety, Volunteers, and VOAD’s need to work together, in order to prepare thrive after a critical incident.

At State of Ready we recognize how important regular communication is with these groups. We encourage you to establish how each group operates, what their goals or objectives might be, and who are the members. Now  you may ask, “Where do you get to know these groups?” The answer is simple really: throw a big net, train with them, and participate in exercises.

When you look at throwing a big net, start off by having stakeholder meetings like we previously spoke about on the podcast (or read the previous entry in the blog). When you pre-plan exercises ask these groups and bring them to the table to ask for their input as well. Finally, find out when they meet, and go meet them at their meetings. If they are willing to come to you, shouldn’t you go to them?

We encourage you to look into some of the larger groups like American Red Cross (ARC), Team Rubicon, or your local CERT like Ken Anderson our guest represents in South San Francisco. Once you have reached out to them, evaluate the best way to communicate, whether meetings, electronic mail, or social media. We also encourage you to look at calendars that are published on-line like at State of Ready. Additionally, contact your local Emergency Management Association, and your operational area Office of Emergency Services.

The reason to involve these groups is easy to understand. Often, they are already living in your community, which makes them a force multiplier during a critical incident, enhancing the services you can provide. This provides more resilience if they are prepared, and thus means a quicker recovery for the community. In Emergency Management, pre-planning often solves a lot of problems that mushroom “it” happens. Also, by involving your volunteers you can have them be role-players in exercises which means more realism in your training (think Active Shooter with 30 people running around instead of 2).

Finally, how to use them is what we have preached since the first episode. State of Ready believes in bringing as many people together as possible in order to get as much information as possible, and to provide planning to make a more resilient community. This means looking at current plans with residents and business in your community to see what would actually work during a critical events. They can see for themselves what is needed to be prepared and to help build in the redundancy needed during an event. It also would be great to allow them to create and exercise. After they create the exercise then perform a drill that allows them to discover the skills they already have, and what they may want to learn. This allows you as an Emergency Manager to start building checklists of who in your community can assist in what job tasks. It also helps you discover what additional training you might need.

We encourage you to think about the lessons learned about VOAD’s and Volunteers above specifically thinking about:

      • Find out who by casting a wide net
      • Attend training and get online to network more
      • Train together, and play together
      • How to involve by using exercises
      • Preplan on how to contact in case of emergency
      • Constant attention, training, communication creates a great organization

 

Thanks for joining us this week and look for next week’s podcast and blog posting on Partners in Emergency Management.   –Ed, Bill, and Ken Anderson

 

Conducting Stakeholder Meetings

At State of Ready we are always preparing for meetings on how to get everything done we need to do. This includes: scheduling, social media, electronic mail, writing a script, and deciding on times to record the show. We chose to focus this week on stakeholder meetings for Emergency Managers.

The idea of “shaking hands before an incident, instead of pointing fingers after” includes effective communication often at stakeholder meetings. The purpose and reasons for meetings need to focus on establishing the why for any exercise or the purpose of having a meeting is often to work on developing a common operating picture and a better understanding of responding agencies capabilities. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for networking and informal communication which beats formal communication almost every time.

When developing a stakeholder meeting it is important to think about everyone who would be involved in the exercise or event. This means you need to identify all stakeholders including those from the public sector and private industry. It also means identifying a meeting space which is centrally located and has adequate space for all of the people attending. Hopefully, this means that both bathrooms and coffee are available. Ensure that there is a properly working HVAC system, being to hot or too cold will draw the attention away from what is being said or talked about.

With this space, see if some important tech essentials are available. This includes identifying a wireless network system, maybe smartboards to record information, establishment of a Slack channel, video or audio recording, and access to a computer network which can facilitate PowerPoint presentations.

Establishing the layout of the table and where it is you want to sit and where others want to sit. How you set the tables in the room matters. Are they going to all face the speaker, stage, or screen? Or will all the tables be separated into groups for breakout sessions? Or will they be in a horseshoe shape to facilitate debate? This becomes a thriller akin to Game of Thrones and you do NOT want to lose. Also think about prepositioning assigned seating to help you run the meeting and keep people apart who will be disruptive. If you don’t know who is disruptive, you did not do your homework and get to know people in the informal communication we mentioned previously! Go back and start all over again!

Now you are ready to set an agenda and remember no one wants their time to be wasted. You can help alleviate that by creating an agenda and distributing either via handouts, email, establishing a Slack channel, or using Google Docs or Drive. Make sure someone will type up the minutes and send on a regular basis allowing people a chance to review at the start of each meeting. The agenda should contain the following:

 

      • Review minutes of previous meeting
      • Identify new priorities
      • Old business including tasks assigned
      • Questions
      • Set date for next meeting

Conducting meetings is a part of life in the workplace and a tremendous amount of time is dedicated to gathering people together to accomplish this. While what we talked about above might seem like insignificant or unimportant in the setting of what the actual goals of a meeting are to accomplish, they actually are VERY important to the successful outcome of that meeting. And in Emergency Management, where life safety is usually discussed, you do not want to overlook the small details.  

Thanks for joining us this week and look for next week’s podcast and blog posting on Volunteer groups and VOADS.   -Ed and Bill

5 Private Sectors That Utilize Emergency Management

The public and government sectors isn’t the only ones who hire emergency management professionals. The private sectors realizes the benefits of using emergency management professionals to manage their operations, protect and train their employees, and safeguard their facilities. These private emergency managers coordinate their efforts with their public counterparts to effectively respond to area disasters and events. They also act as emergency managers within their organizations, coordinating all facets of an emergent response to incidents that occur from both internal and external threats.  The following infographic highlights some private sectors that employ emergency managers for their operations.

 

5 Industries that have.png

Blindsides Only Belong in Survivor

Alliances were made. Everyone was going to stick together to the plan that was established. Then at the moment of truth during tribal counsel, the alliance votes out a member that never saw it coming and who thought that they were safe. Shocked, hurt, angry, or all of the above; that person walks off the set, not knowing where that came from.

That was a”blindside”. 

And it should never happen in emergency management. 

Emergency management is always and forever going to be a team approach. From planning, to response, to recovery and back around again, emergency management must work effectively with other agencies and organizations in order for the entire process to run smoothly and efficiently.

No more so is this seen in the response phase of a disaster. While emergency management is the coordinating agency for response, it is vital that everyone at the EOC or at the proverbial “table” understands what is expected of them and the roles that their agencies play. This is most effectively done by building relationships prior to a disaster response and establishing clear channels of communication, both inside and outside of the ICS structure.

Blindsides can occur in emergency management when an agency is requested to respond in a certain way that it wasn’t previously consulted about, is requested as a resource outside of their scope of practice, or shutout of critical or important meetings. As a result, lack of critical communication or delays in emergent response can happen.

How do we effectively prevent blindsides from happening in the first place?

Establish Clear Expectations

Expectations are a wonderful thing, but only when they are laid out beforehand so that everyone knows what to expect. Whether your jurisdictions is working within a large metropolitan or you are part of a smaller county or business organization, lay out clear expectations of what the end goal and result of the operation is.

If it is a continuous or rolling event that extends over a long period of time, your objectives may be broken down into shifts or periods. Ensure that those working alongside or in coordination with you are available and in a position to support you. Some services may not operate on a 24 hour cycle or have access to resources at all times of the day. If that is the case, make sure that any limitations you have are known to the team and organization. Having a briefing before the day’s operation or during the initial activation of a disaster is HIGHLY recommended as it gives context on what situations are being dealt with and how to go about responding.

Network and Cultivate Relationships

They say networking is everything and in emergency management it is especially true. One of the most valuable things an emergency manager can have in their wheelhouse is not the stuff that they have but the access and reach to their extended network. Knowing who to call and what your resources may have can be invaluable to an organization or community.

Take time to attend outreach events, networking seminars, or interdepartmental meetings and share your contact info. Especially if you are new to an organization, reach out to other departments who will interact with you during a disaster or an emergency. Maintain contact through other means, such as LinkedIn. Your ability to know what is in your community and how to ask for it will be invaluable, not only in your EM career but through your professional development.

In the game of Survivor, if you are voted out of the game past the midway point, you get to come back and be a part of the jury, the judging party who will determine the winner of the game. Those blindsided in the game don’t usually have forgiveness on the mind and thus may or may not vote in favor of the remaining contestants.

The same goes for those working in emergency management. Emergency is a small world and reputation is everything within the industry. Purposefully blindsiding or outcasting agencies or individuals will not bode well for the future, either in career development or professional reputation. If you made a mistake, apologize and learn from the experience. Organizations can get very political when protecting resources and operations, so learn to be diplomatic in your approach (the subject for another blog). And if all else fails…..bring donuts.

Public Speaking + Emergency Management

Does public speaking make you nervous? Emergency Manager’s present a lot to various audiences so if you have a fear of public speaking, here’s a few points to remember:

1.) Don’t worry about what your audience thinks. – You are in this position because you are a professional, you know your stuff and someone saw that you are extremely capable and responsible to be able to deliver this information. They are confident in your abilities and you should be to. Don’t worry about feeling that they (your audience) are judging you. If they knew this as well as you, they’d be up there presenting.

2.) Worry about what your audience thinks.  – The material you have is important so make sure you get all the key points across. These are the points to memorize, so put them in bold, on note cards, or highlighted in your outline. Put some calls to action in there as well for your audience to do, such as signing up for updates, leaving their email address, or contacting you later. Include a Q&A session if time permits. This allows you to judge how much info got across to them and if they are thinking beyond your message. When answering questions, if you don’t know the answer, promise to follow up with them afterward or via email. Use gestures and don’t strangle the podium.

3.) Don’t forget to breath. – Sometimes you can speed through all of your material without stopping that you forget to take a breath. After each slide or subheading or break in the presentation, take 15 seconds to take a few deep breaths and begin again.

The more you conduct public presentations, the more it (might) be easier for you. Make sure to practice a few times if you need to to become familiar with the material. If you have complex information to get out, try to break it down into bite-sized content that will make it easier to stick in your audience’s minds.

I want to break into the EM world, but how

Are you looking to gain experience in emergency management and break into the industry?

How many times have you posed that question and the response you received was:

“You should volunteer with an agency”. 

That advice isn’t for everyone (and I think it’s old). Some of you have jobs, families, transitioning career paths, or other legit responsibilities. Plus, there is no guarantee that volunteering will get you the post you are looking for.

If you have followed me for some time, you know that I came into the EM world from the long way around, and not the typical EM career path. So here are 3 ways to gain experience (and maybe make some $):

1.) TEACH PREPAREDNESS CLASSES – Did you know that in addition to the training, exercises, and planning that EM’s do, outreach is a vital aspect of the job and one that is sorely needed. EM’s need the community to be prepared, so take the initiative and train others. You can start with your neighborhood, your friends, or houses of worship. But then branch off and talk to your local chamber of commerce and ask to host a business ready class and train them in how to prepare their businesses for a disaster. I have seen countless EM positions around the country whose sole job is “Outreach and Preparedness Specialist”, even FEMA has that position.

2.) TAKE A JOB THAT INTERACTS WITH EM– EM doesn’t work alone. Public works, emergency dispatchers, private business, utilities, etc all interact with the EM world. Find a job that intersects with EM and work your way to the EM post. This was actually how I broke into the EM world. I was originally an EMS dispatcher who worked his way to the local Level 1 trauma center. There we worked alongside EMS, Fire, FEMA, Public Health, and state/local emergency management. The options are there and there isn’t a sole course to take.

3.) HIT THE SOCIAL MEDIA CIRCUIT – Be a trusted source for EM content and push out engaging material. Bring awareness to the community of EM. I have been a big believer in the concept of “EM 2.0″. This is the new age of emergency management, where we leverage technology, innovation, and thinking to bring about a new set of preparedness, response, and recovery to emergency management. Get to know the social media resources that are out there, the apps, what people are talking about and then leverage it to the EM world. The 2017 hurricanes brought spotlight to crowdsourcing apps and technology that played a huge role in the response and supplemented the efforts of the responders. That can be you. Leverage it, understand it, and put it to use.

Emergency management is changing and I think that there will be major changes on the horizon ahead in regards to what we will be looking at in the next 5-10 years. Position yourself now with the tools and resources to gain a foothold on what is to come.