Claire B. Rubin has 32 years of experience as a researcher, consultant, and educator in the fields of emergency management and homeland security

  • New Resources on Disaster Recovery Staffing

    25 Nov 2014 | 3:59 pm

    The Diva got a nice note from Jennifer Shafer. a staffer at LMI Research Institute, noting that she and her team are followers of this blog and calling my attention to two major new products they offer. A Disaster-Recovery-Brochure (2 pp) is available here. Here are more details that she supplied:  We are pleased to announce two products, the Disaster Recovery Staffing Guide (24 pp)  and the Disaster Recovery Positions Library (104 pp) , are now publicly available for disaster recovery personnel. These products were developed as part LMI’s FY14 disaster recovery project, funded by the LMI Research Institute. You can download the two products at LMI’s website. The Disaster Recovery Staffing Guide begins where the NDRF leaves off by outlining the process and practices to effectively staff community disaster recovery activities. It is paired with the Disaster Recovery Positions Library, which describes more than 50 positions that may be used to conduct the full range of local recovery activities. The guide and position descriptions are scalable (for the size of community and recovery effort) and designed for communities to use during proactive planning or post-disaster. From a quick review of the materials, I think a lot of people engaged in recovery will be grateful for these guides. As always, comments from those of you who have worked disasters will be appreciated.

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  • Recap of Emergency Preparedness and FEMA

    25 Nov 2014 | 6:08 am

    From HSToday, this article about disaster preparedness and FEMA: Emergency Preparedness Plans Must Involve Preparation for All Disasters, Including Cyber. I remember doing field work after H. Hugo, which was a big deal at the time.  It has since been eclipsed by hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy.Filed under: FEMA

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  • US/Canadian Joint Initiative for Disaster Response

    25 Nov 2014 | 5:38 am

    US, Canada officials seek to improve joint emergency response through simulations. The United States and Canada recently completed the initial phase of a cross-border, information-sharing experiment to improve responses to emergencies that might affect both nations. The initiative called the Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment, or CAUSE, involves both the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate and the Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science.

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  • Religious Values and Climate Change

    23 Nov 2014 | 4:37 pm

    New report (54 pp) titled  Believers, Sympathizers, & Skeptics: Why Americans are conflicted about climate change, environmental. policy, and science. Findings from the PRRI.AAR Religious Values and Climate Change Survey.Filed under: climate change

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  • U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

    22 Nov 2014 | 1:10 am

    As noted recently in Emergency Management magazine’s blog, the federal government has created a new Climate Resilience Toolkit. The direct URL is here.  Filed under: climate change

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  • New GAO Report on Flood Exposure

    21 Nov 2014 | 5:49 am

    Climate Change: Better Management of Exposure to Potential Future Losses Is Needed for Federal Flood and Crop Insurance. GAO-15-28, October 29. Highlights (abstract) – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666697.pdf Filed under: Floods, NFIP

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  • Protecting Urban Water Supplies in Big Disasters

    20 Nov 2014 | 5:55 pm

    Another article about infrastructure: Are our buildings prepared for natural disasters bigger than hurricane Sandy? Russell Unger, chairman of the task force that proposed building code upgrades after Sandy, explains why city residents should never lose access to running water – and how he helped solve that problem in NYCFiled under: Infrastructure

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  • Insfrastructure in NYC After H. Sandy

    20 Nov 2014 | 5:36 am

    By way of the U.K, here is an interesting case study of Availability of Infrastructure: New York after H. Sandy. Thanks to Donovan Finn for the citation.Filed under: Infrastructure

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  • New Critique of FEMA — from the Cato Institute

    18 Nov 2014 | 4:20 pm

    The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC, just issued a major critique of FEMA, titled The Federal Emergency Management Agency: Floods, Failures, and Federalism. Full report is 32 pages, including 9 pages of footnotes! [But he managed to miss Emergency Management; the American Experience, 1900-2010, edited by the Diva.] I agree with some of his points, but surely not the general thrust of the piece.  Update: I have already heard from several readers about this article, some of which are in the comment section below. (Others were direct emails to the Diva.) And fellow blogger, Eric Holdeman, picked up on the report today. And a couple of people who are readers of this blog are quoted in the CATO piece.  Filed under: FEMA

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  • New Report on Management and Performance Challenges at DHS

    18 Nov 2014 | 4:05 am

    Hot off the press (or the Internet and your printer) a new report from Office of Inspector General at DHS titled Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Dept. of Homeland Security. The Diva has just skimmed it and did not see a mention of FEMA until page 14 of the 41 page report.  There are some interesting details about FEMA on pages 14 and 15. And I recommend Appendix A for a nice listing of Relevant Reports. UPDATE: On Nov. 18, the Wash Post published this article: Growing pains continue for Department of Homeland Security, report showsFiled under: FEMA

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  • Reach Your Audience in an Emergency: #SMEM

    1 May 2014 | 11:04 am

    Reach Your Audience in an Emergency: #SMEM Post by: Kim Stephens Keep the flood photos coming. Click here to upload: http://t.co/CyodRwubwx pic.twitter.com/YDfDp3XifU — WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@cbsbaltimore) April 30, 2014 Flooding was rampant yesterday for what seemed like half the country. Social Media was buzzing with images, safety tips and information about the event as it continued to get increasingly worse as the day wore on and the rain seemed unending. GALLERY: Heavy April Showers Bring Flooding To Maryland. Upload Your Flood Photos, Here: http://t.co/gt9t3jxQ7c pic.twitter.com/NCLQygcrmE — WJZ | CBS Baltimore (@cbsbaltimore) April 30, 2014 Using social networks to communicate emergency, safety and preparedness information has now, in 2014, become a standard operating procedure for quite a few emergency management and response organizations. As with any standard procedure, each event can provide an opportunity to understand how to improve and adjust. As a person on the receiving end of the information stream yesterday, I noticed three things that could be improved upon. 1.  Ensure posts are “Mobile Ready” On a day where the situation is changing rapidly, as it does with flooding, people will be looking for information anywhere they can get it. It is important to keep in mind that there is a high likelihood that those searches will be occurring on a mobile device. According to the Pew Research Center “The growing ubiquity of cell phones, especially the rise of smartphones, has made social networking just a finger tap away.  Fully 40% of cell phone owners use a social networking site on their phone,[…]

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  • Keeping the Lines of Communication Open: Atlanta Public School’s Long Snow Day

    29 Jan 2014 | 10:08 am

    Keeping the Lines of Communication Open: Atlanta Public School’s Long Snow Day Post by: Kim Stephens We had a light dusting of snow last night and schools are closed today in my county. I’m guessing there are some officials in Atlanta wishing they had made the same decision yesterday before snow and ice paralyzed the city‘s roadways. Although they tried to dismiss school early the traffic was so horrific some buses were unable to get children home and instead had to return them to school. Parents who normally pick up their children were stuck in traffic eerily reminiscent of scenes from the Atlanta-based series The Walking Dead. A shelter-in-place order was issued after 10:00 pm last night and about 452 staff and students spent the night in several different ATL public school buildings. This situation could be any public communicator’s nightmare scenario. However, the Atlanta Public School’s communications team provided a master class in emergency information dissemination, mainly through their @apsupdate (or Atlanta Public Schools Update) Twitter account. Here are a few things they did well. 1. Addressed parents questions and concerns directly Reply to @KharaJ1 be sure to reach out to your child's school. All students are allowed to use phones. — ATL Public Schools (@apsupdate) January 29, 2014 I have heard quite a few communicators debate whether or not they should address direct questions since it could overwhelm staff and bog down the message they are trying to convey. However, in this situation, the decision to address each person was the only logical choice–ignoring parents’ questions could have been its own[…]

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  • Deaf People Use Social Media to Make Their Voices Heard: Can #SMEM be used to reach them in a crisis?

    15 Dec 2013 | 2:24 pm

    Deaf People Use Social Media to Make Their Voices Heard: Can #SMEM be used to reach them in a crisis? Guest Post by: Dr. Steph Jo Kent News about the #fakeinterpreter for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service worsened daily: from grotesque incompetence to mental illness to a potential record of violent crime. If ever there was a cautionary tale for emergency management, this is it. Are you wondering “how such a spectacular mistake could have been made“? Before the latest horrifying turn, sign language interpreters and members of the Deaf community were already beginning to emerge from the first waves of disappointment, anger, and humiliation. One man’s audacity, and what appears to be a laissez-faire attitude toward providing real communication access, drew the lightning bolt flash of long pent-up Deaf frustration. Cathy Heffernan, writing for The Guardian, presents the background: “Bad interpretation is surprisingly common and something that deaf people who use interpreters face on a regular basis. Across public services and the courts unqualified people are asked to translate, even in situations where clear communication can make the difference between life or death.” The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf established a Task Force in 2009 to begin drafting an official position paper and process for integrating qualified sign language interpreters into all stages of the emergency management cycle: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. Overtures to establish Emergency Management Interpreter Strike Teams have been made to responsible agencies and managers at many levels of government. Some jurisdictions have taken this seriously, most however have not. (See the Getting Real II Presentation for information on foundations laid in California, Georgia, and Florida.) Commentary from Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, Director of Jewish Deaf Multimedia Deaf people were[…]

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  • Information Design: Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

    12 Dec 2013 | 10:01 am

    Information Design:  Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Post by: Kim Stephens Looking back on the year, there was one  article that stood out because of its clear use of graphics and imagery to communicate risk information. During the summer of 2013, the Washington Post published a short online report about the hazards at the Potomac River Gorge titled “The Perils at Great Falls.” This spot in the river is a deadly place where 27 people have died since 2001.  Standing on the banks, it looks deceptively calm, but it is what people don’t see on the surface that can kill–erratic currents, jagged cracks, potholes and uneven terrain can trap swimmers.  The article explained those hazards with imagery that eliminated the need to read even one word.  Some commented that the piece was the definition of information design: “…the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters efficient and effective understanding of it.”  (Wikipedia) Each of the major hazards in the river were given a graphical representation. In the image above the person is shown fishing off the bank: water rises rapidly and unexpectedly, sweeping him away. I have captured a screenshot, but the original graphic is animated. The image below shows hazards beneath the water and on the banks–cliffs that tempt people to jump in, and varied terrain underwater that can kill if you dive in the wrong spot. The Dreaded Fact Sheet Too often,  in the world of emergency management, images are occasionally included–if one can be dredged up, but they are usually not the focus[…]

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  • Social Networking Trends of 2013 and Implications for #SMEM

    4 Dec 2013 | 9:52 am

    Social Networking Trends of 2013 and Implications for #SMEM Post by: Kim Stephens December is a month of reflection and I, along with Patrice Cloutier and James Garrow are using our blogs to highlight interesting  social media and emergency management trends from the year and note future possibilities for improvement. 2013 could be seen as a pivot point for quite a few organizations: social networking graduated from being novel and experimental, to just one of the tools in the communication’s toolbox. That being said, however, we still have a long way to go before full integration is realized throughout the response community. Social Networks: The Stats  We’ve all seen the statistics–social networks have millions and millions of users, except Facebook which sits at 1.11 billion. A deeper look at these stats, however,  can help create a more informed communication’s strategy, for instance,  is this the year to get G+ and Pinterest accounts? Here are a few noteworthy stats I’ve collected from a variety of sources, along with some possible implications. Twitter boasts over 500 millions users, but one interesting note is what these users are talking about. According to Nielsen, 33% of Twitter users tweet about television shows. Implication:   Why not schedule tweets that appear during shows that discuss disasters with links to information about how people can prepare–or where they could turn for help if that type of event happened in their community? If you are uncomfortable promoting a show that you did not create and have no quality control over, then simply add qualifiers, or correct misinformation, if necessary. New[…]

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