Preparedness and Response

The latest posts from Preparedness and Response

I came across this post on Stepcase Lifehack a little while back and wanted to pass it on before National Preparedness Month ended. The opening paragraphs sum the article up nicely.
People create emergency kits for car problems and bad weather, but few create kits to deal with more common but less urgent situations. In particular, misplacing a wallet or forgetting a work laptop at home can play havoc with a person’s workday.
With a little bit of planning, you can create emergency kits that will let you deal with these types of situations in a calm and productive manner.

The whole article is HERE and I highly recommend checking it out. I think it's a great way to close out preparedness month.

This is a great concept that I'm retitling "everyday preparedness". Between the examples the author gives and one from the comments (the clothing etc that are in a gym bag/locker) you've got some great ideas for managing day-to-day incidents. I used to keep a couple of changes of clothes in my office when I worked in Baltimore and I've just never gotten around to bringing the extras in to the office now that I've moved. And I've been here three years. Reading this may be enough to get me motivated.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 30, 2011, 1:00 pm
This week will probably be busy in the office for a number of reasons but there are also a couple of larger topics I want to spend some time on here. Specifically:
  • National Disaster Recovery Framework - I was planning to write on this before I saw it mentioned by William Cumming on his blog and Claire Rubin on hers. I've had various drafts of this kicking around my desk for a while now and want to take a day or so to look through it before I say anything, but it is out there.
  • Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2011 (S.1546) - If you haven't seen this one it just means you're not an obsessive Congress-watcher. This is the authorization bill for DHS submitted by Sen. Lieberman. It is also the first of these in a long while, which makes it significant. There is a lot to digest here, especially in light of PPD-8 (something else I'd like to get to someday, since I've been heavily involved in implementation work locally) related to preparedness and response issues at the Federal level, disaster funding (obviously a hot topic), and a specific pet peeve of mine - the role of DHS Office of Health Affairs.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 26, 2011, 3:08 pm
So the title may be longer than the post...and that's only half in-jest. I don't have a whole lot to say on this one. I picked up the 2010 version of this report at the 2011 Public Health Preparedness Summit (note - the 2012 Summit is open now, I have my reservations made, do you?) and was impressed with the amount of information the authors were able to stuff into the relatively small document. Remember, I am used to things that come out of DHS so small is relative.

The report includes great information on national preparedness, state-by-state reporting, and some appendices that explain how the different metrics were pulled together. It can be accessed from the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response website. The write up from the site is below:

Public Health Preparedness: 2011 State-by-State Update on Laboratory Capabilities and Response Readiness Planning

A report on CDC-funded preparedness and response activities in 50 states and 4 cities

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2011 ReportPublic Health Preparedness: 2011 State- by-State Update on Laboratory Capabilities and Response Readiness Planning is CDC's fourth preparedness report. It presents available data that demonstrate trends and document progress in two important preparedness activities occurring at state and local health departments across the nation. The report features national data as well as individual fact sheets with data on activities occurring from 2007 to 2010 in the 50 states and four directly funded localities (Chicago, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles County and New York City) supported by CDC's Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement. All CDC preparedness reports are an important part of CDC's overall focus on demonstrating results, driving program improvements, and increasing accountability for the nation's investment in public health preparedness
The complete report and individual sections of the report are available for downloading as separate pdf files.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 22, 2011, 1:00 pm
This is the latest product/concept from the team, and is targeted to the Tribal Nations. Following in the footsteps of Ready (aimed at families and individuals in general), Ready Business, Ready Kids, and Ready Responder, the Ready Indian Country is a sub-site under the umbrella with information targeted to Tribal members and Alaska Natives.

In addition to some general information on readiness planning that applies to most Tribal Nations members there are specific regional pages for Alaska, the Northwest, Southwest, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Northeast, and Southeast. The regional pages include region-specific hazards and planning information, audio public service announcements, and contact information for the local FEMA Regional Office by state.

The press release on the Ready Indian Country program is below.

FEMA to Launch Ready Indian Country Preparedness Campaign 

National Preparedness Month Launch is Part of Larger Efforts to Partner With Tribal Nations as They Prepare for Disasters

Release Date: September 19, 2011                                                            Release Number: HQ-11-198

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced the launch of the Ready Indian Country campaign as a part of its ongoing National Preparedness Month outreach. The new campaign will provide disaster preparedness information resources for the 565 federally-recognized tribal nations and communities across the country.

The goal of Ready Indian Country is to partner with tribal leaders in asking individuals and families in Indian Country to take basic steps to prepare themselves for emergencies.

"Our tribal nations and organizations are a key member of our nation's emergency management team and this campaign will help us build on the already strong partnership we have developed," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "By strengthening these communities' ability to be better prepared in the face of emergencies and disasters, together we can save lives and bolster our resiliency against all hazards."

Ready Indian Country is designed to promote preparedness within tribal communities through education and outreach. It is intended to serve as a resource for Tribes to prepare their citizens and provide support in developing and implementing pre-disaster policies and procedures.

"The National Congress of American Indians supports the efforts by FEMA to include Indian Country. Tribal governments are continually striving to develop, improve, and enhance their emergency preparedness capabilities in order to better ensure the safety of their citizens. Staying proactive and creating lasting partnerships will help tribes achieve this goal and will build sustainable and resilient tribal communities in the process. NCAI appreciates this opportunity to work with FEMA and the program," said Jefferson Keel, President, National Congress of American Indians.

Ready Indian Country's resources include existing Ready Campaign messaging and builds on existing capacity with specific tools customized for Indian Country. These include:
  • Brochures, posters and billboards customized by geographical region to reflect diverse local conditions and American Indian and Alaska Native cultures.
  • Radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in :60, :30 and :15 second formats; and,
  • Tribal Leader Resources to help guide community emergency and disaster planning efforts
Ready Indian Country resources can be found at
For more information on the Ready Campaign visit  and follow Ready online at

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Modified: Tuesday, 20-Sep-2011 07:55:08
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 21, 2011, 1:00 pm
I'm still catching up from too many weeks on the road but wanted to get this out, since the webinar is coming up in a couple of hours. Info below...

Preparedness Considerations for Aging Americans 
No registration is required. Please log in tomorrow as a guest.
In this webinar, you will learn about specific preparedness steps for Aging Americans.  Hear from FEMA officials and leaders at the forefront of Aging American Preparedness and have your questions answered: 
  • What can I do to bring preparedness to my community?
  • What are the free resources available to me?
  • How do I connect with my state emergency management?
If you know or care for someone that is aging, you'll want to join.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 20, 2011, 3:10 pm

I'm still traveling so I'm still running behind with getting things from my email and Twitter feeds to post. Below is information about a workshop and webcast being hosted this week on integrating whole community practices. I was able to watch parts of last year's webcast (this year I'll be in training or on a plane so I'll miss the live version) and the discussions were outstanding. If you have time to log on for even a few of the sessions I highly recommend it.


The Office of Disability Integration and Coordination ODIC at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and our co-sponsors, the National Council on Disability NCD and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research NIDRR and our partners the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and People with Disabilities ICC and the Emergency Management Institute EMI are hosting Getting Real II - Promising Practices in Inclusive Emergency Management for the Whole Community, September 12-14, 2011 in Arlington, VA.

This year, we’re particularly excited to have a webcast generously supported by the National Council on Disability available for people who cannot join us in person. This webcast will include many of the Promising Practices presentations (and all will be videotaped for “on demand” viewing after the conference). Click on the link provided to register for the webcast Getting Real II

Thank you!


September 12, 2011

7pm – 10pm: Opening Plenary

September 13, 2011

9:00am – 10:15 am: Morning Plenary

10:30am – 12:40pm: Promising Practices

12:40pm – 1:30pm: Lunch

1:30pm – 5pm: Promising Practices

September 14, 2011

8:30am – 9:30am: Morning Plenary with Administrator Fugate

9:45am – 12pm: Promising Practices

12pm – 1pm: Lunch

1pm – 3:15pm: Promising Practices

3:30pm – 5pm: Team Reports and Closing Discussion

Please plan to join the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and the National Council on Disability by webcast on Sept 12-14 for “Getting Real II- Promising Practices in Inclusive Emergency Management for the Whole Community” http://GettingReal-II.WebCastOn.TV

Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 12, 2011, 1:00 pm
I'm in the midst of three weeks of straight travel. As interesting things show up on my radar I'm putting them up, in some cases with minimal comment. Apologies for the lazy blogging.

Early last week I received an email update informing me that the "NIMS Guideline for the Credentialing of Personnel" was available. It included the following paragraph:
The NIMS Guideline for the Credentialing of Personnel (Guideline) is now final and available for use. The Guideline provides guidance on credentialing for Federal, State, Tribal and Local Personnel, as well as for persons affiliated with Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources, voluntary and not-for-profit response organizations. This Guideline was developed with the participation of stakeholders from key sectors of our society, and builds on the doctrine established in NIMS Guide 0002 NATIONAL CREDENTIALING DEFINITION AND CRITERIA dated March 27, 2007. The Guideline addresses the full range of responders who may be called upon and need to establish their legitimacy through proof of Identity, Qualification/Affiliation and Authorization to deploy.

I haven't had the opportunity to review the Guideline so I can't say much about it. I do plan to take a look soon. Links below:

The Guideline and the NIMS Guide 0002 can be found at the NIMS Resource Center at the following URLs:

The Guideline -

The NIMS Guide 0002 -

For more information on NIMS visit:

All questions can be directed to the NIC via e-mail: or via telephone: 202.646.3850.

Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 9, 2011, 1:00 pm
I'm in the midst of three weeks of straight travel. As interesting things show up on my radar I'm putting them up, in some cases with minimal comment. Apologies for the lazy blogging.

Due to all of the travel I've been dealing with lately I haven't been able to spend as much time (read: any) paying attention to National Preparedness Month (NPM, because I am that lazy/pressed for time) events. One that I do normally try to track is the registration of coalition members. See below for details, from an informational email sent by FEMA's automatic system on 1 Sept, the first day of NPM:

The devastating impact of Hurricane Irene, the east coast earthquake, and this year's tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin have all been critical reminders about the importance of preparedness.

With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, we do not want to miss this historic opportunity to demonstrate the private sector’s leadership and commitment to emergency preparedness. It’s time to take action.

Register now it only takes 97 seconds. Just 97 seconds to be part of the team, and part of the solution.

As a coalition member, you will be armed with content, customizable materials, creative ideas, resources, and much, much more to assist you in taking simple steps prepare your business, your employees, your families and your community.

Simple keys:

· Even if you have signed up last year, you need to sign up again.

· Click on

· Then get someone else to sign up too.

Please be a change agent. Please make a difference. Not the time to stand on the sidelines. 97 Seconds. You just may save a life.

Because of work, I end up registered without having to do anything and I encourage anyone reading this to register themselves.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 7, 2011, 1:00 pm
I'm in the midst of three weeks of straight travel. As interesting things show up on my radar I'm putting them up, in some cases with minimal comment. Apologies for the lazy blogging.

I'll have more to say on National Preparedness Month, but since the first of these webinars is Tuesday I wanted to get this posted. The following information came from a FEMA email and lists a series of webinars that are being held throughout September (National Preparedness Month).

National Preparedness Month Webinars Prepare Businesses, Children, Schools,

Pet Owners and Aging Americans

Click Here for National Preparedness Month Webinar Login Information

September Webinars for National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month (NPM) presents the perfect opportunity for everyone to get involved and learn more about disaster preparedness. In the wake of recent events such as Hurricane Irene, the East Coast earthquake, and the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes, now is a critical time to promote preparedness education.

Join us for these upcoming informative webinar sessions aimed at educating individuals, communities and organizations about the various aspects of preparing for a disaster in today’s ever-changing world:
September 6th: Implementing a Youth Preparedness Program as you Kick-Off the New School Year
- This webinar was previously scheduled for August 23rd; however due to the East Coast earthquake, is rescheduled to September 6th.

This webinar provides you with resources for implementing an effective youth preparedness program including:

  • Implementing and funding a youth program
  • Choosing from currently available curriculum
  • Evaluating and sustaining a program

Hear from those who have effectively developed and delivered some of the most successful youth preparedness programs across the country and learn more about engaging today’s youth in disaster preparedness!

September 8th: Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN): Improving Disaster Preparedness Through Education - Help with education in all disaster functions may be closer than you think. Since 1994, the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) has focused on providing disaster education at the local level through each state’s land-grant university. Learn more about:

  • EDEN’s role in preparedness education
  • Various preparedness education resources EDEN provides
  • How to engage with EDEN

September 13th: Available Resources to Prepare Schools - This webinar will answer many of your questions about getting schools prepared for a disaster of any kind. If you are a school administrator, principal, teacher or concerned parent, you won’t want to miss this integral discussion. Some of the questions to be discussed include:

  • How was Joplin successful in preparing for and recovering from a disaster? How can other schools learn from their experience?
  • Where can schools find additional funding and resources in today’s budget climate? How does the DHS grant process work?
  • What free preparedness trainings are available for schools and school administrators, both online and in person?
  • What preparedness resources are available to schools at little or no cost?

September 15th: Preparedness for the Pets in our Homes and in our Hearts - Whether it is a cat, dog, turtle, fish, horse, cow or llama – animals are a very important part of our lives; however when it comes to preparing for disasters, they can pose some unique challenges. Join us to learn from pet and livestock emergency preparedness experts about:

  • The considerations and trends emerging in household pet and livestock readiness strategies
  • Disaster preparedness resources available to those with animals in their lives

September 22nd: Preparedness Considerations for Aging Americans – Log in and learn about specific preparedness steps for Aging Americans. Hear from FEMA officials and leaders at the forefront of Aging American Preparedness and have your questions answered:

  • What can I do to bring preparedness to my community?
  • What are the free resources available to me?
  • How do I connect with my state emergency management?

If you know or care for someone that is aging, you’ll want to join.

September 27th: Earthquakes can happen anywhere. Are you Ready? – You only have seconds. Do you know exactly what to do the moment the ground starts shaking? If it involves a doorway, a triangle, or running – these are not quake-safe actions. Participants on this webinar will learn:

  • How to get your organization involved in ShakeOut – the largest earthquake drill in the country
  • Actions to take during an earthquake, taught by experts from ShakeOut and FEMA
  • Where to register so you can practice updated quake safety and learn more about quake preparedness

Be sure to sign up as a National Preparedness Month Coalition member! In as little as two minutes, you will have access to preparedness events taking shape across the country, templates, new ideas, and tools to promote your preparedness activities. We are dedicated to forming a coalition that is large and diverse; so America’s communities can become better educated through the people they know. Let’s work together to find new partners and bring preparedness to the forefront year round.

Thank you for your participation!
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 5, 2011, 6:39 pm
The following is the text of an email regarding PPD-8 that came out from FEMA as part of the public outreach campaign:
Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8), signed by President Obama in March 2011, calls on all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and individual citizens to play a more active and well-defined role in strengthening the Nation’s security and resiliency.

This forum provides an opportunity to comment on some foundational concepts that apply to all PPD-8 requirements. In addition, we are also separately seeking input for the first draft of the National Preparedness Goal (NPG) on Both will help FEMA to achieve the requirements of PPD-8.

For this forum, we would like your input and ideas on any or all foundational concepts by focus area (e.g., Prevention, Protection, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation) and for preparedness overall. We welcome your thoughts, questions, or ideas about a secure and resilient nation, including whether the narratives provide an adequate description of the focus areas, the capabilities needed to achieve success in the focus areas, and what role the community should play in these focus areas. Please visit and click on the “Presidential Policy Directive: National Preparedness Goal” link under Campaigns to provide us with your feedback.

Background Information: The first two requirements of the Directive are to develop a National Preparedness Goal and the National Preparedness System. For more information on these requirements, visit

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Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: August 30, 2011, 1:00 pm
The following is the text of an email received from FEMA on Hurricane Irene efforts and preparedness:

Dear Partner,

As Hurricane Irene threatens much of the East Coast, we are seeking your assistance to cross-promote various preparedness resources on your websites and in social media.

FEMA offers hurricane preparedness information here:

In addition, please follow / amplify the @fema, @CraigatFEMA, @readydotgov, @DHSJournal, and any state/local emergency management agencies that are posting updates. We’ve also created a list of Twitter accounts posting updates, so feel free to promote that as well:

Key messages/potential social media posts for Saturday August 27th:

Aug 27: #Irene may cause flooding or flash flooding – avoid flooded areas & roads. Turn around, don’t drown. cc: @fema

If you may be affected by #Irene, follow the direction of local officials & avoid flooded areas. Safety tips on your phone:

Aug 27: For severe weather watches/warnings in your area - or on your phone at #Irene

Receive text msg updates f/ @Twitter accounts posting #Irene updates. Text follow + their acct name to 40404 (@Twitter’s number)

Aug 27: Bookmark useful mobile sites- #hurricane safety tips Your local forecast #Irene

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Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: August 28, 2011, 10:03 pm
I've been meaning to blog about this for a while but have been so consumed by the project that I haven't had time. For the last month or so we've been prepping to present a proposal on a Threat Hazard Identification Risk Analysis (THIRA) model to senior leadership for a green-light, and as of yesterday afternoon (after I think four reschedulings) we got it. I'm going to outline the project here and in future posts will update with progress.

One of the major components of my current assignment is a comprehensive risk assessment of our area of responsibility. The only complication, and I'm not even sure I consider it a complication really, is that there isn't any specific or required method to follow in carrying out the assessment. So my boss and I have been working on our own formula, based on other standards we've tracked down.

Most preparedness/emergency management oriented folks are probably familiar with the HIRA concept in one form or another, if not under that name at least the risk analysis concept and the:

Risk = Probability x Vulnerability x Consequence

formula. We started there but expanded slightly and added a "threat" category which we're using to cover the man-made issues, whether terrorist, "technical hazards" (a good example of that is the Fukushima power plant situation currently unfolding in Japan), or other events of that sort. That got us to the basic components that we wanted to cover but the more we looked into it the more we found that nobody really agrees on exactly how to get to the "Probability", "Vulnerability", and "Consequence" pieces.

There were a few other things we wanted to be able to take into account, modifiers if you will:
  • Warning time - Some hazards modify their own Risk, reducing it, by their very nature. What I mean is that any hazard that you can see coming hours or even days away gives even the most un-prepared person time to take some action. Given that, we wanted to find a way to recognize that "notice" events should have a slightly lessened Risk than "no-notice" events.
  • Preparedness - We wanted to acknowledge that many jurisdictions that were actively preparing for specific hazards, either by reviewing/updating plans, conducting exercises, or even by having recently responding to a similar event. By virtue of those activities, if taken recently enough, they would reduce the potential impact of the hazard. They wouldn't necessarily reduce the Risk, which is based on the PxVxC formula, but the would mitigate some of the impact of the incident overall.
  • Leadership priorities - The last modifier that we wanted to include was a way for leadership to look over the list of threats and hazards that we had selected, the categories that we were analyzing, and identify the ones they felt were the most important for us to focus on. This was really an acknowledgement of the political reality - we may have data that tells us that certain hazards are the most likely to happen but there are others that are more politically sensitive, making them higher priorities for us to act on.
All of this boils into the THIRA model that we put together, which ends up looking something like this:

Risk = Probability x Vulnerability x Consequence = R

Risk can be modified (reduced) by warning time = R1

R1 is modified by Preparedness (P) and Priorities (Pr) = R1 x P x Pr = THIRA

The last component is that we have a weighting factor added in to the THIRA formula. Each of the three component (R1, P, Pr) are weighted by a factor determined by leadership, from ten total points. This is to allow one last opportunity for leadership to provide their input to the model, to indicate which component they feel is the most important. It also allows us an opportunity to demonstrate how far we have to skew the model if a particular low-risk event is identified as a high priority item.

In future posts I will explain the formulas we're looking at for each of the components (P/V/C) as well as some of the data sets we've identified. And that second point brings me to a question for readers - if you have recommendations for data sets please let me know, either in comments or email. We are looking for as much data as possible to populate to initial model and the more the better.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: April 19, 2011, 4:25 pm
I was listening to a recent episode of LeShow, Harry Shearer's comedy/news radio program and he went into one of his regular topics - the situation in New Orleans. For those who don't know, Shearer is a part-time resident of New Orleans, so the Katrina situation impacted him more personally than many of the celebrities who made noise in the initial days and have since gone quiet.

(On a related, important, but tangential note to this post - if you're in a place to catch his film "The Big Uneasy" check it out. I'm looking forward to catching it in Sacramento in March. If you aren't aware, the film looks into issues around the failure of the levees and other flood-protection mechanisms, and the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in creating the disaster. After I've seen it I'll be in more of a position to comment.)

Anyway - what I wanted to talk about is the issue of reunification. On the show, Shearer was commenting on the recently released information from the census and the impact the unplanned evacuation during Katrina had on the population of the city. It's an issue he's spoken about before, the problem of there being thousands, if not tens of thousands, of residents who were evacuated to various miscellaneous locations without much effort to track them, and there now being little or no way to find them.

What this always brings up for me is - who should take the primary role in reunification? What I'm thinking about here is the role that a community, in this case the very vibrant community that makes New Orleans the great city it is, could play in reunification. Using the governmental systems in the initial stages makes perfect sense, but when it's clear that they're not cutting it, which is the case based on Shearer's comments, is it time for the community to take over? There may be websites or other ways to communicate that community members are aware of and non-community members wouldn't know. Additionally, community members would have a much better idea how many people are missing, including if there are any specific groups that need outreach (faith communities, ethnic groups, etc) and other specialized details that "officials" just don't have.

In a lot of ways it reminds me of a project one of my professors in grad school was working on, looking at ways to connect faith communities and local governments for emergency response and preparedness. His idea is that the faith communities know their members and their needs, and the local governments have the resources to help in disasters - by getting together the local governments can help the faith communities when they have members who need assistance that goes beyond what the community can meet.

In the case of reunification, the community could be the group to design the information, and the government (depending on the size of the event, local, state, or Federal) could be the mechanism for getting that information out.

It's just my thoughts, and I haven't done a lot of work or research on the subject so any thoughts or comments would be great.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: February 23, 2011, 3:31 pm
I've been lax with posting, relying more on re-tweeting than anything else, but I wanted to shoot out a quick note to let folks know I'll be down in Atlanta next week for the Public Health Preparedness Summit. I've been off and on and it's a great meeting.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: February 17, 2011, 9:26 pm
Last week I wrote about some of the things in's "Resolve to be Ready". Today I want to look a little more at one of the specific areas of personal preparedness, which carries over into professional preparedness - having a kit.

There are actually two different types of kits, one is the home/personal preparedness kit referred to in Step 1: Get A Kit at Ready. gov. From the site:
You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days. In addition, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even a week or longer.
So this is pretty straightforward - to take care of yourself (and your family, pets, etc as appropriate) you need the right stuff. In a recent interview he gave with Wired Magazine, Craig Fugate spoke about this, and the whole "you're on your own for 72 hours" paradigm from a slightly different angle than I've heard it spun before. Rather than stressing the idea that it will take that long for government services to be back up and running, the point the FEMA Administrator made was that if you are able to prepare and don't you're getting in line, potentially in front of people who aren't able to take those same steps. Additionally, he said, you're putting an added stress on the limited services available in the initial hours after an incident when the focus needs to be on USAR and life-saving.

The other type of kit is the evacuation kit, commonly referred to as a "Bug Out Bag" or BOB. The idea here is similar, you want a kit that carries the items you need to take care of you and your household, but it needs to be mobile. That might mean breaking the kit down into smaller, more portable containers, keeping some heavier and more stable items in the car all the time (swapping out like batteries in fire alarms, at time changes), or other similar ways to overcome having to haul what could be a 32 gallon trashcan worth of gear.

There are too many good sources for BOB information online, but one great article that I will recommend is from Mike Coston's "Avian Flu Diary from a while back. The post is here.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: January 26, 2011, 10:03 pm
I meant to get to this a while back, and it's a good three weeks out dated now, but like I said, better late than never. If you don't follow the goings-on at, the FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness website (and let's face it, there probably aren't too many of you who really follow it), you may have missed the "Resolve to be Ready" campaign they were pushing around the new year. From the site:
As the New Year approaches, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready Campaign is once again reminding people to Resolve to be Ready in 2011. Americans who make New Year’s resolutions are 11 times more likely to report continued success in achieving a goal than individuals who have not made a resolution, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The Ready Campaign would like to make an emergency preparedness resolution easy to keep by providing the tools and resources needed to take the three important steps: get a kit, make a plan and be informed about the different types of emergencies that can happen in your area and their appropriate responses. We hope you will join the Ready Campaign this Holiday Season in promoting Resolve to be Ready.
The site (both the Resolve subsite and the larger Ready site) have a lot of good resources supporting the "Get a kit, Make a plan, Be informed" message of the site and the Ready campaign. In future posts I'll revisit the campaign, focusing on some of the other targeted subsites (Ready America, Ready Business, Ready Kids, Ready Responder) and look at the different materials each has.

At the end of the day, the general site theme is the important thing, and the idea behind it is what I'm going to be returning to for the next little while. One of the big areas of focus for FEMA as an agency in this fiscal year, and for the length of Administrator Fugate's tenure, will be raising the level of preparedness of the general community (the "whole of community" which I'll write about soon) with the point being that the Federal government, and even State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local governments, don't have the resources to respond to a truly catastrophic incident unless the general public is ready and able to pitch in. This links to the idea that survivors want to help out and are actually a fantastic resource that we have tended to under utilize in the US in disaster response in the past.

But like I said, I'll get to that in future posts.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: January 19, 2011, 2:00 pm
So I've been away for far longer than I thought likely. Work expanded due to some personnel shuffling which meant that I didn't have much energy left at the end of the day to be thinking and/or writing about emergency preparedness topics and on top of that I've had some family issues that took up what little time was left.

Sometime in the next month or so I'll be moving to a different assignment and one that will involve a lot more policy review and analysis as part of my day-to-day. That being the case, I plan to reactivate the blog and write again. My plan is for weekly posts and with a new Congress coming into DC I expect there will be plenty of new proposals and policies to analyze and pick apart.

I don't know how many people are still subscribed, and hopefully more will come back as I get back to posting regularly. Thank you for your patience.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: January 2, 2011, 6:37 pm
The following is the full text of an email I received today. Since the deadline for comments is Friday I wanted to pass this on as is.


Individuals and other stakeholders who still wish to submit comments on the draft National Disaster Recovery Framework have until Friday, February 26, 2010 to do so. The framework – focused on engaging state, local and tribal governments, nonprofit partners, the private sector, and the public to enhance the nation’s ability to recover from disasters – is available to read online at All comments must be submitted at in Docket FEMA-2010-0004.

The comment period is part of an extensive stakeholder outreach effort undertaken by the interagency Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group. The draft framework was developed based on input from all levels of government, the private sector, academic and emergency management communities, voluntary and non-profit organizations, and a wide array of associations and organizations—collected through meetings and briefings across the country; online engagement; and a series of video teleconferences and stakeholder forums in five key cities.

For more information about the Recovery Framework, visit Information about the Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group is available at

You are subscribed to email updates from the FEMA Private Sector Division/Office of External Affairs. Contact the Private Sector Division at: or visit us at, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: February 23, 2010, 3:54 am
This is going to be a dashed-off piece, triggered by a new story I saw a couple of days back.

One of the core tenets of the Incident Command System (ICS), as pushed by the US through the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is unified command. Briefly stated this is the idea that all people with authority for an incident are "at the table" and making decisions collectively. In Federally managed event (i.e., when FEMA is involved) this is done through the Unified Coordination Group (UCG). Most UCGs will include:
  • Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) - the individual named by the President in the Stafford Act declaration to oversee all Federal personnel
  • Governor or Governor's Authorized Representative (GAR)
  • Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) - liaison from DoD to FEMA
  • State National Guard
  • Local leadership
This group meets regularly, based on the operational period, to outline the objectives for the next operational period. Operations and Planning personnel take those objectives and develop the Incident Action Plan, which outlines the tactics that will be employed.

An example of this working very well is the recent Federal response to the American Samoa earthquake and tsunami in October 2009. The FCO and DCO assigned are based in Hawaii, and the Governor of American Samoa was visiting Hawaii at the time the event occurred which allowed the three of them to get together before assets had begun flowing to discuss priorities and begin coordination.

Moving to the current disaster, I saw this article from the Guardian a couple of days ago:

The Haitian prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, told the Montreal conference that his government needed to rely strongly on its partners but said Haiti was able to lead the rebuilding effort.

"Haitians continue to work in precarious conditions but it is in the position to assume the leadership expected of it by its people in order to relaunch the country on the path to reconstruction," he said. However, Bellerive admitted the government was facing serious legitimacy issues as people question whether it exists at all. The destruction of key government buildings has hampered the work of what was already a weak and inefficient state.

In short, the article outlines the Haitian Prime Minister speaking to a conference of supporting countries and explaining that Haiti is ready to take the lead in the response effort. This is where things can get messy, if the impacted nation is truly ready to take leadership they should be able to but many of the responding agencies are acting under their own authorities and might not acknowledge a foreign nation's right to direct their actions. In this case it is even more messy than a normal response (domestic or with a US territory or protectorate) because if we don't cooperate appropriately the Haitian government might find itself having to ask our personnel to leave, even with the massive negative impacts.

That being said, implementing a unified command and making sure there is full participation from all involved can lessen or remove this obstacle. Having the Haitian government in the UCG allows them to set the priorities and objectives, but doing it collaboratively allows the other nations and agencies (I'm thinking primarily of US DoD) to remain in their chain of command. It also will assist the Haitian government in reasserting itself and demonstrating that it is ready to lead the nation again, while having the full resources of the international response community backing it up. The most important thing to avoid, for the sake of the Haitian people, is the international community setting up in one place and the Haitian government setting up in another.
He [Prime Minister Bellerive] said Haiti's government had set up six groups to deal with issues such as humanitarian aid, housing and security. He said each group was being led by a minister as well as an international party. But the Italian government official who led the country's response to the L'Aquila earthquake condemned the relief efforts in Haiti as a disorganised "vanity parade". Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil protection service, said there had been a fundamental lack of leadership thus far in foreign aid missions to Haiti
It's not a perfect system, but it does work.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: January 27, 2010, 4:16 pm
I've been slammed at work and not able to get back into a rhythm posting yet. I did want to take a moment to draw attention to a handy little widget that HHS has built (code here) to link to all of their resources for the response to the earthquake in Haiti. I'll keep the widget up until the site it links to is no longer valid, and encourage other folks, especially on the public health side of things, to add it to their sites aw well.

HT - Homeland Security Digital Library
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: January 21, 2010, 9:56 pm
When I started my series on reporting I had intended it to run weekly for a month. I'm well into the second month and haven't written the final piece yet. The short reason is that as I was drafting it a number of new products caught my eye (including the very newly announced Virtual USA) and I'm holding off until I have a chance to look at some of them. I will be back on a weekly schedule after the holidays.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: December 15, 2009, 12:49 am
In the two preceding posts I spoke about "reporting" and how it currently relates to preparedness activities like grant monitoring . Today I want to look at reporting during operations. I will draw on two specific experiences for this: involvement in weekly and then daily data calls for H1N1; and operations in support of a declared disaster.

One of the constructs the Federal government has come up with to manage a pandemic is the Regional Coordination Teams (RCT). These individuals serve as strategic-level managers sitting over two FEMA Regions and provide a link between the Sec. of Homeland Security and the Regions. A large part of their role in the fall H1N1 outbreak has been linked to situational awareness. Initially, the RCT were reporting on a weekly basis while the FEMA Regional offices, usually through a Watch, were reporting daily. Those reports were then combined so that there was a single RCT report being filed daily. These reports are submitted in a few different ways, including secure sites like the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) and email. From the beginning this has struck me as an inefficient system, where an existing model (a single daily report, whether or not there is anything to report) is being forced to meet a need (accurate and timely information) that it really doesn't fit. More on that in a bit.

My other recent involvement in the operational reporting chain was working at the Regional-level in support of teams deployed to two different events at once. Again, the reports were flowing two-way with field responders sending information up on a specific calendar so that reports could be completed to send up at a specific time. This fell apart almost instantly each day because the various conference calls and data needs both internally and from us to others (HQ) often took place at different times based on events. Again, trying to use a fixed schedule sounds like it would provide stability to the response by giving a set time to follow, but all it really does is lead to having to repeat drafting reports documentation because you have to prepare something with incomplete data and then update as you go.

These two very different events (one developing on a very slow pace and the other moving very rapidly) illustrate the same problem with operational reporting: we are still greatly mired in older models where information is collected and vetted centrally before being distributed, often back to the same people who provided the information in the first place. Instead of this we need to move to a system where the data is accessible from multiple locations at the same time, allowing people to develop the reports that they need without waiting for a single, centralized report. If there is a concern about data being shared prematurely it can be marked appropriately as Not For Distribution. This would remove many of the burdens that are currently placed on field responders and planners to provide information at a moment's notice in response to a request from higher in the food chain. It would also allow different agencies operating with the bulk of their personnel in a different location (such as a department operations center) to have easy access to the same information as their colleagues in the EOC (this is the way the system was set up when I was working at the local level).

Next week I will wrap up this set of posts with a description of what I feel would be a better reporting system, one that would be useful for preparedness and operational needs.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: December 3, 2009, 12:27 am
Today I want to discuss what I'm calling "preparedness" reporting: the information collected, primarily at the Federal level, either as part of a grant application or grant monitoring process, or to otherwise assess "compliance" with specific requirements (e.g., NIMSCAST). In my professional career I have been on both sides of grant monitoring - preparing documents and data for a site visit while at a local health department and reading submissions at the Federal level - and in both cases have felt that the system as it stands is unnecessarily burdensome.

At the local level I worked to support our Director while she prepared for a Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) review, which involved filling the Executive Conference Room with binders and files on any program that had any possible relationship with the CRI program and then sitting through two days of evaluation and discussion with a team from the CDC and the state CRI coordinator. During that time almost all other work in the office ceased since there were only four of us and all were needed to compile all of the information required. While there were undoubtedly some inefficiencies in the way we prepared because the Director was new to her position, the review was so all-encompassing that even an experienced person would have needed the better part of a week to get ready. The reviewers weren't looking for knowledge of the program but specific documentation, so being well-versed in the preparations wouldn't have been enough. The only way to be more prepared would be to base your filing system around the information requirements so that re-sorting wouldn't be needed.

Until the next program came by for a site visit and you had to start all over based on their requirements.

On the other side of things, I've been involved in reviewing monitoring information on a couple of different grant programs, and will use the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP) as an example. Details on the RCPGP are available at the link, but it is essentially a program where FEMA gives money to urban areas for regional planning, similar to the UASI program but all-hazards. The RCPGP has a complex monitoring process, which includes quarterly site visits and an on-going program plan (most of the ones I have seen are Microsoft Project charts) which is reviewed on the programmatic and fiscal side at the Regional office, with HQ having the final say on compliance. Our Region has three RCPGP sites (of 11 nationally), all of which submit their materials on the same deadline, and all of which have to be reviewed by our one programmatic person in a week and forwarded on. Each of the three monitoring packets was a folder about three inches thick, and at least one of the sites was far behind where they should be, necessitating extensive documentation of the efforts that have been made to pull them back on track.

And this is one of probably 10 different projects this particular person is responsible for.

Both of these illustrate a common problem; as long as we look at reporting as a discrete event, something that happens once a quarter or once a year, then there will always be a lot of catch up for both the submitter and the recipient. If, instead, we shift the paradigm and make better use of collaborative tools such as SharePoint and Adobe Connect then we can create a system where information is always available for review, where feedback comes realtime, and we can avoid projects getting greatly off track.

Next week I will address similar problems with information collection during an active response, and the following week I'll outline a proposal for a system that would incorporate both sets of reporting.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: November 16, 2009, 3:34 pm
I mentioned on Monday that I would be discussing reporting as my first long-form topic. Today I will lay out what I mean by "reporting". Over the next couple of weeks I'll follow with targeted discussions on types of reporting and a proposal for how they can be made more useful for all involved.

Emergency management reporting falls into two separate but related categories: preparedness and response.
  • Preparedness reporting includes information required for grant monitoring, tracking training and exercise participation, and the dozens of other requirements laid down, primarily by DHS/FEMA, to determine if a given entity is meeting the requirements for accreditation (e.g., NIMSCAST).
  • Response reporting refers to the information collected during operations, from field elements to the command element and vice-versa, that is used during the response to assess the effectiveness of a particular strategy and following the response for the After Action Review (AAR) process.
These two types of reports require different sets of data and are collected under different circumstances but there is a clear link between them, or at least there should be. The data collected as part of grant monitoring and accreditation should be linked to operational capabilities; and the data collected during a response should be linked to future grant applications and training/exercise programs. However, the current system of collecting data and preparing reports does not lend itself readily to this sort of cross-purposing. Data is collected in static forms, more often than not using Word templates. That information is then pulled from one static form and plugged into another (e.g., individual comment/evaluation forms are pooled into an AAR) that is distributed as a locked Word file or pdf.

What we need is a system that allows for searching and cross-referencing of data, covering both preparedness activities (e.g., projects funded with grant money) and response activities (e.g., daily situation reports from a command post at a wildfire) so that it is possible to identify the links between the two. With this sort of linked system it would be possible to, let's say, evaluate the effectiveness of a jurisdiction's use of FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters grant program by evaluating the performance in the response of the assets funded by the grant, and not based solely on the information in the grant monitoring paperwork. It is possible to do this sort of cross-referenced evaluation now, but it requires an investment of human capital to review:
  • Grant monitoring paperwork - both fiscal and programmatic;
  • Operations logs to determine when the assets funded through the grant were activated;
  • Situation reports to determine the types of missions those assets were used for;
  • AAR (if they exist) to determine the effectiveness of those assets.
Since each of the above listed reports will be in different formats, including what may be hand-written operational logs, and none of them are likely to be context-searchable, tracking a single asset from purchase with grant funding to deployment and evaluation will require one or more persons to hunt through piles of reports looking for some kind of specific identifier. Once the asset of interest has been found it might be possible to track it through all of the different reports, but only if it is listed in the same way in all of them.

Over the next two weeks I will look more closely at the two identified types of reporting, and I will then end the month with a specific proposal to link them. I look forward to what I hope will be an active discussion of this issue, which I know greatly impacts emergency managers at all levels.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: November 5, 2009, 12:54 am
I've been away from this for far longer than I thought I would when I wrote my last post. I won't go in to details, suffice to say that work got a little more crazy than I expected. Either way, I plan to start writing again and wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little about how I see the blog shifting focus.

When I first started writing it was primarily out of frustration. I was working for a local health department and was very pigeon-holed. All I was working on was pandemic preparedness, and despite numerous other opportunities and projects that needed doing, my assignment never wavered. That was a management decision and even a change of supervisor didn't change my workload. So I started the blog to explore other areas of preparedness/response that I was interested in. Then I changed jobs, moved across the country, and shifted from local government to Federal/regional work in general emergency management. I shifted to try and rotate through topic areas to cover local, state, and Federal issues. To be honest, after a while it felt forced, and that was when I suspended writing.

I've decided to shift focus a little, back to one of my original idea, and use this space to explore areas of the field that I want to delve into a little more. I will be posting only a one or two times a week, and hopefully the posts will be deeper than before.

The first area I will be looking at is information collection and dissemination within an organization. Not crisis communications, but how reporting does and should flow. This will be drawn from my experiences working in the Regional office during the early days of a dual deployment of field personnel, as well as the on-going H1N1 incident.

My hope is to use the blog to develop these topics and potentially identify areas for writing more complete white papers or policy suggestions, and look forward to discussion on them after posting.

Thanks for your patience through the months of silence.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: November 2, 2009, 5:56 pm

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