Friday, December 31, 2010

Snow, expectations, and resilience

As emergency managers, are we to manage disasters or expectations?

As an emergency manager, expectations (specifically generators) seem to be that Citizens want them, WE (your government) have them, and WE (your government) should just turn them over.

In reality, WE (your government) have a finite quantity of them to usein places where they will be "doing the most good", to quote the Salvation Army.

Since 95% of rescues come from neighbors, how about neighbors learning to help neighbors after they learn to help themselves?


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via Homeland Security Watch by Arnold Bogis on 12/30/10

Philip's post on the problems wrought by the recent blizzard raises an interesting question regarding resilience: how big does an event have to be for people to not expect to be saved by government and instead start relying on themselves?

George Packer of the New Yorker tackles this topic with his personal description of the reaction of some New Yorkers to the blizzard:

Twenty inches of snow isn't a 7.5 earthquake or Category 4 hurricane. Unless it's life-threatening, an emergency rarely lifts human beings above themselves. A snowstorm like this is bad enough to make people parochial and aggrieved, but not disastrous enough to make them generous and heroic. The stories of people trapped on subway trains all night, of hundreds of 911 calls going unanswered for hours, remained abstract, because we were in no actual danger. And so, instead, it seemed as if our block was being singled out for idiocy and neglect. The scene on the street brought my neighbors and me into a fraternity of usefulness and scorn: we locals did one another little favors—here's some salt, thanks for shoveling my walk—and remarked on the folly of outsiders insisting on driving a car through such snow. The circle of inclusion was now the neighborhood—more narrowly, the block—but this bond wasn't strong enough to prompt one of us to put an orange cone of warning at the bottom of the street, let alone to organize all of us into teams that could shovel out the whole block. Urban solidarity had a limit, and some quaint notion of deserving city services kept us waiting passively on the silent street for the plow that, by midday Tuesday, still hadn't shown up.

When describing the earliest moments following a disaster, emergency managers never miss an opportunity to remind the public that there may be a period where they have to rely on themselves.  This is the theory behind having a plan and keeping several days of food and water, among other supplies.  Elected officials, however, find it more difficult to tell the public that they may not be there for them immediately following an event (and in the case of a certain New Jersey governor, that is literally true…). Added to the mix are those voices that insist that officials shouldn't plan for true catastrophes but instead focus on the most likely threats.  This line of thinking supports the notion that the government should be prepared to handle common events, and the average citizen as taxpayer should expect immediate results.

Perhaps instead we should broaden our conception of even non-catastrophic events. Describing the efforts of a moving crew to dig themselves a path out of his block, Packer links expectations held by citizen of government and government of citizen:

They had plowed our street with shovels. Outsiders on the clock, they had done the city's work—our work.

(h/t to Conor Friedersdorf at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish)


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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In a Tweet, Gov 2.0 pathfinder Brian Humphrey opined: "The 4 Mileposts to #SocialMedia Success: Desirable, Beneficial, Justifiable and Sustainable."

What makes social media justifiable?

We all know that Twitter is desirable.  After all, everyone's doing Social Media.

We have all heard stories about the benefits of social media.

Have we heard about justifiable social media?  It seems we've heard more people not allowed to use social media because ... well ... sometimes it really IS just because.

When social media grows up to present itself as a case to decision makers, social media will become sustainable.

Some tools that can help build that case are:

1.  SocialOomph ... this tool has some very useful tracking tools related to followers, URL shortening. When management wants to know how many followers you have, there's a graph for that. Being asked how many Direct Messages have been sent? There's a graph for that? Why is the Friend/Follower ratio at 38.2%? There's a graph for that will produce the question.  What's the answer?
2.  HootSuite is another tool that has some really superior twitter tracking tools.  How many clicks on your tweets happened this week or this month?  Which of the tweets were the most popular?  This tool will help you adjust your social media strategy by showing you successful tweets versus the less than stellar ones.
3.  At Twitter Counter, users will find a graph of users along with projections of followers and tweets.  Again, the user would be able to show management a viable Tweeting effort, if, indeed, there is one.
4.  Looking at TwitDiff, users can easily set up an account to track the followers who unfollow.  Using this tool, the Tweet user can determine the name and location of the unfollowing soul.  Thus, adjustments may be necessary to overcome a mass exodus, if, again, indeed, there is one.

OH, and by the way, management can use these tools since they are free, for the most part.  Therefore, the social media guru in your department might get ahead of that curve.

After all, it's part of the justification process for social media in Government.

The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success

Monday, December 27, 2010

Coupled along with this note from the Vacation Lane Group, it was observed by the Old Farmer's Almanac that, on December 26, 1947, "NYC's deepest snowstorm commenced: 25.8" at battery, 32" in suburbs - traffic completely stopped - removal costed $8 million - 27 people died, 1947."

In other words, this week's is not the FIRST worst snowstorm in the Northeast. Neither will it be the last. This particular event predates the Federal Emergency Management Agency by over 30 years.  Please, no jokes about FEMA being established on April Fool's Day, 1979.

I am not calling for the elimination of FEMA or Homeland Security, but something was different in 1947.  There was no FEMA, no Red Cross debit cards, the City survived, and America continued.

What could it have been?

While I am not calling for the elimination of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or Homeland Security, it is noteworthy that, in public speaking, I have yet to have a listener raise their hand when I ask who would like to give ME a generator. However, rare is the disaster that occurs where there are more requests for FEMA reimbursement for individual generators.

It appears that FEMA is wise to continue the missive of preparedness. This message is NOT new. The "Are You Ready" books have been in print for several years now. They are a good supplement to the local emergency management program in the USA. It fits nicely with the 303 Plan described by our friends in Australia at

It really is fitting that, in 1947, I suspect Neighbors Helped Neighbors. In the beginning of the Cold War era, the elderly and infirm were not overlooked. Perhaps, America should return to the pattern and practice of our forefathers.

After all, all disasters start locally and end locally, in 1947 or today. Are YOU Ready?

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via The Vacation Lane Blog by The Vacation Lane Group on 12/20/10

There once was a time when snow and ice were not the subject of disaster declarations. In fact the Fire, flood, or explosion litany of the disaster legislation often seemed to not even include those hazards. Snowstorms have now been added.

The current definition reads:

"Major disaster" means any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado,
storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic
eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any
fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination
of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant
major disaster assistance under this Act to supplement the efforts and available
resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in
alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby."

Thus icestorms and energy outages are not specifically listed unless accompanied by one of the listed hazards or the specifically named ones--fire, flood or explosion. And of course radiological releases and terrorist attacks are also not specifically listed or generically listed.

Well it will be interesting to see exactly what FEMA and DHS do in the event of a prolonged icestorm or energy outage or even what their plans and capabilities are in fact. A large ice storm in KY last winter has resulted in an outpouring of disaster largess and surely this was partially the result of efforts by the long serving Congressman from KY Fifth Congressional District now chair of the House Appropriations Committee in the forthcoming 112th Congress.

Not relying on FEMA documentation of capability (there is little to rely upon) but open source materials on other agencies including the Department of Energy a mass and long term outage of power in a major metropolitan area--I would argue the top 500--would result in deaths and damages that would or should qualify this for major disaster status. Perhaps in the South and West, as both FRANCE and Russia have now experienced, heat wave deaths in unairconditioned shelter can be devastating to URBAN populations.

So suggesting that these situations be added to the planning scenarios and any statutory issues be addressed in the 112th Congress.

Winter now but yes with the winter solstice arriving summer now the solstice after next.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to all.

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Is Your Social Media Expert a Fraud? – By Missy Ward

Did you see this? What kind of social media EXPERT has approached you this week?

Regularly, #SMEM folks get approached by people to double and triple their followers.

When you see these types of approaches, RUN ... don't walk to the #SMEM hashtag. :)


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via Affiliate Magazine by Colleen on 12/27/10

Lately, I've received more and more requests to recommend "a social media marketing expert" (their words, not mine) to help create and manage their company's social media strategy. Overall, it appears that the bulk of the people that have asked, have not been too keen on their existing expert.

Many have even felt duped by the firm they hired. After looking at a couple of the choices, it's easy to see how the companies might feel deceived, based on the fact that they've hired self-proclaimed "experts" who I remember claiming to be experts in something else just a year ago.

A while back, I asked readers of my blog to provide some suggestions on red flags folks should look for when interviewing social media marketing companies. Here are some of their comments I received on my blog, Facebook and Twitter:

"When their email address is @gmail, @msn or @yahoo instead of a "real" company address. If you can't set up branded email, I doubt you can test, measure and optimize social media campaigns." – Anne Holland,

"When the first thing they talk about for Social Media is Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn." – Patrick Allmond,

"When the expert negotiates their consulting fee in free food. If they don't know how to command proper pay for their services, how are you to expect that they know how to generate actual tangible revenue for you?"- Lori Miller,

"When you look at their Twitter account and it states they joined Twitter six months ago." – Karen Rocks,

"When they can only talk tools (Facebook, Twitter) and not strategy; when they talk nothing but buzzwords like "engagement, metrics, authenticity" without context." – Davina Brewer,

"When you can't find anything about them on Google and their site is nothing more than a price sheet splash page." – Anastasia Hilinsky,

"When they talk in %'s instead of real numbers… 200% growth in Fans! (From 4 to 11)" – Kevin Webster,

"When they neither have an outline, nor a clear plan on how they will promote your business through Social Media" – Geno Prussakov,

"When they don't inventory your current communication channels, know what UGC stands for and have never used PickFu." – Pat Grady,

"If the social media expert insists that you can't measure the ROI on Social Media, chances are, they don't know what they're doing." – Derek Halpern,

"When you search for the company name on Twitter (or any social media channel) and get no results." – Sharon Mostyn,

"When you also see them in forums complaining that they can't get any traffic and are thinking of giving up." – Malcolm McDonough,

"When they call themselves a social media expert in the first place." – Josh Todd,

Unfortunately, I couldn't fit all of the comments here, but you can read them at
There are a lot of great firms out there, and it is my hope this will help separate the wheat from the chaff.

Missy is the Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit, Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine and manages

Download the entire FeedFront issue 13 here –
FeedFront issue 13 articles can be found here as well:>


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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently unveiled an exciting new tool to help the public get answers to questions about Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRM).

Provided by the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX), Live Chat allows FEMA stakeholders to interact with Map Specialists real-time via an online forum. Specialists can field inquiries about a wide variety of topics including the release of new flood maps, the urgent need for the purchase of flood insurance and much, much more.

Map Specialists are available for online chat Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. CST. To use Live Chat or for information regarding services provided by the FMIX, visit and click on "Live Chat." You can also contact the FMIX at 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) or by email at

While many homeowners are required by mortgage and lending companies to have flood insurance, FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) strongly recommend that everyone purchase flood insurance.
The NFIP offers federally-backed flood insurance at relatively nominal rates, as damage from flooding is not normally covered by homeowners' insurance. For more information on estimated rates for flood insurance, flood facts and to locate an agent in your area, you can also visit

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cleveland County Store Destroyed By Tornado Reopens

Just in case you missed this story out of Oklahoma, here's a store that reopened seven months after the storm.

That's seven months with no income for the business owner.

That's seven months that customers were shopping somewhere else.

That's seven months that the store had to rely on insurance to rebuild.

That's seven months of getting building supplies and construction experts to work amid competition from other fires, floods, wind storms, etc.

Now, the question is, if this had been YOUR story, what would you have done?

If you were the owner, would you rebuild? COULD you rebuild?

If you were the customer, could you drive another 15 miles for seven months and would you drive another 15 miles less when the store reopens?

Plan now ... Storm season starts in less than seven months.


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via NEWS 9 - News on 12/16/10

Seven months after a tornado smashed through eastern Cleveland County and destroyed the Country Boy Grocery Store on Highway 9, the business is open again.


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