Going to Gettysburg

One of the great enjoyments I get from teaching is the opportunity to meet new people and create new friendships. Typically, when we have our classes here on campus at the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) in Emmitsburg, Maryland we will have about 50 students in class. The diversity of the class is always interesting, and when I say diversity I’m referring to the geographic areas students come from, their career backgrounds, as well as their cultural differences.

We’ve had the pleasure of teaching classes with students from just about every state in the United States including Hawaii, rural communities as well as metropolitan, tribal, and deaf and hard of hearing. With all that diversity I didn’t think I’d ever be surprised by who might attend one of our classes, but that changed on this trip.

Meet Joe Farago

We generally try to meet and greet our students as they arrive to class on the first day. Unfortunately, we had two students already in their seats as we arrived to our classroom. Much to my surprise, when I walked up to Joe and he introduced himself to me, I was pleasantly surprised he is a fellow Michigander. He shared with me that he has a background in the fire service and is living a great life with summers spent in Michigan and winters in Florida. It wasn’t until later the next day before I learned a tad more about my new friend Joe.

The next day, one of our students came up to me and my co-instructor and said “Do you know who he is?” and proceeded to show as an infomercial on You Tube. It turns out Joe has quite an acting background. Along with infomercials, Joe has had parts on the old “Seinfeld” television series as well as in the movie “Terminator”

Joe was a genuinely nice guy who was great to have in class. I don’t know if our paths will ever cross again, but I feel fortunate to have met him.

Gettysburg

Today we had a day off from teaching as we are between classes. With my co-instructors Joe and Wilson, we took the day and went to Gettysburg to visit the Civil War battlefields. It was a picture perfect day to be out sightseeing. Sunny and warm, and not a lot of people.

Gettysburg is only a short 20-mile trip from Emmitsburg, so it’s not far. Once we arrived I saw two sides to our national treasure. On one side it reminded me of tourist places much like Branson, MO, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, or Niagara Falls. Lots of tee-shirt shops and fudge shops. One of the unique offerings here are the ghost tours that are offered at night. No – we didn’t go on a ghost tour!

On the other side is the vast countryside filled with monuments and markers recognizing who fought in the Civil War and where they fought. Reading about the Civil War in school certainly doesn’t prepare one for how large the battlefield really was once you see it. It was truly amazing and humbling.

I’m including a few pictures to share.

I hope you come back in the next couple of days because I’ll have more to share with you. Until then, best wishes!

Trying to be a More Effective Communicator

Instead of the teacher, I was the student.  I was “grasshopper”.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Dale Carnegie workshop that my employer hosted as part of our employee development program.  The course was titled “How to Say What You Mean to Get the Results That You Want”.

I was pleased (confident) when throughout the class we talked about several topics that we also cover in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer curriculum that I’ve been teaching for the past few years.

I thought I’d share with you some of the concepts, suggestions, and thoughts that I left the class with.

Some characteristics of an effective speaker. They are :

  • Engaging
  • Credible – they know their material.
  • Good listeners
  • Focused on their message
  • Animated
  • Clear and concise – no ambiguity
  • Empathetic.
  • Articulate

There are five levels of listening (from lowest to highest) – Ignore, Pretend, Selective, Attentive, Empathetic.  At the highest level “Empathetic” (which we should work towards), we are putting ourselves in the other persons shoes.  It sounds simple, but the instructor used a great analogy to make the point.  If someone wearing a size 9 shoe tries to put on a size 13 shoe, it’s impossible.  However, if they take their size 9 shoe and then place their foot into the size 13 shoe, it goes in very easily.  The point here is that an empathetic listener is one who steps out of their own shoes before stepping in to someone else’s.  The empathetic listener truly looks at things from the other perspective beyond their own.

Did you know if you rearrange the letters that spell LISTEN … it spells SILENT

The next time you find yourself talking too much, remember to WAIT … Why Am I Talking?

How we emphasize words when we speak can convey a total different impact to what we are saying. – If you say the following sentence seven different times and each time place the emphasis on a different word each time, it changes the impact of the message.  Here’s the sentence:

“I never said he stole my money”

Impact of the message – Our instructor shared with us a pie chart diagram that illustrated the non-verbal impact of a message.  The findings were attributed to a 10-year study that was conducted by a UCLA professor, Dr. Albert Mehrabian.  The study found that :

  • 7% of a message is impacted by the actual words spoken
  • 38% of a message is impacted by our tone of voice – how we say things
  • 55% of a message is impacted by non-verbals (a.k.a. our body language)

Interestingly, like many studies, these results have been challenged by others.  In other work I have read, the following suggestions were made:

  • If the purpose of your communication is to establish credibility, make an initial impression, or build a relationship, then your body language will have the greatest impact.
  • If your communication is information heavy, such as a face-to-face sale or negotiation, then words become much more important; they may be the most important components.
  • In most persuasive situations in which your body language and words clash, your audience will rely on your body language for their interpretation.

Learning Styles

As a reader of my previous blogs, you’ll know that in the CERT Train-the-Trainer curriculum, we address three different learning styles that people have – Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.  In this class, there was a short exercise that I thought was really effective; so much so I think I want to include something similar in my instructional delivery of CERT Train-the-Trainer.  The “Learning Style Survey” asks 21 different questions and provides three possible responses (Often, Sometimes, Seldom).  Once I completed the survey, I then had to go back and score my answers.   Based on the point values and total scoring, I was able to determine if I was a Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learner.  I felt the survey was fairly accurate.

Another interesting fact that was shared with us was that on average, 45% of us are Kinesthetic learners, 37% are Visual learners, and 18% are Auditory learners.

I want to close with a Dale Carnegie quote that was included in a handout … “… think in terms of other people’s point of view, and see things from their angle …”  I think that as communicators, if we took this advice more often, we’d be more effective.

Getting beat by a teenager in tennis, and what’s that got to do with Crisis Management?

I’m at that point in my life where one of the greatest joys I have is playing tennis with my teenage grandson. I’ve always looked at competition through sports as a great bonding opportunity for fathers and sons.  My grandson is taking lessons once a week at local club near us.  Over the past couple of years, he’s gotten pretty darn good.  To help him practice between lessons, I serve as his “sparring partner”.  We find time to play a couple of times a week together.

When I was younger (i.e. high school and college) I played some racquetball, but never tennis.  What I know about tennis has come from my being an easy mark for “the kid”.  But with my competitive nature, I’ve learned and practiced along the way to the point where I can actually give him a run for his money – oh that’s right, it’s my money.

Anyway, I just got in from playing tennis this evening with my grandson and while I was out on the court “getting schooled” again, I began thinking about how playing tennis can be similar to what we do in crisis management.

Preparation

Before you can effectively (operative word) play tennis … or manage a crisis … you have to develop knowledge and skills of the game.  The easiest way to do this of course is to be coached by professionals – those that have gone down the path before you.  Unfortunately, some think that because it’s not “rocket science” they can skip this step (anyone can do it) and just start playing.  Taking this approach generally means greater chances of losing vs. winning.  Trust me on this one.  Take the time to learn about crisis management.  Talk to others that have actually responded to and recovered from some type of crisis.

Practice

In past blogs, I’ve mentioned a saying a fellow instructor has used many times in classes we’ve taught.  The saying is “people will do what they’ve practiced, not what they’ve been told.”  How true that is in tennis (or any other sport) and in crisis management.  In order to be good at tennis, you have to practice.  In order to respond appropriately when a crisis incident occurs, we have to practice.  We practice by conducting table top exercises, drills, and full-scale exercises to name just a few.  Look for opportunities to exercise (practice) your plan.

Size-up and take action

In tennis, we are constantly sizing up our opponent and how he or she is playing.  We are always looking for an opportunity to score another point.  It’s called gamesmanship.  In crisis management we also perform size-up to understand what the current situation is and what are capabilities there are “to score another point”.  Our size-up will help us to determine our game plan.  At that point, we need to take action.  All the planning and preparation in the world doesn’t do any good if we don’t step on to the court.

Command and Control

In both tennis and crisis management, if you aren’t in control, you will be controlled.  I hate to admit that tonight the kid controlled the “old man” two out of three sets.  In tennis, as well as in crisis management, a positive mindset is one of the most important skills you can possess.  In tennis, you don’t want your opponent to see your frustration or fear.  In crisis management, we don’t want our teams to see our frustration or fear either.  The best crisis management leaders reflect a sense of calm and order even when everything else appears to be dysfunctional around them.

Lessons learned

The only way to win is to improve skills that may not be your strongest and enhance those that you may be pretty good at.  If I realize my serves are weak, I need to spend time practicing serves before our next “big” match.  In crisis management, we need to perform a lessons learned activity (i.e. debriefing or hot-wash) session.  Our goal is to learn from the experience what worked well and what needs improvement.  Then, take those lessons learned and use them to improve.

Well, it’s time to take a couple of ibuprofen.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  I’ll be posting again on August 1 and I hope you’ll come back.  In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this blog or any others I’ve written.  If there’s a particular topic you’d like to have me write about, please let me know.  I welcome your feedback.

Good bye Lincoln Nebraska

Well it’s hard to believe that our week in Lincoln has come to an end so fast, but here it is.  Today we completed our CERT Program Manager class and now I’m heading for home.

During our short five day stay here we have met some terrific, dedicated and committed people from around the “Corn Husker” state.  I’m convinced that with the training they have completed this week, they have the knowledge and skills (ability) to significantly improve the overall readiness (preparedness) of the communities they live in.  And since most of the folks we worked with this week completed both the CERT Train-the-Trainer and the CERT Program Manager class, I would hope that as they roll out their CERT programs (either new or improved), they will look to become self-sustaining rather than be dependent upon federal funding.  As I wrote in a previous blog, I don’t feel as though the federal funding that many programs across the country receive was intended to be sustaining funds.  Rather, they should have simply been used for one-time program development.  Then, once the program is developed, up and running, it should be the local program’s, or community’s, responsibility to find ways to provide their ongoing funding (self-sustainment).

As I shared with both classes this week, CERT is another program, like the old FEMA “Project Impact” from the 1990’s, where communities became too reliant on federal funding to help improve the resiliency of the community and didn’t seek out opportunities to be self-sustaining.  In the long run, Project Impact went away as federal funding went away.  I hope that CERT doesn’t suffer the same demise, but with the constant decline in federal money allocated for CERT, I think the future doesn’t look good.  With that said, all bets are off when the next big disaster occurs, especially if it is a homeland security incident.  Only then will we see the federal funding spigot turned back on.

Thank you Annette

One of students in our classes this week was a lady by the name of Annette who calls Lincoln, Nebraska home but also lives part time in Florida.  Annette has a military background and now enjoys giving back to her community – both in Lincoln and in Florida.  It was a pleasure to have Annette in class this week not only because she’s a nice person, but because she actually added a lot to our classroom discussions.

Today, she gave me a copy of a book titled “Blindsided – A Manager’s Guide to Catastrophic Incident’s in the WORKPLACE” by Bruce T. Blythe.  I am looking forward to reading this book and applying it to both the classes I teach as well as with the administration of my business continuity and emergency response and safety practices at my REAL job.

Thanks Annette! 

My fellow instructors

Working with me this week was Joe Sciandra and Alan Scott.  I’ve worked with both gentlemen before and have enjoyed working with them again this week.  Sharing their experience and perspective in class the way they did really made the class much more enjoyable for our students.

Well, it’s time to board the flight home.  While I’ve loved being back out teaching with my good friend Wilson Lee in Cleveland two weeks ago, and with Joe and Alan this past week, I’m really looking forward to getting back home and back to my real job.  There’s a lot waiting for me when I get back, which translates into lots of opportunity for success.

I hope that you’ve found my blogs over the past couple of weeks interesting … and maybe even enjoyable?  I hope to return to my former regular schedule which will be on the 1st and 15th of each month.  If there’s something you’d like me to write about, feel free to make a suggestion by using the Comment link.

So until July 15th … stay safe and be prepared.

Becoming a CERT Program Manager, and other Lincoln stuff

Yesterday we wrapped up our CERT Train-the-Trainer class and today we started our CERT Program Manager class.

For those not familiar with the CERT Program Manager course, it prepares participants to establish and sustain an active local CERT program back in their community.  During the two-day class we incorporate both lecture and practical exercises addressing the core components of a local CERT program.  At the end of each unit, participants document their thoughts and ideas on effective practices in a workbook for:

  • Developing local CERT program goals and a related strategic plan
  • Promoting local CERT program
  • Orienting, managing, and retaining CERT members
  • Recruiting, funding, managing, and retaining CERT trainers
  • Acquiring and managing program resources
  • Delivering and managing effective training and exercises
  • Developing policies and procedures for operating a local CERT program
  • Evaluating and sustaining the program

When participants complete the class, they can then use their workbook to move from Point A to Point B in starting or improving their CERT Program.  At the beginning of these classes I tell participants that being a CERT Program Manager is quite similar to running a small business.  And after having seen many CERT programs start, grow, and then crash and fade away, I encourage students to invest the needed time and effort to fully research and develop these administrative processes in an effort to better ensure long-term success, rather than simply jumping in and hoping for the best.

Revisiting the State Capital

On an earlier break in the action today, I walked over to see some more of the State capital.  Today, I chose to enter the Capital from the west entrance as I had been told by one of our students that there was a great statue of Abraham Lincoln there.  While as a kid growing up, I enjoyed learning about Lincoln in school, it wasn’t until I read “Lincoln on Leadership” by Donald Phillips that I became a bigger fan.  Phillips’ book is a must read for anyone interested in leadership and management.

The statue is located on the West Mall (known as the Lincoln Mall).  The statue was created by Chester French who also created the monumental statue of a seated Lincoln in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial.

I also had the opportunity to go up to the 14th floor of the Capital and venture outside on a very windy ledge to snap of few pictures of the Lincoln horizon.  It was quite a sight, and I’ve included a few pictures for your enjoyment.

Another really neat thing I found out about at the Nebraska State capital is that there’s a Peregrine falcon nest on the 18th floor of the building.

Lastly, in an earlier post I mentioned that on top of the Capital is a bronze statue of the “Sower” created by Lee Lawrie”.  The Sower faces northwest (most of Nebraska is north and west of Lincoln).  While it may not big at first from the ground, he is 19 feet tall, perched atop a 13 foot-tall base, on top of the dome, which is 400 feet above the ground. He can be seen for nearly 20 miles.

He stands barefoot and without hat, sowing seeds in the most primitive manner. He is symbolic of the state of Nebraska as a major agricultural state. He is not merely sowing seeds of grain, but something much greater. He is the symbol of sowing the seeds of agriculture, life, hope and prosperity.

150 year Celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg

And speaking of Lincoln, both the city and the President, I’m reminded that from June 28 through July 7, 2013 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania they are celebrating the 150-year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and is often described as the war’s turning point.  Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee’s invasion of the North.

So you might be thinking, “Tim, what’s the tie back to Lincoln, Nebraska and CERT, to the Battle of Gettysburg?”  Well, that’s a great question, and here’s the hook.  FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is located about 15 miles away from Gettysburg, PA.  Students that come to EMI to attend classes, often take time to drive over and visit the battlefield grounds.  It’s that simple.

Here’s some travel pics for you to look at

Welcome to our CERT Program Manager class.  Hey, who is that hansome instructor?

Welcome to our CERT Program Manager class. Hey, who is that hansome instructor?

The Nebraska State Capital

The Nebraska State Capital

The Lincoln statue

The Lincoln statue

A great view from the 14th floor...

A great view from the 14th floor…

... and another view ...

… and another view …

and another.

and another.

Not sure which state building this is, but I thought the statuary was interesting.

Not sure which state building this is, but I thought the statuary was interesting.

 

Hey, I can do this in Lincoln …..

Today was Day Two for our CERT Train-the-Trainer class, and everyone came back!  As an Instructor, it’s a great day when all of your students come back.

The importance of feedback

Yesterday, we discussed the importance of feedback.  Students need feedback to know how they are doing in class.  Instructors also need feedback to know how they are doing in class.  As a guy that views the glass as half-full vs half-empty, I’m of the belief it’s beneficial to have daily feedback from our students so that we can make “mid-course corrections” to improve and thereby deliver value through knowledge and experiences.  We shared with the class a fun exercise that we generally conduct at the end of the day, but it proved to be an equally great starter exercise first thing in the morning.  The purpose of the exercise is to obtain instant feedback from everyone in class, it’s that simple.

All you need to conduct the exercise is a soft ball that can be gently tossed between students.  We find the soft “koosh” balls work well.  For those not familiar with what a koosh ball is, I encourage you to watch Season 6, Episode 8 of the television program “King of Queens” that starred Kevin James and Leah Remini.  In this very funny episode, Doug lost the koosh ball Deacon got from his son and tries to get it back (“who-who”).

To conduct the exercise, we have everyone get up and form a circle with everyone facing the center of the circle.  One person has the koosh ball and then, they GENTLY (operative word) toss the ball to someone else in the circle.  That person catches the ball and again shares with the group one item that addresses what they liked about the class, or what they don’t like about the class, or what one thing they’ve learned that was new.  This process continues until everyone has had the chance to provide their feedback.

The exercise generally can be completed in about 15-20 minutes for a class of about 20 students.  For instructors, we get meaningful feedback in a relatively short time.  For students, the exercise provides the opportunity to get involved in their own learning and perhaps make things better for all.

Student “teach backs”

A key part of any successful train-the-trainer class is practice.  Future CERT instructors need to practice teaching the skills in the CERT Basic Training course, and they need to practice incorporating the information they are learning in the CERT Basic Train-the-Trainer course.  They also need to practice giving feedback

The process for the teach-back includes both preparation and presentation.

  1. Students pair up and select a block of instruction pre-selected from the CERT Basic curriculum.
  2. Students are given time to develop their presentation.  Paired “instructors” are expected to be active participants in their teach-back.  They are allotted 10 minutes to be equally shared.
  3. While each pair of “instructors” is delivering their teach back, the other students fulfill the role of the “audience” in the class.
  4. After each presentation, the “audience” will complete a feedback checklist.  The audience will also give “instructors” feedback orally.

Teach-backs always prove to be a very well-received exercise in this course.  While it’s true some are nervous when we first get started, when everything is said and done, everyone enjoys the opportunity to practice and improve!

The Nebraska State Capital

I want to close out this blog with sharing a quick stroll I took over to the State Capital Building.

Nebraska has to have one of the most unique Capitals I’ve seen.  While most Capitals are typically short with a domed rotunda, Nebraska has a rather tall Capital standing at 400 feet tall.  This is actually the third Capital building that’s been in the state.  It was completed in 1932 at a cost of $9.8 million and was paid in full – no debt!   Positioned on top of the Capital is a 19-feet tall, nine ton, statue created by Lee Lawrie called “the Sower”.

Inside the Capital, Nebraska’s one-house Legislature, the “Unicameral” meets.  In government, unicameralism is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber.

I think tomorrow I’m going to head back to the Capital and see more and learn more about the state.  Until then, here’s some pictures from today …

the Capital from a couple of blocks away.  Notice the "Sower" on top?

the Capital from a couple of blocks away. Notice the “Sower” on top?

Looking up from the Capital steps

Looking up from the Capital steps

Is this the front door or side door?

Is this the front door or side door?

A gorgous hallway inside the Capital

A gorgous hallway inside the Capital

Looking up at the Rotunda

Looking up at the Rotunda

The chamber where Nebraska's Unicameral meets

The chamber where Nebraska’s Unicameral meets

Getting Started in Lincoln, Nebraska

Sunny, clear, a bit humid, and highs in the low 90’s.  We are having great weather in Lincoln, Nebraska.  You just can’t feel bad on a day like today.

We’re starting our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer class.  We have 18 students in class for the next three days from across the State of Nebraska.  These dedicated 18 come from various walks of life including public safety, education, health and medical, as well as ordinary citizens that are looking to help their communities be better prepared.  There are two somewhat unique characteristics of this class.  Several students represent the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and several others represent education, and more specifically community college and university.  While having different backgrounds, they come with a common goal – to learn how to be a more effective instructor of the CERT Basic training sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This is my first trip to Nebraska, and that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy the blessing I’ve been given as a contracted instructor of the CERT program.  I’ve been able to travel around and see this great country of ours and meet the wonderful people that make up our communities.  CERT volunteers specifically have proven themselves to be a very committed group of people that want to give back to the community.

Nebraska has 11 registered Citizen Corps Councils spread across the state. If you aren’t familiar with Citizen Corps, the mission of Citizen Corps is to locally have a process and organizational structure in place to harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service.  Counsels can positively impact to a community’s ability to be safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds.  There are five federally sponsored partner programs under the Citizen Corps umbrella including Fire Corps, USAonWatch, Medical reserve Corps (MRC), Volunteers in Police (VIPS), Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and of course CERT.  Like other states in the country, many of the Nebraska CERT teams are very active and functional.  On the other end of the spectrum, there are teams that are either just starting or are reengineering themselves.

The core concept of CERT is preparing individuals to take care of themselves and families when a disaster occurs.    The range of disasters is great across the United States.  In Nebraska, according to the Nebraska’s Risk Assessment Survey results ( http://www.nema.ne.gov/pdf/hazmitplan.pdf ), the state has identified the following risks:

High Risk

  • Thunderstorm
  • Severe Winter Storm
  • Tornado
  • Terrorism

Medium Risk

  • Drought
  • Agricultural
  • Flooding
  • Wildfire
  • Chemical

Low Risk

  • Earthquake

While CERT voluteers may not ever be directly involved in response activities to any of these risks, they certainly can help themselves and their families (and their neighbors) become better prepared for most, if not all of them.  And by being better prepared that translates into less demand on our public safety system.

Tower Building Exercise

One of the “hands-on” exercises we did in class this morning was the infamous “Tower Building” exercise.  The purpose of the exercise is to introduce the participants to each other and illustrate the types of skills and abilities that CERTs require.

I really like this exercise and have used it (and variations of it) in other training classes I’ve conducted.  I want to share the instructions with you in case you want to use it in training you might conduct (i.e. Leadership, Project Management, etc.).

Here’s a list of the items needed to conduct the exercise:

  • Scissors (1 for every 5 participants)
  • Tape (1 roll for every 5 participants)
  • Two pieces of cardboard, approximately 8 by 10 inches  (1 set for every 5 participants)
  • Forty pieces of construction paper, 8.5 by 11 inches (1 set for every 5 participants)

And here’s how we make the magic happen:

  1. Assign the participants to groups of five
  2. Distribute the materials to each group
  3. Tell the groups that they will spend the next 10 minutes planning and designing a freestanding tower that stands at least 5 feet tall from the bottom of the structure to the top.  Explain that you will tell the groups when to begin and that they will have 5 minutes from that point to construct the tower.  Emphasize that the first 5 minutes is for planning only.
  4. Tell the groups when to begin their work and when to end.

At the end of the allotted time, facilitate a group discussion of what the groups have learned through the exercise.  Keep in mind that the exercise is not intended to be just an “ice-breaker.”  The exercise also demonstrates how unfamiliar people can work on an unfamiliar problem under unfamiliar conditions and in a time-compressed environment to reach a common goal.  These are the conditions under which CERTs will need to work to reach desired outcomes.

Well, at the close of the day we ended up where we planned and we seemed to have shared a lot of knowledge.  Tomorrow, we’ll continue to work on our instructional skills including our first of two student teach-backs.  We’ll also continue to review the material in the basic CERT class.  I hope you’ll come back and check-in with us.

I’ll leave you with a couple of class pictures.

Our room setup just before the start of class.

Our room setup just before the start of class.

Nebraska State Coordinator Citizen Corps/Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator welcomes the class to Day 1. Mr. Ryan Lowry

Mr. Ryan Lowry, Nebraska State Citizen Corps/Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator welcomes the class to Day 1.

fellow instructor "Joe" leading a unit of instruction.

fellow instructor “Joe” leading a unit of instruction.

One group building their tower.  Great teamwork!

One group building their tower. Great teamwork!

A little debriefing about the Tower building.

A little debriefing about the Tower building.

Hello from Nebraska!

I know what you are probably thinking …. what’s with this guy?  He hasn’t blogged in months and all of a sudden he’s jumped back into it, blogging three times in the past two weeks.  And you are probably wondering (maybe hoping?), is there more?  Oh ya.

Well, I just landed in Omaha, Nebraska from St. Louis and I’m on my way over to Lincoln.  Hmmm, that almost sounds like the beginning of a math story problem.  Anyway, I’m in Lincoln this week to teach two CERT classes for the State of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and Citizen Corps.

The flight over this morning was wonderful … thank you Southwest.  Departure weather was clear and sunny.  We had an on time departure, and while the plane was almost full, the two seats next to me remained empty.  It was like flying first class – ya gotta love it.  Not sure why people don’t like sitting next to me.  Maybe it’s got something to do with me grabbing the “puke bag” as soon as I sit down on the aisle seat and acting like I’m going to vomit?  Nah, what are the chances?  Coming into Omaha, the ride got pretty bumpy due to a local storm that was moving through. But, the flight crew handled things well.  All wheels up and all wheels down.

Once I arrived in Omaha, I found my way over to the rental car counter, and the representative upgraded me from a compact car to a Lincoln MXZ.  Let’s see, no one sitting next to me on the flight and now an upgrade.  Hey, this trip is going well so far.  And by the way, I rented this car through COSTCO (www.COSTCO.com ) on their travel site.  Wow, what a savings compared to booking it myself.  If you don’t have a COSTCO membership and you travel, get a membership and use it for the travel discounts.  It will payback, very quickly.

On the drive from Omaha to Lincoln I made two stops.  My first stop was at a local “Kum & Go”.  I first ran across these gas and convenience stores in Springfield, MO.  My second stop was at the Melia West Visitor Center at the Melia West rest stop along the Blue Star Memorial Highway, I-80 in the Great Platte Valley.  I’m including a few pictures that provide a little narrative of this area which goes back to the prehistoric Indians who were in this area.

Well, tomorrow we start our first class which will be CERT Train-the-Trainer.  Although I’ve blogged about similar classes in the past, each class is differant and I’ll look forward to bringing you stories from our classes this week.  I’m looking forward to making some new friends while we are here and helping them discover how they can become the instructor they want to be.  I hope you will come back tomorrow.

And here’s the pics ….

Let's get going

Let’s get going

All this space, wow!  Just like in first class.

All this space, wow! Just like in first class.

Fields are still flooded in St. Charles county in Miissouri

Fields are still flooded in St. Charles county in Miissouri

Nuf said

Nuf said

I-80 is part of the Blue Star Highway

I-80 is part of the Blue Star Highway

Stop to check things out at the Visitor Center

Stop to check things out at the Visitor Center

History of Melia

History of Melia

Page 1 of the Great platte Valley story

Page 1 of the Great platte Valley story

Page 2

Page 2

and Page 3.

and Page 3.

Day Two of Training in Strongsville, Ohio

As this short trip comes to an end, we’ve had a great time working with folks from across the State of Ohio these past couple of days in our CERT Train-the-Trainer class.  I only wish we had a few more days to include a CERT Program Manager class.  I think the additional Program Manager class would be very helpful for this group as they are anxious for it.

Both yesterday and today proved to be very productive days in class.  We’ve had approximately 30 students actively engaged in learning.  By a show of hands, about 95% indicated they were involved in their local CERT programs (and this training) as a volunteer and not as a part of a paid for career position.  This fact illustrates the commitment these folks bring to the table.

In the previous CERT Train-the-Trainer curriculum, the foundation of the course was a review of the basic 20-hour CERT class and an unstructured leader-led discussion of “teaching considerations”.  Several years ago, FEMA rewrote the training curriculum where the focus moved to include a more structured approach to instructor development, along with a review of the basic CERT material.

Yesterday, we spent time addressing how to “Maximize Learning”, where we talked about how people learn.  The three primary learning styles we discussed were auditory, visual, and tactile.  We also talked about how those learners learn and how it impacts teaching and instructors.  We talked about how motivation, reinforcement, and repetition are also critical to the learning process.

We then spent time exploring why, as instructors, we need to evaluate.  The answer is simple … effective instructors know that they need to periodically assess to see that learners are learning.  Lastly, we discussed some guidelines for when and how to give feedback.

In the other instructor development units, we spent time level-setting student understanding of their “Role as an Instructor” where we discussed the focus of learning in any CERT training should be on the participant and not about the instructor.  We also stressed the importance of being a good presenter as well as a good instructor.  From there we discussed how to “Manage the Classroom” where we discussed the different learning styles among generations and how disruptive behavior negatively effects learning and strategies to overcome these challenges. This tends to be a very interactive unit with the learning happening primarily through discussion and exercise.  Many instructors-to-be are the most apprehensive about working with challenging learners but we help them over this with several good tips for how to deal with them.  I think our instructors will now have the skills necessary to be able to handle any situations that may arise.

Based on our Pre-test vs. Post-test scores, there was about a 40% increase in knowledge based on the class this weekend.  And in their evaluations, the vast majority of students enjoyed the class.  Learning and having fun is wonderful!

One of the students in our class was representing Fairfield County, Ohio.  from what she shared with me, the county Emergency Management Agency has a strong working relationship with their first responders.  They offer citizens free training in disaster preparedness as well as CERT Basic training two times a year.  One unique thing they offer is a disaster preparedness class for military veterans.  The county EMA’s website is www.fairfieldema.com

Take me out to the ballgame …..

So last night we grabbed some tickets and caught a baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals.  The Nationals took the lead early in the game with a lead of 5-0, but then Cleveland rallied to take the lead later on when the score turned to 6-5.  In the end though, the Nationals would go on to win the game 7-6.

This was the first time for both Wilson or I to visit Progressive Field.  Overall, the park appeared pretty nice.  We were both hoping that they would be serving some “regional” food that we could try at the ballpark.  Unfortunately it was pretty standard fare …. Hot dogs, brats, and Italian sausages.  Not very exciting, but still good.  And last night was the “Tribe’s” second baseman Jason Kipnis souvenir shirt night.  Not sure when I’ll get the chance to wear this back in St. Louis, but heck … it was “free”.

Another Southwest flight delay?

Well, I’m sitting in the Cleveland airport waiting for my flight home.  Unfortunately, Southwest has again delayed another flight that I’m on.  My last three flights (maybe more) have been delayed!  Come on Southwest, you used to be my favorite airline.  One of your previous marketing campaigns was your ontime record, but this trend isn’t good.  I hope you get you act back together soon.  Well, it’s going to be another late night.

I’ve enjoyed sharing this trip with you.  I hope you’ll come June 26 when I plan to blog again.  I’ll tell you where, then.

I’ll leave you with these pictures from Cleveland …..

Hello from Strongsville, Ohio!

I’m baaaack …. and I’m excited to be blogging again.  Let’s start by catching up on a few things.

My job

You may remember that I went back to work full-time last August.  My job has truly been a blessing for me and my family.  The company I work for is a wonderful, strong Fortune 300 company.  The work environment is friendly and collaborative.  In a word, I’d say “encouraging”.  My teammates are some of the smartest and hardest working people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and they like to have fun at too!  The frosting on the cake is I work for a terrific boss that knows our business well and has put a lot of faith and trust in me.  They say you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but under his leadership I’ve learned a lot about working with people, our company, and about business continuity.  And in the short 10 months since I came on board, our team (my boss and I) have assumed the additional responsibility for physical security and emergency response and safety.  Lots of opportunity, and I’m loving it!

For the past several months, I’ve saved up enough vacation time so that I’m now able to work in a few contract teaching assignments a year.  This weekend for example, I’m in Strongsville, Ohio which is a suburb just outside of Cleveland.  I’m joined this weekend by my good friend “Wilson”.  We’ve taught together in the past (you can go back and read some of my previous blogs from Reno, Nevada and Salt Lake City, UT).  Wilson is a dynamic instructor we all want to learn from.  He’s smart and knows his information and delivers it in a fun and engaging way.  And personally for me, he’s become a great friend.

Lima Company Memorial

Yesterday, we had the pleasure (honor) to come across the “Lima Company Memorial” .  Just by accident the truck that carries the exhibit was in our hotel parking lot getting ready to leave for their event sight.  They were joined by several members of the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle group as well as the Strongsville Fire Department and Police Department.  The exhibit “Eyes of Freedom” is a memorial to 22 marines and one Navy corpsman from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment who died serving their country while deployed in Iraq.  Most of the 22 were from Ohio.  The memorial includes several large panels painted by Anita Miller who herself is an Ohio artist.  The memorial travels the country telling the story of love and sacrifice, and serves as a reminder to all of us about the great price men and women are will to pay for this great country of ours.

Our class

So Wilson and I are here working with the Ohio Office of Emergency Management teaching FEMA’s CERT (http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams ) Train-the-Trainer class.  We have a nice sized class of 30 students who come from diverse backgrounds including law enforcement, the fire service, emergency management, health, education, and community volunteers.  Like the other classes I’ve blogged about, this one is fast-paced and overflowing with information that will help our students become better instructors of the popular CERT curriculum within their communities.

Well, we are looking forward to Day Two.  We’ll be spending our day reviewing the basic CERT curriculum and the instructor skills necessary to deliver a class that students will enjoy and learn how to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

And tonight, we’ve got a field trip scheduled to catch a Cleveland Indians game.  It should be fun.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow and read more about my trip to Strongsville and our CERT training.

In the meantime … stay safe and I’ll leave you with some pictures. I hope you enjoy them.