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.

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I’m Coming Back – Stay Tuned

Starting June 14, 2013 Tim Bonno will return to blogging.  Join Tim on a road trip adventure to Strongsville, Ohio.  We hope you will return then and catch up with an old friend.

The dreaded “P” word

Planning!  Have you ever noticed how much planning we do throughout our lives?

This time of ever, everyone seems to be planning for holiday get togethers, either because they are hosting one or because they are an invited guest.   Guest lists, food and drinks all require planning, as do travel arrangements.   We are also “planning” our holiday gift giving – how much to give and to whom.

Then there’s family budgeting, educational planning, Long-term care planning, vacation (holiday) planning, retirement planning, estate planning, career planning, planning an upcoming wedding, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

At work, many of us have entered into end-of-year planning where we are documenting our accomplishments, or as supervisors, we are planning our year-end reviews with our subordinates.  This time of year I’m always reminded of that great scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) puts a deposit down on his backyard pool because he’s “planning” on his annual bonus.  And of course, many have started strategic planning for 2013 Goals and Objectives.

All of this planning got me to think about the planning that’s the core of business continuity.  I referred to the Disaster Recovery Journal to see what references the Journal has with respect to planning.  There, I found the generally accepted definition of Business Continuity planning as “the process which occurs, based on risk evaluation and business impact analysis, to identify procedures, priorities and resources for:

  • emergency response operations
  • business continuity strategies for the organization’s functions and supporting infrastructure
  • crisis communications; and
  • coordination with external agencies

The planning process should encompass response through restoration, and result in the creation of one or more of the following types of plan documents:  business continuity plans, disaster recovery plans, crisis management plans or pandemic plans.

Contingency Planning is the process of developing advanced arrangements and procedures that enable an organization to respond to an undesired event that negatively impacts the organization.

The technical component of business continuity planning is referred to as Disaster Recovery Planning.

Enterprise-wide Planning is the overarching master plan covering all aspects of business continuity within the entire organization, which shouldn’t be confused with Work Area Recovery Planning which is the business continuity planning process of identifying the needs and preparing procedures and personnel for use at the work area facility.

Of course, all good business continuity planners know that before we can say a plan is valid, it has to be exercised.  And of course we need to develop and Exercise Plan, which is defined as a plan designed to periodically evaluate tasks, teams, and procedures that are documented in business continuity, plans to ensure the plan’s viability. This can include all or part of the BC plan, but should include mission critical components.

Some service organizations also conduct what’s known as Service Continuity Planning – which is a process used to mitigate, develop, and document procedures that enable an organization to recover critical services after a business interruption.

Out of all this planning activity come plans – all kind of plans (not all inclusive) ….

  • Business Continuity
  • Contingency
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Exercise
  • Service Continuity
  • Work Area Recovery

And you thought having multiple Standards and Certifications was confusing.

Let me leave you with this famous quote from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower – “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”

Getting Prepared In a Year

Listen, let’s get back on the road to getting prepared.  Here’s a few more things you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

From your local Grocery store, pick up the following items:

  • One box of Graham crackers
  • assorted plastic containers with lids
  • assorted safety pins
  • dry cereal

Things to Do:

Arrange for a friend or neighbor to help your children in an emergency if you are at work

Frankenstorm Preparedness

By definition, a disaster is a sudden, unplanned calamitous event that causes great damage or loss.  A key concept is that in most cases it’s sudden and unplanned.  Yes, there are exceptions.  One exception is occurring right now, with “Frankenstorm”.

As Hurricane Sandy barrels north from the Caribbean to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts said it doesn’t matter how strong the storm is when it hits land, the rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.  A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says “We’re looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people”.

People AND businesses along the east coast have had a few days now, and a couple yet to come, to get prepared before the expected storm(s) hit.  Those who are wise are either already prepared or will use this opportunity (it’s a positive word) to become prepared.  In the end, whether or not this turns out to be as severe as forecasters are saying, they will be part of the solution.  However, there will be those who won’t prepare and will simply continue to be part of the problem.  What a shame.

Knowing what I know, especially about how easy it is to get prepared, I always wonder why people chose not to prepare even in the face of the inevitable.  Several years ago, I stumbled across an article titled “The “Disaster Dozen -Top Twelve Myths of Disaster Preparedness” written by Paul Purcell.  Hopefully, those on the east coast are talking about preparedness and not using these excuses …

  • “If something happens all I have to do is call 911.”
  • “All I need is a 72-hour kit with a flashlight, first aid kit, some food and water, and a radio.”
  • “My insurance policy will take care of everything.”
  • “Nothing like that could ever happen here.”

We know from past experience that 9-1-1 may be overloaded in a large-scale disaster.  The normal few minute response times most of us have come to rely on in normal times most likely will become hours or days in a true disaster.  So we will be on our own.

We MUST prepare to be on our own for at least 72-hours, but in reality we may be on our own for longer periods of time.  Remember Hurricane Katrina?  Consider what you and your family will need for the next 7-10 days.  Did you know each person will require one gallon of water per day?  And don’t forget your pets (read my previous blog).

Check your insurance policies closely.  Call your insurance agent NOW and make sure you have the appropriate coverage’s and ask your agent what you will need to supply if you need to file a claim.  If you will need pictures and/or receipts to support your claim, you might still have time to gather these important items.  And then, make sure you store them in a safe and accessible location that won’t be affected by the disaster.  Maybe e-mail your important files to a relative in a distant city.

Lastly, why do some say things like this can’t happen here or there?  Is there a special law of science or government that makes it impossible?  In reality, bad things do happen and we have to be prepared.

So how can people along the east coast get prepared even in the face of Frakenstorm?  Check these links out from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov website …

Hurricane preparedness – www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Flooding preparedness – www.ready.gov/floods

Winter storm preparedness – www.ready.gov/winter-weather

Welcome to Rhode Island CERT Training

Welcome aboard!  I’m happy you have joined me on the road.  This week we are in Warwick, Rhode Island .  Like many of the other terrific locations we’ve traveled to this year, we’re here teaching the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager.

The Nation’s Smallest State

The official name of the state is “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” which was derived from the merger of two colonies.  Rhode Island colony was founded near present-day Newport, on what is now commonly called Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay.  Providence Plantations was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the City of Providence.  The state’s official nickname is the “Ocean State” which is a reference to the state’s geography, since Rhode Island has several large bays and inlets that amount to about 14% of its total area.

Rhode Island was the first of the 13 original colonies to declare independence from British rule, declaring itself independent on May 4, 1776, two months before any other colony. The State was also the last of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the United States Constitution.

Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA)

This New England state is the smallest in the country.  It is also the eighth least populous, but the second most densely populated.  And with population density comes greater risk.  There are many different types of hazards and disasters, both natural and man-made that can potentially impact residents in the state including:

  • Winter Storms
  • Flooding
  • Hurricanes
  • Extreme heat
  • Terrorism & Biological attack
  • Technology
  • Civil and Political

Should one (or more) of theses hazards occur and evolve into a disaster, individuals who have completed CERT training will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath.  Additionally, if a community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as neighborhood, business, and government teams that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had the training, and collect disaster intelligence that will assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster.  CERT training will benefit anyone who takes it.  According to the Citizen Corps CERT website , there are 15 listed CERT teams in Rhode Island.

Providence Emergency Management  (PEMA )

Wow, take a look at PEMA’s web site (click on the link).  The PEMA website is a very attractive site with a lot of good information.  Pay attention to “Ready Providence”, “Student Tools for Emergency Planning” (STEP) and “’Operation Smart Exit” which are three unique initiatives.

Emergency Volunteer Services (EVS)

The Providence Emergency Volunteer Service (EVS) was formed in 2008 and operates under the direction of the City of Providence’s Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).  EVS is the result of the combination of two long-time Providence volunteer groups; the American Red Cross Shelter Group (ARC-SG) and the Providence Community Emergency Response Team (P-CERT).

EVS operates to assist Providence EMA and other municipal departments with manpower and equipment during emergencies and municipal events.  EVS volunteers could potentially assist in any of the following activities; Severe Weather Monitoring, Emergency Operations Center Support, Communications, Emergency Preparedness Education, Point of Distribution Management, Traffic Control, and Emergency Scene Lighting.

New Christian Generation Church

We have several students in our class who are representing the city of Providence and are volunteers with the city’s Emergency Management Agency.  What’s really interesting is that these individuals are involved in an effort through their church to deliver CERT training to community individuals who speak Spanish as their primary language.  With the diversity in our communities, having language specific classes is becoming more important to ensuring all citizens have the opportunity to be a “part of the solution’.

The church is the “Nueva Generacion Cristiana” (New Christian Generation Church) which is a small non-denominational Christian church in Providence.  Realizing that faith-based organizations have the opportunity to greatly impact community preparedness, several members of the church have received basic CERT training.  Looking forward, the church leadership is now working with the local “Coalition RI”, which represents several churches in the surrounding area, to bring preparedness training to their church members as well.

In addition to CERT training, PEMA partnered with Rhode Island Department of Health and offered (for the first time in the United States) the “Mass Antibiotic Dispensing Training Course” delivered entirely in Spanish.

Looking forward into the next year, the church has several initiatives under consideration that taken individually could prove to have a strong impact on the community’s preparedness (resiliency) but when bundled could be an exponential influence.  Looking forward the church would like to train 100 individuals in CERT.  They would also like to obtain a CERT trailer that could be used both in training and as a deployable resource in disaster response.  A third key project under consideration is training a group of Chaplin’s who could go out and render emotional first aid to disaster victims in the community.

As I’ve said before, I think faith-based efforts, like those under-taken by the Nueva Generacion Cristiana, will prove to be significant in the long-run in helping communities become better prepared for disasters.  I applaud their forward thinking as they continue to move forward and wish them much success.

So, tomorrow we will continue reviewing our Basic CERT material as well as work on improving our instructor skills.  One of the exercises our students will work through is our infamous “teach-backs”.  Tomorrow, I’ll also introduce you one of our students who is actively involved with a program called “Ready Rhode Island”.  I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.  Until then, I’ll leave you with these pictures from class today.

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Continuity of Operations Planning at the Pueblos

Yesterday we kicked of our first of two days of our FEMA class “Continuity of Operations for Tribal Governments”.  Our class is providing tribal representatives with an understanding of how to develop and implement a Continuity of Operations program to ensure continuity of community essential functions across a wide range of emergencies and events.  We have a good-sized class with 12 participants from both the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos.

We started class with welcoming comments from the Emergency Management representative from the Acoma Pueblo.  One of our participants, also from Acoma, then provided an invocation in his native language.  Starting meetings with a prayer is traditional for the Indian culture.  From there, we were off and running.

Continuity of Operations (COOP) Planning

We started out on square one by defining COOP as an initiative to ensure a tribal government’s ability to continue to perform essential functions during a wide range of emergencies.  Just like in business we are addressing essential (or critical) functions.

Another foundational concept that we addressed was why continuity of operations planning is important for tribal governments.  To answer that question, we identified four key reasons including:

  1. Avoid interrupting services to members and issuance of payments
  2. Protect historical, ancestral, enrollment, and other vital records from damage or loss
  3. Provide a plan and definite responsibilities so that tribal departments make decisions in emergencies
  4. Protect the tribal government from liability.

Conducting a Risk Assessment

To begin this topic we started a discussion of risk and threat in an effort to define terms and show why a risk assessment is important to emergency management and continuity of operations planning.  During our discussion we also introduced the concept of both “critical facilities” and a four-step RA model that participants could begin using to identify and assess risks.  That model included

  1. Hazard identification
  2. Weigh and Compare risks
  3. Profile hazards and consequences
  4. Complete the hazard profile

Once the highest risks are identified, we talked about how we need to then plan for high-risk/ high-impact threats first, but we cannot simply ignore threats that pose a lower risk but have an accompanying high impact on tribal government operations.

We closed the unit by sharing a tool called a “Hazard Profile Worksheet” that our participants could use to quantify the risks posed to both their communities and to their facilities.

Supporting Essential Functions

We started this unit by discussing the “essential” (or critical) functions of the tribal governments and the necessary staffing, vital records, databases, and systems support required for essential functions.  To help with this, we introduced another worksheet, the “Essential Functions Worksheet” and provided tips on how to complete it.  It’s important not only for Tribal governments but in business too, to understand what’s essential and what isn’t.  In a disaster, we’ll want to focus our energy and resources recovering (continuing) the essential functions first.  And once we identify essential functions, we also need to identify essential employees who perform those functions.

We also spent time talking about alternate facilities, and more specifically Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).  Should a tribe (or a community or business) not have adequate alternate facilities, then they may consider the use of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a neighboring tribal government or jurisdiction for temporary space as an alternate facility.

Of course, communications is an essential function in every incident.  We shared with our class that the three steps necessary in determining communications needs are identifying the:

  1. Tribal government departments that must communicate in an emergency situation
  2. Options for communicating with tribal membership
  3. What types of information must be communicated

And for tribal governments, like in any other community (government) it will be important that they communicate with neighboring jurisdictions.

Along with communications, we also must consider, and plan for, other supporting functions such as vital records and databases and the linking vital files and databases to the performance of essential functions.  This includes having appropriate backup and update strategies for data as well as file and database security strategies.

Today we’ll begin by finishing “Supporting Essential Functions”.  Then, to complete the course we’ll be covering “Developing a Continuity Plan” and “Activating the Continuity of Operations Plan”.  I’m looking forward to another terrific day of training with some wonderful people here in Acoma.

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Getting Prepared In a Year

Let’s continue on with building our preparedness at home.  Here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

From your local hardware store, pick up the following items:

  • Whistle
  • ABC Fire extinguisher
  • Pliers
  • Vise grips

Things to Do:

Take a First Aid and CPR/AED class(es)

A week of Public Information Officer (PIO) Training

Finally, the hot spell was broken – for a while – last week.  Extreme heat hung around the Midwest far too long and looks like it’s coming back.  Here in the St. Louis area we had 10 consecutive days of triple digit temps.  On several days we broke temperature records.  The heat took its toll on many businesses as well as individuals and families.  With the drought and dangerous dry conditions, many community’s Fourth of July fireworks displays were cancelled this year.  Agriculture has been heavily effected by the heat and drought.  The price of corn and other crops is expected to increase due to future supply shortages.  Outdoor projects (i.e. construction) may have been delayed due to workers working shorter shifts to avoid the extreme heat.  Car washes were impacted due to water conservation efforts put in place by many cities.  And just think, we still have the remainder of July and August to get through.

Earlier last week, I was in Sedalia, Missouri teaching a class for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (MO-SEMA).  The class was “Joint Information System (JIS)/Joint Information Center (JIC) Planning for Tribal, State, and Local Public Affairs Officers”.  I’ll tell you more about the class shortly.

 Sedalia Missouri 

The City of Sedalia, founded in October 1860, is the seat of Pettis County in west-central Missouri.  Sedalia is located 90 miles east of Kansas City and 190 miles west of St. Louis.  According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12 square miles.

Since 1899, Sedalia has been home to the Missouri State Fair – welcoming nearly 400,000 visitors every August to the third largest State Fairgrounds in the United States.  Sedalia also hosts the annual Scott Joplin Festival, celebrating one of the best-known composers of the ragtime era.  The festival is held each year in early June.

The city’s economy is based on diversified manufacturing and service.  New and expanded manufacturing operations continue to grow the service industry and to attract new businesses to the community.  Much of the area surrounding Sedalia continues to be active farmland.

Back on May 25, 2011, a large tornado struck the southern side of the city. Significant damage was done to residential areas in the city, including two mobile home parks. Damage was also done to several businesses. The tornado was part of the most devastating tornado season in United States history which, by the date of the Sedalia tornado, had killed 500 people nationwide.  You may remember that three days earlier, an EF-5 tornado first touched down near the western edge of Joplin, Missouri.

The class

The purpose of this course is to build on the solo Public Information Officer’s (PIO) competencies gained in the Basic PIO (G290) course to applying those skills in an expanding incident where coordination is enhanced through the establishment of a Joint Information System (JIS)/Joint Information Center (JIC). This training equips PIOs with the skills needed to establish and operate in a JIS/JIC.  Participants also gain a working knowledge of operational practices for performing PIO duties within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) multiagency coordination system. The course demonstrates how JIC concepts are applied in a flexible and scalable manner at the local levels. The primary audience for this training is individuals who have public information responsibilities as their main job or as an auxiliary function primarily at State, local, or Tribal levels of government.  BUT … the concepts and tactics can easily be ported into the private sector as well.  Generally, in business, we’re talking about organizations commonly called External Affairs, Public Relations, Media Relations, etc.  Unfortunately, far too often public information (Crisis Management) is only dealt with at the time of incident; there isn’t much planning (if any) that takes place in advance of an incident.

The class focuses on the strategic Joint Information System (JIS), which is the process of how PIO’s will operate during an incident, and the Joint Information Center (JIC) which is the tactile – central location – facilitation of operations defined in the JIS.  The JIC is a place that enhances information coordination, reduces misinformation, and maximizes resources by co-locating (as much as possible) PIO’s.

One of the greatest benefits of this course, beyond the core knowledge, is a series of worksheets that students complete after each unit.  While the worksheets relate the course content to the participants particular work environment, participants generally need to be back on the job to add more details to the worksheets, but what they are able to complete in class turns out to be a good starting point to assess their current capacity for developing and maintaining a JIS/JIC and identify strategies to enhance that capacity.  This exercise is very similar to the exercise I use in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program Manager class which I also teach.

STL Metro Area PIO Consortium

On Thursday, my friend Scott, who I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, hosted the first quarterly meeting of the “STL Metro Area PIO Consortium”.  One of the many Public Safety functions Scott performs is that of the PIO for the Eureka Fire Protection District.  The PIO Consortium is a revamped version of a former group Scott facilitated.

The purpose of the Consortium is to offer an opportunity where local PIO’s and local media representatives could work more effectively together.  At this meeting we had PIO’s from many local fire departments, police departments, the Red Cross, and the Postal Service.  For a first meeting, we had a great turnout and a well-diversified group.  In the future, the Consortium will meet on a quarterly basis.

Like any other segment of society, the media has continued to change as a result of both technology and economic reasons.  Today, news gathering and reporting is almost instantaneous with current communications capabilities including social media.  No longer do we see teams arrive on scene to cover a story.  Often, it’s a single reporter who also serves as a videographer.  Reporters are tasked with doing more with less.  Therefore, it’s to everyone’s benefit if we learn to be effective working together in what may be very stressful situations.

In the “Joint Information System (JIS)/Joint Information Center (JIC) Planning for Tribal, State, and Local Public Affairs Officers class earlier this week, we instructed our students that it’s critical to have a strong PIO network established BEFORE the incident and not wait until it’s needed.  The “STL Metro Area PIO Consortium” demonstrates that proactive approach.

Public Information for Search and Rescue

And finally, as the Training Officer for my Search and Rescue Team, I asked Scott (who is also a member of our team) to deliver a presentation concerning how our team might engage with the media when we are mission tasked.  I first started to consider this during a search we were involved with earlier this spring in a local community.  Back in March, we were called out to search for a lost juvenile.  Once we arrived on scene we were confronted with media from all of the local broadcast stations in the St. Louis region, and it was at that point I knew we needed to do some media training and develop a well-thought out “Field PIO” Plan.

The presentation affirmed the following points for our team:

  • We do have a Public Information/Media strategy and process in place to effectively address media inquiries.
  • The process works well and should be followed for all media inquiries.
  • If we are tasked with speaking to the media:
    • Think BEFORE you speak – gather your thoughts
    • Look professional – in the way you are dressed as well as your body language
    • Speak clearly – and don’t speak in technical language
    • End with a preparedness or educational message

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Looking ahead, I hope you’ll mark your calendar now to check back on July 24 when I’ll be blogging from a class I’ll be teaching with my buddy “Joe” in North Carolina.  Can’t wait to have some of that great Carolina BBQ!

Getting Prepared In a Year

Let’s continue on with building our preparedness at home.  Here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

From your local store, pick up the following first aid items:

  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Two pair of nitrile (not latex) gloves
  • Ipecac syrup and activated charcoal (to counteract accidental poisoning)
  • Adult/Children’s vitamins
  • Denture care items (if needed)

Things to Do:

Take your family to where your utility (water, gas, and electric) shutoffs are located in your house and make sure all of you know how to shut them off properly (if necessary).  If you don’t know, or can’t find your shut-offs contact your local utility for instructions.

Summer Reading

As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I’m thinking about how we have now crossed over half-way through this year.    The kids are on summer break and anxious for a summer vacation.  I hope they want to go somewhere sunny and warm (hot) so we can simply stay at home!  It’s been record-setting hot here in St Louis the past few days.  If they want to go somewhere cooler, we may need to go South to Florida or South Texas.

I also hope that the first six months have been as good to you as they have been for me.  I’ve been blessed with contract work that has allowed me to travel and see parts of our great country.  Along the way, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with great people who have since become friends.  I’ve been fortunate to work with other high-caliber instructors who have helped me become a better instructor.  I’ve also been able to chronicle and share with you, through my blog, stories about the classes, the people, and the communities.  It really has been a lot of fun, and I look forward to the next six-months that are in front of us.  I hope you do too.

And while we’re at it, please plan on coming back on July 15 when I post a new installment that will include details from a class I’ll be teaching about “Joint Information System (JIS) / Joint Information Center (JIC) Planning for Tribal, State, and Local Public Information Officers”.  While the class is geared towards the public sector, there’s great applicability in the private sector as well – think business continuity and crisis management.

So let’s get to the subject at hand …. Summer reading.

For some time now, I’ve had the chance to read some really good books about emergency preparedness, business continuity, and leadership.   I thought I’d share with you a few of the more recent books that I’ve read.  And hey … if you want to comment on any of the three books that follow, or mention other books you feel are worth reading, post a comment on this blog.

My SIM RLF Experience

But before we talk books, allow me to start by sharing with you an experience I was fortunate to take part in several years ago that really helped me become the reader I am today.  At the time I was managing a team of eight managerial subordinates tasked with developing and managing AT&T’s (formerly SBC) IT business continuity and disaster recovery efforts.  “Tony” (truly one of the best managers/leaders I have EVER worked for) must have seen something in me, because he nominated me to attend the Regional Leadership Forum program of the Society of Information Management (SIM RLF).

In short, SIM’s Regional Leadership Forum (RLF) is an intensive, ten-month leadership development program focused on creating authentic leaders.  Since 1992 over 3000 graduates and more than 300 sponsors have found RLF the key to developing leadership effectiveness.

SIM’s Regional Leadership Forum (RLF) provides a time-tested and successful process to aid organizations in building that strong leadership team.  The key word here is “process”.  RLF is not just another series of classroom lectures.  It is an interactive, engaging and motivating series of activities that provides the individual with a set of building blocks and knowledge necessary to lift them to the top of the profession.  And in that process, individuals discover their own “authentic leadership style”.  One that allows them to not only create effective strategic vision and tactical plans, but to do so in a work atmosphere that engenders trust, inspiration and a recognized sense of accomplishment for their colleagues.

Although the 30 books that we needed to read during the ten-months was at first a bit daunting, something happened along the way where I really started to enjoy not just the reading, but the learning that occurred through reading and more importantly from the terrific discussions that took place.  And, I’m very pleased that today, I still enjoy reading … and learning.

As a side note, one of the features I enjoy with LinkedIn is the “Reading List by Amazon”.  If you checkout my profile , you will see that I’ve included several books I’ve read in the past, including the following three.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why, by Amanda Ripley

I actually read this book some time ago, but I carry it with me now to every class I teach and I hold it up and tell everyone it’s a “must read” book for anyone in the emergency management or business continuity field.

While I was on campus at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) sometime back I found this book in the Learning Resource Center.   Ripley researched past disasters and talked to survivors as well as industry experts.  In her book, she lays out terrific insight as to why some victims perish and some live. More importantly, it’s with this insight and understanding that we can be more effective in educating others as to the “why” we need to be prepared, so that they too can prepare and be ready for emergencies or disasters that affect them.

I encourage you to take the time to get the book and read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently, by John C. Maxwell

Well, what can I say … the book is another John Maxwell winner.  I’ve added this book to my “must read” list.  I reference this book in classes I teach in the areas of leadership as well as effective communications and instructor development.  The book’s premise is that while many of us communicate often, seldom do we really establish a connection with those we are communicating with.   Throughout the book Maxwell does a terrific job addressing how to “connect” with individuals on an individual basis, in a group setting, and with an audience. Much of what we do in leadership, coaching, supervision, teaching, and personally relies on connecting with others … not just communicating.  And as we make those connections, our relationships strengthen and improve.  My advice to you is, read this book.  I think you will enjoy it.

Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage from America’s Leaders, by Chesley B. Sullenberger

Like you perhaps, I became a fan of “Sully” when he landed US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River.  I was on a recent trip and was looking for a good read for on the way home.  “Making a Difference” had been just released and so I picked it up.  Boy, am I glad I did.  The book contains 11 distinct chapters that are based on 11 different interviews Sully had with influential leaders that we all recognize from a variety of industries including sports, business, government and military. Each chapter (interview) provides sound leadership insight. The book is both interesting and entertaining to read which helps make it a fast read.  And like the other two books mentioned, I’d recommend this book.

Well there you have it, three terrific books that will inform you and entertain you throughout the summer.  If you ready any or all of these, please post a comment on my blog and let me know how you liked the book(s).

Getting Prepared In a Year

As I mentioned in my last blog, I hope you are finding this section of my blog helpful and that you are using it to either build your preparedness from the ground floor up, or you are using it to enhance what you have already done.  If you have other tips you would like to pass on, please use the “Comment” function on my blog and drop me a note.  I’ll include your ideas in a future blog.

So, continuing on, here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

From your local grocery store, pick up the following items:

  • 1 large can of juice.
  • 1 box large plastic food bags
  • 1 box quick energy snacks (i.e. granola bars, etc.)
  • 3 rolls of paper towels
  • Sunscreen and bug spray (if needed)

Things to Do:

  • Store a roll of quarters for emergency phone calls (yes, there are still some pay-phones).
  • Go on a hunt with your family to find a pay phone near your home – and write down its location and store that in your preparedness kit/plan.  You might also want to locate a back-up pay phone.

Final Day of PIO Training – News Media Panel Discussion

What a great day today was as we finished up our final day of “Basic Public Information Officer Training”.  We started class today with a review of some of the in-class student news interviews that were taped yesterday afternoon.  Unless you’ve seen yourself on tape before (several times) it can be a bit unnerving.

Most of the remainder of the morning was spent participating on a News Media Panel Discussion via a conference call with three well respected, and well-recognized, members of the media.  Because I haven’t had the opportunity to ask their permission in using their names and companies, I am not naming them here other than what type of media they represented

  • Newspaper
  • Television
  • Radio

Our media panelists were asked to briefly respond to the following three questions:

  1. What are the goals of the news media relative to emergency management?
  2. How is technology affecting today’s news environment?
  3. What actions can Public Information Offices take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time?

(Newspaper) felt that reporting the news factually and timely was a key goal.  He felt that the media relies too much on “observing” the news and not verification of the facts.  To help with that, we need Public Information Officers to help in validating stories so that other observers can’t comment later online saying “here’s what REALLY happened”

Concerning technology, his newspaper that is printed seven days a week.  In order to produce the newspaper they are open to accepting information by fax, phone, or personal appearances.

According to him, the actions a Public Information Officer can take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time is simply to be open and honest.

(Television) commented that technology has changed news gathering drastically.  No longer do we need to wait until tomorrow to get information; it’s online now.  Today, reporters don’t have the luxury of time.  Information flows directly to websites.  As such, reporters may not have time to fully research an unfolding story like they used to  and so they may need to couch stories by saying in effect  … “this is what we are seeing now and further details will be provide as the story develops”.  Technology has affected the Immediacy of the news.  His station views their website as being an equally important tool in the delivery of news.  As far as what actions Public Information Offices can take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time … he summed it up in one word … Availability.  Even when you are called for an early morning report, make yourself available.  And finally, as PIOs and reporters we should continue to always strive for accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.

(Radio) said we need to recognize and approach the Public Information job as one that is always available 7×24.  It’s not a traditional 9-5 job.  At his station, they view terrestrial radio as now on the internet.  Internet is where it’s at.  Stories still focus on the “How, What, When, Where, Why”, but his station also looks for “How does the story impact citizens and how can it help them”?  Concerning what actions can Public Information Offices take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time? He felt it’s important for us to develop a level of trust with your reporters.   We must foster good relationships, and be available.  Lastly, we should know our constituents and why this story would be important to them.  With that knowledge, a PIO can help a reporter bring clarity to the story.

I was able to ask the panelists a question about social media, and how it can help them find, develop, report news stories?

(Television) felt this could be a dangerous area because anyone can post anything such as comments to a story.  As such, when people read these comments on-line and on their website, they take it as the truth even though it might only be a comment.

(Radio) said that at his station they are encouraged to link stories that are on the radio and their website to their Facebook page to ensure they are all linked.   He also mentioned he felt that we need to make sure we are protecting people’s privacy with information that’s posted online and in social media.  We need to make sure our websites are interesting and that they encourage people to come back 2-3 times a week to see what’s new

(Newspaper) said that at his paper, Facebook is used more on a “friendly basis” rather than as a news reporting vehicle.  Generally, his paper will post “breaking news” headlines on Facebook and then redirect the reader to their website for story details.  The paper also may use Facebook as a “fishing” tool to check community interest for potential stories.

Well, that’s it.  I really enjoyed this class.  I hope you enjoyed following along.

Come back next week as I’ll be back at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) teaching.  I’m sure I’ll uncover several interesting stories with this new group of students.

PIO Training and the Museum of Missouri Military History

I always dread my first night when I travel out of town.  Inevitably, I tend to only get a couple of hours sleep because I wake up wide-eyed at 3:30 AM!!!!  So, needless to say, today will get a bit long by about 2:00 PM this afternoon.

Folks that I’ve worked with for many years have been asking me why, with my past experience and skills, am I taking the “Basic Public Information Officer Training” class – again.  As I explained to them there are a few reasons I’m back again.  First, as a leader, I consider myself a life-long learner.  Second, as it’s been a while since I first took this class, things change and I expect to refresh my knowledge on various aspects of emergency management, business continuity, and leadership including that of a Public Information Officer.  Third, while I speak publicly on an almost weekly basis, and in my past corporate positions and external community work, I’ve often worked with various news media, it’s been over a year since I’ve had direct interaction with news media and I wanted to take some time a refresh my skills.

PIO Training

Today in class we started out reviewing the News Release we wrote yesterday evening.  The remainder of the morning was spent in further discussion about media briefings and then working through a large group (full class) role playing exercise of planning and conducting a news briefing.

In the afternoon, each of us had the opportunity to participate in a simulated interview with a “local news reporter”.  Having the interview videotaped added an additional layer of stress to the exercise.  Tomorrow morning the fun REALLY starts when as a class we get to see the taped interviews and instructor critiques.  Seeing yourself on video tape is always a little unnerving, but it really is a terrific (positive) learning tool.

Missouri National Guard Museum

What a treasure I came across on this trip.  And how appropriate that I’m here on the anniversary of “D-Day”.

If you’ve read previous posts of my blog back in March 2012, you’ll remember I taught a class in Topeka, Kansas and the class was held in the Kansas National Guard Museum.  When I was there, I learned each state, including Missouri (much to my surprise), has a National Guard Museum.  To make matters and more surprising Missouri’s National Guard Museum is located about 500 yards or less from where I’ve been coming for the past 12 years for meetings and training!  Unfortunately, the museum is not well publicized.  I hope readers like you will help spread the word about these great military museums.

Located on the Ike Skelton Training Center in Jefferson City, Missouri, this museum houses exhibits beginning from 1808 which was the activation date of the Missouri Militia.  Exhibits continue from the War of 1812 to Desert Storm.  “Thomas Hall” as the building was referred to, houses the collection and was built in the 1920s and used as a self-contained dormitory for prisoners working the dairy farm at the Missouri State Penitentiary Farm #3.  I had the pleasure of meeting the Museum Durator Mr. Charles Machon and a University of Missouri Intern, Mr. Drew Alexander, who is working at the museum.  Mr. Machon has had responsibility for the museum and its growth for the past 13 years.  Visitors will be very pleased as they visit and see the various displays on exhibit.

While one of my fellow students and I were at the museum, we were treated to a personal “behind the scenes” tour of the museum by Mrrs. Machon and Alexander.  We were able to see their research area in addition to their work area were items are worked on and repaired.  While the military items we saw are certainly amazing, we also saw a very old wooden file cabinet that dated back to 1886.  When the cabinet was rescued out of storage, it had one drawer in it that contained the Civil War personnel files of Mr. John Hutchison.  The files are still in the museum.  What a beautiful cabinet.  I’ve included a picture in the following slide show.

When Mr. Machon learned I was in the emergency management field, he was very kind and presented me with a copy of a publication titled “Missouri National Guard – The Great Flood of ‘93” that covers the Guards response to the great flood we experienced back in 1993.  I was in my early years of my career at that point and learned so much during that disaster.  I am looking forward to reading this book.

For more information about the museum and to be a friend of the museum on Facebook, click on the following two links:

Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau

Facebook – Museum of Missouri Military History

And let me leave you with a slideshow of what I saw at the Missouri National Guard Museum.

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Tomorrow is our final class day.  I’ll write a blog tomorrow evening to close out this trip.  I hope you’ll come back then.