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.

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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.