Monday, August 27, 2018

Smoke on the Water

I really never thought I would write a blog post on forest fire smoke for Seattle, but here we are just finishing up 3 days of dense smoke hundreds of miles from the fires and this morning they are predicting more dense smoke starting Monday from the 56 fires in British Columbia to our north.

Well did we learn anything during the last smoke event?
  • Yes, we learned that only an N95 mask will protect you from the particulates and that the stores have run out. 
  • We learned how uncomfortable it is in our apartments on a 91 degree day with all the windows shut.
  • We learned how to make a MacGyver air filter with a box fan for around 30 bucks; but the stores are out of them.

So a few things to do during the calm before the next Smoke Storm:

Go to the hardware store and get a box of N95 Masks while they are in stock, or if you have  a Prime account order today and they will be here tomorrow

Get yourself a box fan and a filter to filter your air

Try to adjust your schedule so you don’t spend time exercising or doing lots of out door things. Remember it’s not just smelly, it has small particles that you don’t want lodged in your lungs.  

And here from Washington State Department of Health are a bunch of other good tips

Guess I’ll start getting ready for next week too.

What to write about next, falling stars?


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Unregistered Volunteers - Maybe not

If you have read any of my writings on volunteer management, you will take away that I am strongly in favor of organized disaster response volunteer efforts.  My feeling is that Spontaneous Unregistered Volunteers (SUV's in the biz) are dangerous to themselves and the operation (kind of like my feelings on unsolicited donations, but that's a different blog post).  In 2012 coming out of a response in Malaysia I wrote this about  People want to help .  

As I watch & listen to things unfolding in Texas (Its not just about Houston) following Hurricane Harvey, I have been thinking maybe we I need to update my definition of SUV's.

Case in point- The Cajun Navy - they came out of Katrina response, Citizens with boats.  It seems no special organization or response structure, but boy did they make a difference, and virtually no one tried to turn them away.  I spent several days on Zello  listening to them operate.  They not only brought boats, but they also brought "dispatchers".  And I was amazed, proud and happy they were there saving lives.  Listening to their professionalism and drive often brought me tears as I listened to them drop people off and ask for an other rescue.

So, maybe we still have spontaneous  unregistered volunteers, people with no plan but to help; and a third group - Informal Ad-hoc Volunteers IAV? But with no office or 501c3 how to write them into your plan?  

Maybe you write a space in your plan for them?  I don't know, now that I have seen a successful operation by a not organization? I need to think of a way to account for this and utilize, support and help them help us.

Good work Cajun Navy 

Disaster Dave 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Guest blog post

One of the things I prepare for and hope not ot use when I Deploy for ShelterBox is first aid skills.  Below is a link to a very good succinct First aid primer.  It doesn't replace taking a good back country first aid class (in fact it makes that point).  
So whether you go to disasters, spend time in the  back country or just around town, having some first aid skills (and kit) is a must.

Wilderness First Aid - Be Prepared Before Venturing to the Backcountry

Disaster Dave

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reflections on Cascadia Rising

Well its almost the 4th of July, kids are out of school, everyone is enjoying upcoming vacations and here Cascadia Rising is over.  All of the articles written about what it really meant for a Cascadia event have been forgotten.  Like this one The Most Devastating Quake In US History Is Headed for Portland   And who could forget this scary article. The Really Big One  

But with the event for those of us who "played" in it, it was apparent that we (individuals, neighborhoods, cities) will be on our own for a bit of time.  So lets not forget the fact that we do live in a seismic area and we do need to take some responsibility for protecting our family and ourselves.  A couple of my previous articles might jump start you or get you to finish up the planning you started.



Enjoy the 4th of July 

Disaster Dave

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vacation Preparedness

Something I have written about before is preparedness for vacation, but in the light of the Tunisia attack we need to plan for an egress in case of danger.   Its not the first thing you think about on vacation, but in light of how things seem to be going its not a bad way to think, not dwell on or stay home, but to consider.

One of my friends & classmates from the Emergency Management Academy is an Emergency Manager named  Greg Santa Maria who recently posted on his Facebook about something he teaches called "the Greg Minute".  

In his own words Greg writes "When I teach Active Shooter classes, I encourage the attendees to practice the "Greg Minute". I ask them to set a random alarm on their phone that's during waking hours. Every day when the alarm goes off, wherever they are, they should spend 30 seconds considering their escape route should a shooter begin firing a weapon. The second 30 seconds is spent considering an alternate escape because the first is not viable.
I get so many positive responses from that one small, but priceless piece of advice. It takes a minute a day to save your life."

I think this piece of advice could provide you with peace of mind in unfamiliar areas, but I am willing to compromise with you if you may not want an alarm going off everyday of your vacation. You should take some time to look at your surroundings when you arrive someplace new and think "what would I do if..."

Lets be safe out there and enjoy our vacation


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Build your own Emergency Kit - updated

  By now you have read the NY Times Article or read a story about the NY Times article.  Then of course this happened: Earthquake Kits Selling Like Hotcakes After Terrifying New Yorker Story
 If these are flying off shelves as part of a complete planning process by people great!  If they are going where I think they are (closets, basements) then its a failure; it will take more than a prepacked kit for you to make it through a catastrophic event.

I am not a fan of buying an emergency kit; it typically will be thrown in a corner and forgotten, besides who wants to eat wood chips and drink 10 year old water.

Kits need to be packed piece by piece by the person so it reflects their needs and desires - mine has chocolate and a wine bottle opener !

Instead of buying a kit, make one; here are there sites I recommend, there are others: nice printable list to start from The Red Cross the experts  because I guess we have to include the feds.

and then start answering some hard questions:
Where will you go with your kit? 
What if you are at work and your kit is at home? 
Where will you meet your family or friends after the quake? 

Don't be scared , just get prepared


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lessons from Deployment - People want to help

I was deployed by Shelter Box to respond to massive flooding in Malaysia for three weeks; when I return I always do a lessons learned for my department. They are often not lessons we can utilize in Public Health but still important in the larger Emergency Management community.  
Two of those lessons have been bouncing around in my head along with Reading Patrick Meier’s book Digital Humanitarians

1. Local’s are important to the mission

2. People want to help, they just need direction

No matter what you plan for “People want to help”

 The local government was overwhelmed so this is not meant to be critical of them; this is a cautionary lesson we can learn from.
I saw a terrible amount of waste and un-controlled giving in Malaysia. We utilized a government center in the affected area to store our tents and moved them in and out daily as we worked through the affected communities.  In that center were piles (not stacks) of liter water bottles, rice, soap and many other things. And after two weeks those piles were still there; maybe they had a plan for distribution, but I didn’t see one.

The other area was in the village of Manik Urai  
one of the most heavily affected community's. While we were moving through the community putting up tents with the help of our local volunteer force, there was a stream of cars going through the village (mostly on the one or two main streets) handing out *stuff.  Many of them were truly wanting to help, many were just disaster tourist there to drop off a few things and look around and get a selfie.  While it is great to see the people (many who drove as far as nine hours) helping, it was unbalanced and disruptive to the organized aid. 
 I watched people hand out items to those on the main streets, often the people would put the item in their tent or ruin of their home and get more; sadly for the people not on their front yard or on a side street they were missed.

So what can we do to fix this before it happens?

Well first have a plan, think about what might be needed if disaster X strikes. Part of that plan is to tell well wishers from the outside (or the affected) communities, what you need and where to bring it.  Don’t allow people to drive through a damaged area and look or drop things off.  Set up a drop off point and then have a volunteer force trained (in the moment) go in in marked vehicle and distribute things as quickly as possible; for the affected time is precious. 


  • Written list of what you might need for disaster type X
  • List of where you will post need-Facebook, Bulletin boards (virtual and real) (and who/how it will happen)
  • Brief write up of a team make up:

o   Type person

o   Job skills & duties

o   Requirements (drivers license, calm personality, focus)
    • Shifts they would work

  • A volunteer team trained in advance how to implement this plan! They could be from one of your already registered group.

Is it hard to work in the future? Yes, but its harder to fix things after - insert here (flood, fires, earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tornadoes)

But don’t do Nothing…

 * Stuff - water, food, clothes, Koran's, Women's hygiene, CASH, books for kids.