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.

Lessons from Deployment - Locals are important to the mission

In January 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
No matter what, “locals are important to the success of the mission”. 
I volunteer in a situation where after a usually long plane ride I am dropped into someone else’s disaster with a teammate.  And in a very short amount of time we accomplish some amazing things.  It is because we realize as an organization we can’t do anything substantial without local help. So lets bring this closer to home.  
In my recent deployment to Malaysia I had a couple of interpreters I worked with, they were both great; but I realized beyond the language, they knew the people. They would tell me when they thought someone was not being truthful, or needed help but weren’t identified, or taught me about the culture. 
You may live in the affected community, but you probably don’t speak all the languages of the affected population and you don’t understand from their point of view (economic, religious, etc.) how this disaster is affecting them.   

I recently saw a National Guard recruiting poster in the airport that showed 2 Guardsmen comforting a woman and the bubble above one soldiers head said “She lives 5 miles from here”. That was a powerful message to me.  We need to utilize the local spontaneous volunteer where we can, realizing they are going to come.

No matter what I respond to in the future (Even if I speak the language) I will employ a volunteer guide. Someone from the affected community, but not of the affected population.  Someone who can help me find my way to help those in need.

  • Understand your population and make contacts there
  • Don't be afraid to ask that population for help (I know you are there to help them, but you need them to do that)
  • Decide how you will activate, badge, give access to
  • How will you make sure you aren't showing favoritism to that person in the community? It could hurt their standing
  • How do you make sure they aren't taking advantage of you in the situation? It could hurt your standing

Remember the disaster happens to our/their community - connect and do the best you can. Locals are important.