FEMA Disaster Workforce Needs Improvement – revised

New GAO report: FEMA Disaster Workforce: Actions Needed to Improve Hiring Data and Address Staffing GapsA short version and the full report ( 36 pages) are available on the website.

Here is a commentary on the report from GovExec.com: FEMA is Losing Employees at an Alarming Rate. Burnout is leading to attrition as disasters spike, but watchdog also blames agency for poor workforce management.

Deadly Lessons from Fukushima Earthquake

From the HSNW: Deadly Lessons from Fukushima Changed Japan and the World

“The strongest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history triggered a massive tsunami in 2011. Together, the two natural disasters claimed close to 20,000 lives, making the event one of the deadliest in Japan’s history. But the crisis didn’t end there.

The strongest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history triggered a massive tsunami in 2011. Waves taller than houses slammed against hundreds of miles of the country’s northern coastline; one wave measured 33 feet high. Together, the two natural disasters claimed close to 20,000 lives, making the event one of the deadliest in Japan’s history.

But the crisis didn’t end there. The tsunami knocked out power to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, launching a nuclear meltdown whose fallout still affects Japan’s citizens, international relations…”

New Quadrennial Review

Third Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. The Department of Homeland Security has released the Third Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR), a continuation of the first two QHSR Reports issued in 2010 and 2014. The purpose of the QHSR is to highlight the “collective efforts and shared responsibilities of federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, nongovernmental, and private-sector partners–as well as individuals, families, and communities.” This third edition of the review reaffirms the five missions listed in the first two reviews: Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security, Securing and Managing Our Borders, Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws, Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace, and Ensuring Resilience to Disasters. In addition to keeping the first five mission statements relevant, this third QHSR review introduces a new mission.

The Covid Pandemic revealed a “collective national incompetence in government”

From the WashPost, this Opinion piece: A closer look at the U.S. pandemic response reached an unsettling conclusion.

“Looking back at the U.S. response to the pandemic, many setbacks and mistakes are well-known. But a closer examination by a team of seasoned experts has brought to the surface a profoundly unsettling conclusion. The United States, once the paragon of can-do pragmatism, of successful moon shots and biomedical breakthroughs, fell down on the job in confronting the crisis. The pandemic, the experts say, revealed “a collective national incompetence in government.”

This warning comes through over and over again in “Lessons from the Covid War: An Investigative Report,” a book published Tuesday by a group of 34 specialists led by Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and a history professor at the University of Virginia. Their verdict: “The leaders of the United States could not apply their country’s vast assets effectively enough in practice.”

Mr. Zelikow mobilized the experts to help get ready for a possible national commission on the pandemic. When Congress and the White House failed to launch a national inquiry, the experts wrote their own report. It is a compelling, disturbing account. They conclude the pandemic was not an inescapable tragedy. The United States could and should have done better.”

Economic Earthquake Risk in U.S.

From the HSNW: Economic Earthquake Risk in the United States.

“Earthquakes cost the nation an estimated $14.7 billion annually in building damage and associated losses, a new report finds. The new estimate is twice that of previous annual estimates due to increased building value and the fact that the report incorporates the latest hazards as well as improvements to building inventories.”

The Boston Marathon – 10 year Anniversary

Here is an unusual recovery story. From the NYT: How the Red Sox became a main symbol of Boston’s recovery from Marathon bombing. An excerpt:

The bombing aftermath has become a model for other communities dealing with tragedy and trauma. A study by Harvard University labeled the local and national response, “the ingenuity of swarm intelligence.” In Boston, there was no singular leader, but rather a collective sense of responsibility. Trust and cooperation were key. Relationships mattered. Egos were set aside so that individuals could do their jobs, then ask if they could do more.

Book Review: Case Studies in Disaster Recovery

Review of Case Studies in Disaster Recovery – A Volume in the Disaster and Emergency Management: Case Studies in Adaptation and Innovation Series. Volume Editor: Jane Kushma, Ph.D. Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann, Elsevier, Oxford, UK and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. December 2022. Paperback ISBN: 9780128095744 eBook ISBN: 9780128095362. Pages: 272.

This new book is the first released book (volume) of the four-volume series of Disaster and Emergency Management Case Studies in Adaptation and Innovation with three books forthcoming, each representing one of the four phases of disaster management (mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response, recovery). Series Editors: Jean Slick and Jane Kushma. https://www.elsevier.com/books/case-studies-in-disaster-recovery/kushma/978-0-12-809574-4

Contributors: Lucy A. Arendt, Miriam Belblidia, Kathleen Garland, Tracy Hatton, Race Hodges, Alessandra Jerolleman, Laurie A. Johnson, Scott B. Miles, Daniel P. Neely, Liliya Kasatkina Quebedeaux, Erin Rider, Samuel J.B. Ripley, Deanna Harlene Schmidt, Erica Seville, John Vargo, Haorui Wu, Etsuko Yasui. Keywords: disaster recovery, adaptation, innovation, resiliency, case studies,

Reviewer: Irmak Renda-Tanali, D.Sc. is a Senior Disaster Management Specialist currently working for the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) Global of the Research Center of the University of Hawaii (RCUH).

The book starts with the editors’ overview of the series by focusing on the need for and
definitions of adaptation and innovation in emergency management practice but emphasizing the need for both routine and adaptive expertise. The “why, how, when, and who” questions are covered within the overview with references to classic and contemporary disaster management literature. The essay stresses the importance and the need for adaptation and innovation by connecting them to the theoretical and practical underpinnings of disaster management.

The next section covers an excellent introduction to the volume (book) by Dr. Jane Kushma which contains the definitions of disaster recovery; perspectives on the theory and practice of recovery; the current state of research for disaster recovery; the current state of practice in disaster recovery; and a list of expected outcomes for disaster recovery drawn from the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) of FEMA.

Since the book chapters are organized according to three parts (sections), a summary of each section is provided as well as its associated chapters to give the reader an overview of what to expect from the contents of the case studies. This way the reader is given a roadmap to pick and choose from, if they wish so, the case studies written by various authors whose chapters span a wide variety of hazards as well as geographical and sociological settings all of which delve into a chosen aspect of disaster recovery towards building resiliency.

Each chapter is written by (a) a different author(s). The discussions are based on many years of practical experience and/or research conducted by the authors. Section I is about early recovery. Early recovery must balance the speed of returning to
normalcy with long-term goals that promote resilience. However, it is also constrained by the community’s resource availability, adaptability, and existing vulnerability among other things. It contains four cases that address recovery challenges involving the business sector (business decision-making practices in the aftermath of the Canterbury, New Zealand Earthquakes of 2010-2011), the nonprofit sector (how the NPOs performed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008 in the Houston-Galveston area; challenges faced by select NPOs in disaster-prone areas in the southern U.S.) and government (a critique of FEMA disaster assistance programs).

Section II focuses on long-term recovery, which is particularly challenging to those involved including disaster survivors as well as the organizations that are responsible for funding and performing the recovery operations. Resource shortfalls, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of long-term vision, and lack of political will are among the most common due to the complexity and size of recovery programs and objectives that usually involve massive aid packages and large grant programs. The two cases in this section provide the concept of emergence: The emergence of volunteer groups in the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe, Japan Earthquake; and women’s leadership in the aftermath of the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008 and Lushan Earthquake in 2011, China.

Section III covers the topic of planning for recovery. Pre-disaster recovery planning can be difficult as it is a participatory process and requires consensus and a shared vision from interested parties. The two cases covered in this chapter address anticipatory adaptations based on lessons learned from previous events: The Joplin Tornado of 2011 where the affected communities started recovery planning shortly after the devastation through intense citizen advocacy; and a comparative case study between the U.S. and New Zealand involving local communities which highlights the need for broad participation, resources, communication, and coordination.

This first book in the adaptation and innovation series in disaster and emergency management is an excellent resource for educators, researchers, as well as operational and policymaking communities. Recovery is arguably the less understood and less researched phase of disaster management due to the complexity of the process and the multiplicity of stakeholders involved. The breadth of the topics covered in this volume highlights the need for better planning for current and emerging hazards affecting communities across the globe with increasing population pressures forcing people to displace and move to more hazardous locations particularly due to the impacts of climate change.