Issues At Local OEM in Puerto Rico

This article from the WSJ lays the blame for the logistical mess on the local office of emergency management, which it refers to as the local FEMA. See: FEMA’s Foul-Up in Puerto Rico. “The emergency plan depended on generators but diesel was not delivered.”

Apparently the author is referring to either the The Municipal Emergency and Disaster Management Office, which includes San Juan, or the Puerto Rico State Agency for Emergency and Disaster Management. I cannot tell which from the article.

Update:  I just read over some of the nearly 450 comments on the above article, and it is clear most of those responding do not understand our federal system and that there are 3 tiers of emergency management.  It remains unclear to me where the author of this article is pointing blame.

Proposed Cuts to FEMA Budget

The title of this WashPost article does not mention FEMA, but if you read down to the second half of the article you can see what cuts the new administration proposes: To fund border wall, Trump administration weighs cuts to Coast Guard, airport security.


Bear in mind, the cuts to EPA, NOAA, Coast Guard and other federal agencies also will have an impact on emergency management as we currently know it.

The Diva suggests you get ready to defend programs you want and to protest the cuts.

Calgary’s Cowboy Style Emergency Management – take #2

This article in HuffPost/Canada today really got my goat: Naheed Nenshi Tells World Economic Forum Clear Communication Key After Natural Disasters. Once again, the well-meaning but free-lance style of emergency management used in Calgary Alberta after the floods this past spring leave me wondering why the basic tenets of emergency management are so unknown or ignored by public officials in a major city. [And he got invited to Davos to talk about his maverick version of emergency management!]

The Calgary Mayor’s personal version of disaster response might have worked, at least once, in Calgary, but most of what he recommended makes no sense for efficient and effective emergency management; e.g.,

  • Mayor serving as Public Information Officer
  • Mayor getting no sleep and having no backup,
  • Empowering thousands of untrained, amateur bldg. inspectors.

In reading a second press account of what the mayor said – Naheed Nenshi discusses resilience to flood at Davos forum   I am even more infuriated.  Here he is quoted as saying the recovery process went well. Too bad no one else had a chance to speak to that statement, since that does not appear to be true by traditional emergency management standards, in my opinion. Plus the term resilience seems to be used in an imprecise and not helpful way..

My  first take on this topic was back in June 2013, when I did a posting that was critical of the use of debits cards as a means of providing disaster assistance to disaster victims.  See:

In this past year, two big Canadian Cities — Calgary and Toronto — have displayed a remarkable lack of preparation for disasters and have used mainly ad hoc means to muddle their their way through major disaster events. Some innovation is to be expected after a disaster, but more strategic thinking and planning seems to be needed.

Some Good News From Haiti

Intensity map for the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Intensity map for the 2010 Haiti earthquake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent news clip notes that Haiti Has Become A Role Model For The Region In Disaster Preparedness. Some excerpts follow:

Barely two years following the catastrophic earthquake that leveled portions of Port-au-Prince, the Civil Protection Agency (DPC) in charge of preparing Haiti for natural disasters, has become a success story that is now being examined as a role model for other disaster prone nations.

Since January 2010, the DPC has consolidated its place as a premier disaster preparedness relief agency; now among the best in the broader Caribbean. The Minister of the Interior, Thierry Mayard-Paul states, “We must be prepared for future shocks. The DPC has become a model of how to organize communities so that they are better prepared for disaster management. There is growing evidence that building community resilience to disasters is more cost effective than humanitarian response. Evidence shows that for every $1 spent on prevention, $4 less needs to be spent on the response.”

Already before the earthquake and in coordination with a wide variety of international agencies, the DPC was conducting simulation exercises, testing contingency plans, and training its personnel.   The tragedy of 2010 and the cholera epidemic of the last two years have allowed the DPC to hone its skills.

Directed by Madame Jean Baptiste, who has been at the helm since 2005, the DPC has been busy reducing the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and hurricanes through a very strong ethic of prevention. According to Fenella Frost, head of UNDP’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit, “Thanks to this successful initiative, we have been able to reduce vulnerability of people and property, better manage land and the environment, and significantly improve preparedness for adverse events.”

Minister Mayard-Paul, who is responsible for the development and oversight of the DPC, says, “Haiti’s DPC is a real success story. We have developed a skilled outfit, organized across the country and present in every region that is systematically preparing Haitians for the next extreme event.   We can’t prevent disasters, but thanks to DPC we can certainly be better prepared.”

Madame Baptiste, who is now widely recognized for her able leadership of the DPC, says that her unit has been working closely with international agencies such as UNDP, World Bank, EU, US Southern Command, USAID, and CIDA, who have provided funding and training.

Major Cuts in Canadian EM Resources

English: Canadian Flag

From, June 22:  Stakeholders cry foul as feds cut funding for emergency preparedness

Looks like some serious butting cutting in Canada has gone way past the fat and into the quick. It is a sad day indeed when education and training are cut from the Canadian budget. I sure hope the EM  folks get to come to the U.S. and compensate for that shortsighted action.

Among the cuts in the omnibus budget bill, the government quietly cancelled the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) established in 1980 and ceased operations at the Canadian Emergency Management College which has offered training to emergency responders since 1954. The cuts were billed as a deficit reduction measure.

How is this for reasoning:

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ press secretary Julie Carmichael further noted “the original objectives of this program — namely to enhance local emergency preparedness and response capacity — have been met.”

Unbelievable!  No need for EM education and training to continue, since we did that. Might as well abolish public schools, if that line of thinking prevails!

FEMA’s New Think Tank — not the way to go [Corrected]

FEMA has just released details of a new endeavor: Launching the FEMA Think Tank — a Forum to Facilitate Discussion in the Field of Emergency Management.  The good news is that FEMA thinks it needs a Think Tank, and the Deputy Director has set one up online.  It relies in part on Twitter, which in my view is useless for most serious conversations though it might be useful for emergency alerts. In my view,   this type of online exchange is not a Think Tank; I  would have called it a forum or an information exchange. In depth thinking needs to be orchestrated differently .

Why am I so negative on this topic? In recent weeks I have been editing some very thoughtful work by noted academics in the field of EM in the U.S., and the number of complicated and intractable problems that FEMA faces is considerable.  The new Think Tank is not likely to get to the fundamental issues, conflicts, and problems.  I am waiting for FEMA to make a try to solve or minimize some of them. I will be glad to provide a list of fundamental issues we have identified.

Study of the Role of U.S. Presidents in EM and Disaster Policy, 1950-2009

For those of you who share my interest in the history of disasters and emergency management in the U.S., I recommend this new journal article: US Presidents and Their Role in Emergency Management and Disaster Policy, 1950-2009, by Naim Kapucu, et al.

This 34 page article is available as a free download, once you login.

NOTE: As you will see from the comment made today by Bill Cumming, the authors did not get all of their dates and facts correct.  Generally I defer to Bill on such matters.

Also, I am working on a second edition of the text Emergency Management; the American Experience, 1900-2010, due out in 2012.  That book will contain carefully fact-checked details on the history of emergency management for the past 110 years.

The Changing Look of Emergency Management

USACE Emergency Management Team

Image by USACEpublicaffairs via Flickr

In the current issue of Emergency Management Magazine, Oct. 3, 2011, there is an article titled How Emergency Management Is Changing, for the Better.   The author interviewed a number of prominent women emergency managers and traces the history of their involvement. Note the Diva got interviewed for this article too, though she is mainly a researcher.