We’re glad you could join us for the fourth issue of “Disaster Discourse Monthly,” in which Hagerty Consulting, Inc. delves into, among other things, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, the varying definitions of “resilience,” and the increasing importance of active threat training. We will continue to curate news about innovations, advancements in technology, and groundbreaking practices in emergency management, but if you’re not interested in receiving future issues, just click here to unsubscribe.
We hope you enjoy these blurbs (and any of our past issues), and we’ll meet you in your inbox next month.
The Future of FEMA
FEMA Administrator Brock Long recently penned a letter to the editor in the Washington Post about FEMA’s response to Puerto Rico. He emphasized in the short article that “FEMA distributed more than $2 billion in food and water in Puerto Rico — the largest disaster commodity mission in U.S. history.” With such expansive and expensive disasters this past year, the recent passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 will bring with it further opportunity for FEMA to help affected communities like Puerto Rico to better recover. However, as Ari Renoni, Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Recovery Programs, writes, the missing piece of legislation from this bill, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), could have created greater, long-term impact for these communities and FEMA itself.
Defining Emergency Management
In the emergency management community, everything has an acronym in order to promote consistent and clear communication. But what if something doesn’t have a definition, or the definition changes over time? Especially something big, and critically important, like resilience? Though the DRRA didn’t pass, its provision, which would allow the FEMA Administrator to define resilience, left a lot of emergency managers wondering just what this subjective term means to them. Similarly, director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University, Richard Olson, recently urged other researchers to question their characterization of disasters as simply “natural.” As he cites, the “naturalness” we ascribe to disasters “shifts responsibility for disaster losses away from their root cause,” which, he believes, are often decisions about land use and building standards.
Managing Flooding Naturally
After the chemical plant he worked at flooded in Tropical Storm Debby in 2012, spokesman Mike Williams said, “The lesson learned is that every now and then there will be something that’s more than we planned for.” A New York Times analysis reveals that as flooding worsens drastically across the country, more than 2,500 chemical sites are in danger of flooding and releasing dangerous toxins into their communities. In Hagerty HQ’s backyard, the chair of Northwestern University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Kimberly Gray, realizes the perils of increased flooding and is hoping to be a part of the solution. Her “adaptive water management systems” enhance communities’ natural beauty while organically managing flood waters. These systems could present a way forward for many at-risk communities that is both environmentally friendly and economically efficient.
Preparing Your Community
EM Weekly’s Todd De Voe recently interviewed FEMA’s Brock Long about his new direction for FEMA as Administrator. Long spoke at length about how he views his own goals as helping “state and local governments truly plan for and achieve their response and recovery goals.” Long also discussed how important “whole community preparedness and response” are, especially at the local level. In that vein, Mitch Stripling, the assistant commissioner of Agency Preparedness and Response for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, offers a list of practical ways for individuals to prepare their communities for disasters, from joining a community group to hosting a “Godzilla Awareness Party.”
Actively Preparing for Active Threat
After the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, this past week, the nation grieves and looks for ways to do better for their children and teachers. Tragically, it has become increasingly easy to imagine these scenarios close to home, which emphasizes the importance of preparing ourselves and our communities for the worst, including complex coordinated terrorist attacks. While not all of us are as trained as the Dallas SWAT team that took down an active shooter last summer, training, like the teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas had, can undoubtedly save lives. This New York Times article offers practical tips on how to prepare for a shooting at your school, place of work, or in your community.
Asteroids, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis – Oh My!
While it’s pretty improbable that an asteroid will cause a tsunami anytime soon, the odds of a tsunami happening on the East Coast are shockingly probable. An Accuweather alert in early February was a mistake (caused by a technical glitch). This false alert does underscore the importance of the tsunami warning system, even on the East Coast. On the West Coast, the chances of a tsunami caused by an earthquake are increasing, 10% in the next 30 years, which is why Representatives in California and other West Coast states are pushing for federal funding for their own earthquake warning system, which, like the one in Mexico, could save property and, most importantly, lives.