Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter
Volume 13 No. 10
October 2021
L. Canton Photo 2013
Hello

Welcome to the October edition of Emergency Management Solutions.

For those of us in San Francisco, October is earthquake month as we recall the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It was by no means the Big One we are told to expect and we also commemorate the 1906 earthquake in April. However, so many of us went through Loma Prieta that it is still fresh in our minds and we can see the changes it brought about, both to the City in general and to our emergency preparedness and disaster planning. My video this month is a 30 year retrospective done last year that reminds us that some things never really change, despite our best efforts.

In this month's featured articles, Tim Riecker offers some thoughts on the difficult task of engaging the public, George Whitney addresses the very neglected skill of time management, and Erik Bernstein stresses the importance of having a plan to address the risk of damage to your reputation. My own modest contribution is another entry in my continuing series on why emergency plans fail.

Someone asked me recently why I don't include full articles in my newsletter. There are two reasons. Research has shown that people tend not to read much more than a couple of paragraphs in email newsletters and providing a link to the rest allows them to select articles of particular interest to them. However, the more important reason is that each of my contributors offer much more content on their own blogs than I can include in my newsletter and I encourage you to take advantage of the knowledge they offer.

Be well!
Lucien Canton
Featured Articles
L. Canton Photo 2013
Canton On Emergency Management
By Lucien Canton



Why Your Emergency Plan Will Fail: Ignoring your target audience

Many years ago when I was a student, there was an apocryphal rumor making the rounds about a teacher who used the “fling method” to grade term papers. The method involved standing at the top of a staircase and flinging the papers towards the bottom. The theory was that those papers containing the most content (i.e., the most pages) would travel the farthest. Where your paper fell on the staircase determined your grade. I suspect that many emergency managers are using this method to determine the value of their emergency plans.

We all deride “doorstop plans,” plans that come in 4-inch binders or multiple volumes. Yet we continue to produce them. However, both anecdotal evidence and a small smattering of research suggest that during a crisis no one is going to read your emergency plan. This begs the question, for whom are we writing the emergency plan?

In my previous blog, I wrote about the three levels present in any response (strategic, operational, and tactical) and the need to distinguish among these when writing your plan. The easiest way to do this is to ask the question, “who is my target audience?”

Consider, for example, what happens when we apply this concept to the basic plan. The basic plan is a bit of an exception in that it delineates overall strategy and lays out the operational framework for response. But who is the target audience? If you’re honest, you’re probably writing it for anyone but the user (e.g., auditors, evaluators, politicians, the public) with the intent to demonstrate your level of preparedness. Plan users are most likely intimately familiar with the contents as it is the basis for more detailed planning. If this is indeed the case, why include extraneous material that is of no use to anyone?

Let me give an example of what I mean by extraneous material. Almost every basic plan I have reviewed over the years contains an extensive section on the Incident Command System. Given our requirements for ICS training, how likely is it that someone reporting to the emergency operations center in a crisis will be completely unfamiliar with ICS? Even assuming that they are, will they have any inclination to sit down and read...
© 2021 -  Lucien G. Canton

Lucien Canton is consultant specializing in helping managers lead better in a crisis. He is the former Director of Emergency Services for San Francisco and the author of the best-selling Emergency Management: Concepts and Strategies for Effective Programs used as a textbook in many higher education courses.
The Contrarian Emergency Manager
By Timothy "Tim" Riecker


EM Engagement with the Public

Emergency management is notoriously bad at marketing. People have a much better idea of what most other government agencies do, or simply (at least) that they exist. Establishing awareness and understanding of emergency management not only for the people you serve, but those you work with can go a long way toward meeting your goals.

As with any message everything is about the audience. Emergency management has a variety of audiences. While we have some programs and campaigns oriented toward individuals, much of our work is with organizations, including non-profits, other government agencies, and the private sector. All in all, most emergency managers are pretty good at interfacing and coordinating with organizations. It’s the public that we still struggle with. Emergency management inherited the burden of individual and family preparedness from the days of civil defense. Things were different then. Civil defense focused on one threat, it was persistent, and the calls to action were tangible and even practiced with the public in many communities.

And yes, I said that our present engagement with the public is a burden. Can it make a difference? Sure. Does it make a difference? Sometimes. While some can argue that any measurable difference we make is good, we all need to acknowledge that campaigns and programs for the public are often a huge source of frustration for emergency managers across the nation and elsewhere. We feel compelled to do it, but so often we can’t make that connection. While I think it is a worthwhile mission and there are successes, the usual rhetoric is stale (i.e., make a plan, build a kit, be informed, get involved) and our return on investment is extremely low.

We need to do more than handing out flyers at the county fair. Some communities have been able to find success through partner agencies or organizations that actually do work with the public on a regular basis, which I think is a better formula for success. These agencies and organizations already have an in with a certain portion of the population. They have an established presence, rapport, and reputation. Given that agencies and organizations have different audiences, it is best to engage more than one to ensure the best coverage throughout the community.
© 2021 -  Timothy Riecker, CEDP
Used with Permission

Tim Reicker is a founding member, partner and principal consultant with Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC, a private consulting firm serving government, businesses, and not for profit organizations in various aspects of emergency and disaster preparedness.
Complete EM
By George Whitney
Bernstein Crisis Management
By Erik Bernstein


We regularly survey emergency managers to identify the training they feel is most important for success. This year, we again noticed a puzzling trend. Nearly all emergency managers continue to say they have far too much work, but about forty-percent say time and quality management is “not important.”

We discussed the lack of interest in time-management training with several emergency managers and noted four explanations for this response:

  • Many emergency managers believe they are good time managers and dismiss additional training as unnecessary
  • Some emergency managers only have difficulty managing indirect work assigned by supervisors – work they feel precludes success and is difficult to manage
  • Time management training, as it currently exists, is ineffective
  • Some emergency managers are just not good at managing their time

During our conversations with emergency managers, two separate notions of time management became apparent. Most emergency managers believe time management is mostly about placing limits on activity (i.e. only answering email once-a-day for an hour). Doing so reserves time to accomplish other important work. Others believe time management is more about setting priorities so the most important work is accomplished first.

The practice of limiting time spent on certain activities is now the focus of most time management training. It helps people limit distraction, including unnecessary website visits and unexpected conversations. The most recent results of an annual Salary.com survey indicate 89% of employees admit to wasting time at work. Websites – especially social media sites – appear to be the primary distraction. Contemporary time management training can help people and organizations prone to these distractions but implementing this training requires setting clear limits on certain activities and summoning extraordinary discipline to adhere to those limits.

Priority setting is less often the subject of time management training because priorities and the process of setting, managing and achieving them are different in almost every organization. This condition severely limits the appeal and utility of this form of time management training. Priorities are often unique to individuals and organizations. Establishing and accomplishing priorities also require more effort than merely limiting time spent on certain activities.
© 2020 - George Whitney
Used with permission

George Whitney has over 25 years of experience in emergency and technology program management, including appointments at the local, state, and federal government levels. He is the founder and CEO of Complete EM, a web-based collection of tools and complementary approaches that help emergency managers assess their programs, organize program improvement efforts, and complete necessary projects 
Neglecting reputation can be costly

With polls showing that global executives attribute a whopping 63% of their company’s market value to its overall reputation, it seems most in the know would agree reputation is a tremendously valuable resource. Why, then, is it so common to encounter major brands with national reputations…and no reputation management planning to speak of?

In my experience, the most common answer from these otherwise well-structured and firmly established organizations is, “We haven’t needed it yet!”. This is never good news. The bright side for you is you’re (hopefully) reading this before you face a reputation crisis of your own, so don’t make the same mistake! As someone who’s seen it first-hand many times, I’ll guarantee those with prior planning and preparedness spend less money, lose less customers, generate less negative media coverage, and generally get back to ‘business as usual’ much more quickly than those without.

“Reputation is any organization’s most valuable asset, therefore crisis management should be looked at as a critical form of asset protection. Failure of organizations to anticipate and prevent potential crises is a rampant crisis of its own.” — Jonathan Bernstein

What’s putting reputations at risk

Allow me to expand a bit…

While most organizations we speak with have some level of emergency planning – basic natural disaster response plans, for example – far fewer are prepared to engage in the communications and operational maneuvering that accompanies a serious threat to reputation. In other words, actively managing their reputation and protecting that 63% of market value from harm! The piece most often missed is the communications planning of it all – knowing before trouble rears up to bite us in the rear exactly how we’ll communicate (internally and externally!), what type of messaging we’ll use, and who is best suited to deliver it.

Compounding the issues present without a plan are the sheer workload and stress level that accompanies crisis response without preparation in place. Imagine your day-to-day at its most stressful (if you can feel those teeth getting ready to grind you’re probably there)…now add an extra several hours of work at either end in meetings with consultants, lawyers, and angry stakeholders, minimal sleep, and a constantly overflowing inbox. Oh, and don’t forget about home life too. The human brain can only manage so much, which is why planning ahead for things like crisis and reputation management are critical to success. The volume of work is...
© 2021 - Erik Bernstein
Used with permission

Erik Bernstein is Vice President of Bernstein Crisis Management, a specialized firm dedicated to providing holistic strategies for managing crisis situations.
Featured Video
Loma Prieta Earthquake, 30 Years Later

This documentary was produced as part of an award-winning NBC documentary series on the San Francisco Bay Area, Bay Area Revelations. In addition to the usual interviews and news footage, there are several key issues highlighted in the interviews that will be of particular interest to emergency managers. One of the most interesting is former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos' memories of his reaction on being handed the City's disaster plan. In a departure from many San Francisco-centric documentaries, there is a segment on crowd control issues in Santa Cruz and problems with the recovery effort there.
Professional Development
Principles of Risk Communication Worksheets Now Available for Hazards Practitioners
The Natural Hazards Center, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recently released the Principles of Risk Communication Worksheets: Exercises for Integrating Principles into Risk Communication Practice to provide a resource to hazards practitioners with risk communication responsibilities. The collection of worksheets was designed as a tool to help practitioners to apply core principles of effective risk communication to their own activities.

The collection contains five worksheets, including exercises on how to understand the community of focus, questions and steps for implementing each of the three core principles, and guidance about how to reflect on risk communication activities after they have been implemented. The worksheets promote a risk communication process that is interactive and collaborative.

CONVERGE in the Classroom: Training Module Resources for Teaching
The National Science Foundation-supported CONVERGE facility was established in 2018 as the first social science-led component of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) for the nation. CONVERGE brings together networks of hazards and disaster researchers from geotechnical engineering, the social sciences, structural engineering, nearshore systems, operations and systems engineering, sustainable material management, and interdisciplinary science and engineering.

CONVERGE supports and advances research that is conceptually integrative by: (1) identifying researchers; (2) educating and training researchers; (3) setting a convergence research agenda that is problem-focused and solutions-based; (4) connecting researchers and coordinating functionally and demographically diverse research teams; and (5) supporting and funding convergence research, data collection, data sharing, and solutions implementation.

The CONVERGE team has developed a series of free, online training modules to help students, researchers, and practitioners to quickly background themselves on fundamental research findings, theory, and methods.
Professional Development Opportunities
Imagination, Improvisation, and Innovation in Emergency Management Education
The proceedings of the FEMA Higher Education Symposium are available on line at no charge. This includes videos of the sessions, PDF files of the presentations, and images of the poster session.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Oct 15-22, 2021
The goal of the IAEM Annual Conference is to improve knowledge, competency level and collaborative skills. IAEM accomplishes this by attracting relevant high-profile speakers to address current topics and practical solutions.
From The Bookshelf
Apollo's Arrow
The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live
Christakis, Nicholas A.

A deep, science-backed look at how the coronavirus pandemic will change the way we live forever -- from renowned physician and sociologist Nicholas Christakis. APOLLO'S ARROW offers a riveting account of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on American society as it unfolded in 2020, and on how the recovery will unfold in the coming years. Drawing on a combination of fascinating case studies and cutting-edge research from a range of scientific disciplines, bestselling author, physician, and sociologist Nicholas Christakis explores what it means to live in a time of plague -- an experience that is paradoxically uncommon to the vast majority of humans who are alive, yet deeply fundamental to our species as a whole. Unleashing new divisions in our society and new opportunities for cooperation, this 21st century pandemic has upended our society in ways that will test, but not vanquish, our already frayed culture's capacity to endure and thrive. Featuring many novel, provocative arguments and vivid examples ranging across medicine, history, sociology, epidemiology, data science, and genetics, APOLLO'S ARROW envisions what happens when the great force of a deadly germ meets the enduring reality of our evolved social nature
Emergency Management: Concepts and Strategies for Effective Programs
Second Edition
by Lucien G. Canton

This book looks at the larger context within which emergency management response occurs, and stresses the development of a program to address a wide range of issues. Not limited to traditional emergency response to natural disasters, it addresses a conceptual model capable of integrating multiple disciplines and dealing with unexpected emergencies.
Speaker's Corner
Looking for a speaker for your conference? I offer keynotes, seminars, workshops, and webinars, either in person or online. You can find more details and sample videos on my website or on my SpeakerMatch page
©Lucien G. Canton 2021. All rights reserved.
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the author, and "reprinted with permission."
ISSN: 2334-590X
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