Archive for June, 2010

The Perfect Storm: 2010 Hurricane Season, the worst yet?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Author: Madhu Beriwal, CEO & President of IEM

Hurricane Katrina was thought to be the perfect storm. It punched Louisiana and Mississippi, causing horrific loss of life, tremendous damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure for miles, and a bruised national psyche.

But, Katrina may not be the perfect storm. The perfect storm may be coming to the Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season.

There are a number of currents that are steering this perfect storm:

The most active hurricane season in recent memory – scientists have predicted that the 2010 hurricane season, stretching from June 1 to November 30, will be very active –more active than the average for the last 50 years of the previous century. The hurricane spawning waters of the Atlantic Ocean are warm, the El Niño (the “good cholesterol” of hurricanes) is weak, and La Niña (the “bad cholesterol” of hurricanes) is expected to get strong during the peak of the hurricane season. (more…)

A Lesson Learned from Katrina? The New Orleans City Assisted Evacuation Plan

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Author: Eston Spain, Emergency Planner, IEM

A few years ago, I witnessed and lived through the before and after of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.  I saw the problems in evacuating from New Orleans. I was greatly relieved when the City of New Orleans released the City Assisted Evacuation Plan. These are my observations and recommendations about their plan.

As frightful and nerve wracking as it is waiting for a hurricane to make landfall, it can be even more dreadful if you don’t have the means to evacuate.  Maybe it’s because you thought how chic it would be to give up your car and commute everyday to your job via one of the lovely streetcars that New Orleans is famous for. Unfortunately, though, there are others who simply lack the financial means, or for other reasons cannot evacuate on their own. 

In 2008, the City of New Orleans created the City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAEP) to make sure that the city’s most vulnerable citizens have a way to evacuate. The purpose of the CAEP is to help citizens who want to leave during an emergency, but lack the capability to self-evacuate.[1] The general concept of the plan is that the city utilizes its facilities, manpower, and other resources to provide assistance to citizens who cannot self-evacuate during the declaration of an emergency. The CAEP is available online from the City of New Orleans’ website (http://www.cityofno.com/). The CAEP comes with an evacuation map as part of the evacuation plan and a flow chart to explain how the process works. The map depicted in the CAEP lists 17 evacuation centers; all serviced by the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority (NORTA or RTA) buses. (more…)

BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11—Will We Learn From History?

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A Message from IEM President and CEO, Madhu Beriwal

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I am reminded again of the lessons that Katrina taught. These lessons are especially important now, as a new monster lurks in the Gulf. This time it is not a hurricane—it’s oil gushing from BP’s exploded Deepwater Horizon rig. And waters are warmer this year than in the past few years, foretelling a bad hurricane season.

I remember these words:

“There is terrible potential for fatal harm to the region and its inhabitants from a storm of this severity … The northerly track of the storms depicted here seems to place a majestic volume of surge, driven inland from the Gulf, against the levee systems south of New Orleans … Levees seem to be overtopped for the first time in major sections … Populated areas could have most residential and some commercial structures destroyed totally … All human efforts feasible should be made to secure the largest evacuation response rate possible.”

I, Madhu Beriwal, was the author of those words in 1985—20 years before Hurricane Katrina struck. This scenario and 49 others were included in the Southeast Louisiana Storm Surge Atlas. The atlas was a single document detailing the varieties of hurricanes that could affect New Orleans. The consequences of such storms were not new to me then or now.

In 2004, IEM created a catastrophic hurricane scenario for an All-Government exercise focused on response planning for New Orleans. That hypothetical scenario was called Hurricane Pam. One year later, the hypothetical Pam became reality in Hurricane Katrina. (more…)

Nurses as Emergency Managers Prepping for Any Disaster

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Note: This article is the third in a periodic series of online articles focusing on emergency management and how its principles can be incorporated into nursing practice. Full articles appear on http://nursing.advanceweb.com

There are a lot of views on how to begin the preparedness process. There are even more on how to do a “proper” risk assessment. People go through multiple years of post graduate training and can receive a PhD in risk management and assessment. So, how can a nurse in the field possibly use risk assessment without an advance degree on the topic? That’s what this article is designed to tell them. So, if you want a down and dirty review on risk assessment and how it applies to the medical field, this is the article for you!

See Full Prepping for Any Disaster article

Scientists and citizens collaborate on Cahooots GIS Map of Gulf Coast oil spill

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Author: Dr. Neeraj Mainkar, Physicist/Manager, Software Development, IEM

Information sharing and collaboration among the general population for disaster management and response is a very powerful thing. Take the current BP Gulf Coast Oil Spill disaster for example. Since the start of this catastrophic event, Cahooots is being used by thousands of individuals, agencies, and response groups to post, share, and gain information about this ongoing environmental tragedy. Witnesses on the ground have reported and shared oil sightings in the water, fouled wildlife sightings on the Gulf shore, and conditions at popular beach resorts along the Gulf coast.

BP Gulf Oil Spill MapThis information on the Gulf oil spill response, oiled wildlife and the 21st century’s greatest environmental disaster is being collected in a powerful collaborative GIS mapping tool. The information on the Cahooots Gulf Oil Spill map is instantaneous, real-time and entirely decentralized. To help collaborate with us on Gulf oil spill data, register for a free account at www.cahooots.com. To view the collaborative Oil Spill map, visit www.cahooots.com/gridresponder/gulfspill/impact.gsp.

Are You In Cahooots?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Author: Dr. Neeraj Mainkar, Physicist/Manager, Software Development, IEM

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you probably have at least heard of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Many of you probably already have a Facebook account and, like me, update your status a few times a day. The extreme popularity of social networking sites is based on a very fundamental human need—a need to reach out to people, make a connection with friends and family, share special interests that include music, pictures, an interesting article you’ve read or simply tell other interested parties about what’s going on in your life. In other words, we have a basic need to share information.

While social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace cater to the non-serious, casual side of information sharing, the technology that has enabled sites like these to proliferate (namely Web 2.0) can and, in fact, is being used for serious information sharing as well. For example, it’s being used for information sharing during or after major disasters.

In today’s world, where speed is measured by how soon you can update your Facebook status, traditional news media such as TV, radio, and newspapers fall woefully short of quick information sharing. In traditional news media, there are simply too many nodes that a particular piece of news has to go through before it can be broadcast. This results in the frustrating outcome that by the time the news reaches the general public, reality has already changed. In addition, the distribution of news is always centralized to the particular news organization in question—be it a TV or radio channel, or the newspaper agency. They give and we receive.

The advent of Web 2.0 technologies has threatened this old relic of one-way flow of information by making the sharing and dissemination of important information completely “democratic” and quick. (more…)

Defining and Developing Leadership in Healthcare Emergency Management

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Author: Erin Downey MPH, ScD, Senior Health Systems Analyst, IEM 

The word ‘leadership’ is used liberally. We see it used in reference to managers, directors, and decision-makers, and its meaning is frequently “person in charge” or “person responsible.” In healthcare emergency management – and particularly when a disaster occurs that has tested a community’s response system – scrutiny of the response begins with evaluating the leadership of the affected community. Any perceived leadership strengths or weaknesses will be immediately and severely criticized in the media. Action documentation will use ‘leadership’ in the sense of the word described above; rarely, however, do we see language consistently associated with this kind of leadership in healthcare emergency management and more often than not we see contradictions in how the term is defined[i]. 

But we know it when we experience it. 

Fortunately leadership theory provides definitions of leadership and allows us to identify behavioral characteristics—associated with task effectiveness—to aid our use of the term[ii]. Many of these characteristics transcend fields, cultures, gender, organizational structure, and national boundaries. This allows emergency healthcare management professionals to examine leadership, via observation of individual leadership style, as we would in other industries, e.g., banking, oil exploration, mining.  (more…)