Author Archive

Planning to Provide Continuity

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Disaster Recovery for Businesses

An open sign is one of the few items left after a tornado struck this convenient store in Oklahoma in 2013. (Photo: State Farm/Flickr)

Author: Gary Scronce, Director of Preparedness Programs, IEM

Where I live in Louisiana, we have been hearing a little more about emergency preparedness than normal lately with the start of hurricane season on June 1 fast approaching. Then this morning, I noticed that the week of May 16-20, 2016 has been designated as Business Continuity Awareness Week. A lot of the focus of the emergency management community prior to hurricane season is on trying to get the public to prepare itself and rightly so. During the first 48-72 hours after a hurricane, people should be prepared to take care of themselves. So how does this tie to Business Continuity? In two important ways at least.

First, the public sector version of Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP). Governments develop COOP plans to help reduce or prevent the risk of critical government services and functions going offline in a disaster. For those risks that can’t be prevented, COOP planning prioritizes those services and functions and seeks to minimize the time it takes to recover them if they go offline. The faster governments can recover, the faster they can resume providing day to day services to their citizens/customers, respond to their emergency needs and support their recovery from disaster.  Being able to do those things helps a community get back to “normal” faster. (more…)

Early Thoughts on the Mississippi River Flooding of 2011

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Author: Gary Scronce, Director of Preparedness Programs, IEM

Since 1986, I have lived in southern Louisiana just 2 miles from an Atchafalaya Basin Levee and crossed the mighty Mississippi River at least twice a day. Given this, it is only natural to consider the risk of flooding where my family and I live, particularly in the springtime. We all knew from watching the heavy snowfalls in the Midwest and upper Midwest during winter that the river was likely to rise this year. What we had not anticipated was all of the thunderstorm activity that swept across the same areas and especially through the Ohio River Valley this spring. We have watched what has happened to the north of us and now have an understanding of what is going to reach southern Louisiana thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service River Forecast Center for the Lower Mississippi, and our local news stations and newspapers.

For those not familiar with the lower Mississippi area and the flood control structures in place, one of the best graphic depictions I have seen is located here: (more…)

What will we in the U.S. learn from the events in Japan?

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Author: Gary Scronce, Director of Preparedness Programs, IEM

I’ve been asked the question a couple of times over the past few days by family and friends, some who know I work in homeland security and emergency management, some who know I spent more than 12 years as an engineer at a nuclear power plant. My answers have generally started with “It’s a little hard to tell right now, but a year or two down the road when more is known about the response operations to the earthquake, tsunami, and what is still evolving at the nuclear power plants, I’m sure there will be plenty of lessons that will affect how we approach things in the U.S.”

My answers start that way because it is still too soon and too hard to tell what is truly going on there from here in the U.S. With regard to the earthquake, I believe we will learn a lot more about how well various structural designs, including those specifically designed to mitigate the effects of an earthquake, really behave in an earthquake this severe. From an engineer’s perspective, there are few substitutes for data from failure analysis of full-scale structures to tell you what will really happen, what variables may not have been considered, and how to design against a similar failure.

Certainly lessons will be learned about what went well and not so well regarding Japan’s response to the earthquake and tsunami. I think this will be particularly true with regard to the need to provide for the basic needs of so many displaced people resulting from what was largely a no-notice event. (more…)

Nuclear Terminology: Getting it Right

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Author: Gary Scronce, Director of Preparedness Programs, IEM

On Sunday morning, March 13, 2011, I was reading an AP story entitled “Japan fights nuclear threat” by Eric Talmadge and Yuri Kageyama that really pounded home for me again the need to educate the press and public at large prior to potential disasters, particularly ones involving radiation and nuclear plants.

In talking about the blast at one of the Fukushima reactors, the article says,

“Nine residents of a town near the plant who later evacuated the area tested positive for radiation exposure, though officials said they showed no health problems.”

Japan Earthquake and Nuclear disaster

Residents evacuated from areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facilities damaged in Friday's massive earthquake, are checked for radioactive contamination, Sunday, March 13, 2011, in Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

This choice of words perpetuates a fairly common misunderstanding about the difference between radiation and radioactive contamination. It is not possible in general to test someone for exposure to radiation unless they happened to be wearing some sort of dosimetry when they were exposed. For instance, if you get a medical X-ray, then go down the street to a laboratory it would not be possible for them to run a test and tell if you had the X-ray or not. What these people were likely tested for was radioactive contamination, the presence of particles of radioactive material on their skin or clothing. Unless some of that material was inhaled or ingested, it can be removed through decontamination, stopping the exposure they were receiving from the contamination. (more…)