Archive for the ‘Homeland Security & Emergency Management’ Category

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…)

Protecting Our Armed Forces Critical Infrastructure: Prioritize Patriot

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Author:  Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, US Army (Ret.), IEM Vice President of Response and Defense

Reprinted from The Hill

patriotJust 50 years ago, theater missile defenses arrayed our nation’s capital.  Since then, we were able to close down the homeland Nike Hercules sites. And for the past 13 years, we have dealt with specific 9-11 type threats by way of air and ground based alert interceptor aircraft and selected deployment of limited short-range air defense capabilities based upon specific threat assessments.

But as the Department of Defense designs our Armed Forces for the future, the joint force capabilities must continue to be responsive to our Combatant Commanders’ requirements.  That being said, today – and in the foreseeable future – combatant commanders must consider the threat from aircraft and ballistic missiles. This includes the imperative of protection that can only be provided by Patriot, THAAD, and the SM-3. (more…)

Common Alerting Protocol Used in Response to October 2013 Fires in Australia

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Author: Dr. Patti Aymond, Senior Scientist, IEMemergency022

Research shows that in an emergency situation, the most effective warnings are those that are delivered consistently over multiple channels. When people hear the same message from different sources, they are convinced it is real and are motivated to take action.

However, with so many diverse warning technologies available, it has been a challenge to develop a standard format that can be used to distribute a consistent message successfully by all systems.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) has addressed this challenge by developing the Common Alerting Protocol, or CAP—a message standard to support the automatic exchange of consistent alert and warning messages among different types of communication systems. CAP increases warning effectiveness and minimizes the complexity of notification since the CAP format is used by a variety of different systems.

As a software developer and a partner in OASIS standards development, I am proud to see the benefits of CAP coming to life through actual use in emergency management situations. This year, we saw it used during the unfortunate series of wildfires in New South Wales, Australia. (more…)

Quebec Oil Train Disaster – It Could Happen in Your Town

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The train explosion involving a 73-car crude oil unit train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec on July 6 serves as a sobering example of what can happen in your town.Quebec-train-wreck

The train’s oil was being transported from the Bakken Oil Region in North Dakota to New Brunswick to be refined. The incident occurred just 10 miles from the Maine border.

Rail shipments of crude oil are on the increase because of limited pipeline capacity in the Bakken region and in Canada. Unit trains carrying crude oil are traversing urban areas across the United States and Canada because our cities were connected years ago by railroads. In some cases, unit trains are blocking off entire portions of some urban areas because they can only unload so many cars at a time. (more…)

India Floods in Uttarakhand-Natural or Man-Made?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Author: Jackie Covington, Emergency Management Associate, IEM

Many people are overwhelmed when such an extreme disaster like the June 2013 flooding in Uttarakhand, India happens. The scale of destruction is huge and thousands remain stranded in parts of northern India as they wait to be rescued from Uttarakhand where at least 5,000 people may have died due to the heavier than normal June monsoon rains. At least 12,000 people have been evacuated. The priority right now is for the continuation of rescue efforts. The devastation is the result of extreme heavy rainfall and landslides. Could this be the disaster that was waiting to happen? Many questions are being asked and remain to be answered, such as was there adequate response and evacuation planning? What if anything was done in advance to mitigate against such flooding and destruction of this magnitude?

Uttarakhand-India-Flood (more…)

Tornado Tracks from Moore & El Reno, Oklahoma Show an Eerie Correlation with Heavily Populated Areas

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Author: Bill Proger, Java Developer, IEM

On May 31, the area around Oklahoma City, already battered by tornadoes a little over a week before, experienced several more tornadoes that caused damage including loss of life.  A tornado reaching an EF-3 (Severe) wind speed and damage rating touched down just southwest of the city of El Reno, approximately 30 miles west of Oklahoma City.  It moved east and ended at the Interstate 40 corridor.  On May 20, a tornado reaching the maximum EF-5 rating devastated a large area immediately south of Oklahoma City. It touched down near the city of Newcastle, cut through Moore, and ended approximately two miles west of Stanley Draper Lake.

The interactive tornado map above, powered by OpenLayers and using an OpenStreetMap layer, shows the May 20 and May 31 approximate tornado tracks, as well as tracks of other tornadoes that have occurred in this area since 1999 and reached a Severe or higher wind speed and damage designation. Their tracks are approximated with straight lines between their starting and ending locations.

It is apparent from the map’s pattern of streets and building footprints at higher zoom levels that many tornadoes produce tracks that impact lives and infrastructure in urbanized, heavily populated areas. As an example, zoom in on the May 20, 2013 track just west of Interstate 35.  Panning west in the storm track’s reverse direction, we see the intersection of the track with Plaza Towers Elementary School, on which the most closely followed rescue effort was focused, and with Briarwood Elementary School a little to the southwest.  Near the school, the track intersects the footprints of other mass gathering places, including a movie theater next to the interstate, and many individual homes.  Looking at the May 31 track, the reader can see its convergence with Interstate 40, a major highway serving Oklahoma City.

As focused as many tornadoes often are in their damage paths, a tornado moving through a heavily populated urban area can have a devastating cumulative effect even with a relatively short track. Current discussions about increasing public safety during tornadoes are very timely.

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Raises Questions About Planning and Zoning

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Author: David Willauer, Transportation Manager, IEM

The explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, this week serves as a sobering reminder of the role of planning and zoning for facilities near chemical plants. Why were a middle school and a nursing home located so close to a fertilizer plant that stores and uses dangerous chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia?

West Texas Fertilizer plant - buildings near explosion


Planning and zoning officials often do not have critical information such as downwind hazard zones or isolation protective action distances during the planning board process. As a result, schools, nursing homes, residential subdivisions, and child care facilities are often built too close to chemical facilities with downwind hazard zones or too close to highways and railroads transporting chemicals with known recommended isolation protective action distances.

IEM is working with local officials and industries in several states to gather real data about hazardous materials storage and transport and to translate that into actionable intelligence that helps planning officials make more informed zoning and facility siting decisions. This process is also building stronger bonds between industry, communities, and local officials as they collaborate more closely to improve public protection.

For details about the explosion, see Explosion hits fertilizer plant north of Waco, Texas.



Personal Account of Flooding from Hurricane Isaac in Ascension Parish, Louisiana

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Author: Tori Siears, Emergency Planner, Response & Recovery Division, IEM

sandbagging in acsencion parish

Sandbagging in Ascension parish

Hurricane Isaac hit my home state of Louisiana (and my home parish of Ascension) on August 29th & 30th.  Being an emergency planner in IEM’s Response and Recovery division, I am keenly interested, both professionally and personally, in how communities respond to storms like Hurricane Isaac. Even though Ascension Parish has faced massive flooding and damage to many homes, we have learned much from previous storms that makes us more resilient today than we were before.

I live in the southern portion of Ascension Parish where there was significant flooding. Dealing with the impact of the storm and the resulting high waters has been a stressful and exhausting situation. But I am happy to say that we came out of it unscathed. I had about 6 inches of water in my yard, but my house is raised far enough off the ground so it didn’t flood. The same can’t be said for many in my community and the surrounding communities. There are still many people with water in their houses and/or covering their roads. I have friends and relatives in the Ascension, Livingston, and St. James Parish areas that got water in their homes and a few of them lost everything. Some close friends have water up to their doorsteps and have been holding a 24-hour vigil watching and waiting. The water is finally starting to recede in most areas, but it is doing so very slowly. In addition, the area reeks of muddy water and the mosquitoes are out in full force. We haven’t seen as many snakes in the last few days, but I’m sure as we start to clean up, we will find them hiding in dry spots somewhere.

Many people have been comparing this storm to both Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. But as far as this area is concerned, this storm was more like Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. (more…)

Rescue and Storm Surge Video from Hurricane Isaac – Social Media Resources, Part 5

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Author: Disaster Social Network, IEM

Strong winds and big waves engulf Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans

Strong winds and large waves engulf Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans
Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Isaac has been downgraded to a tropical storm but is still dropping heavy rains on the Gulf states and cause many to lose power. Homes were flooded this morning in Plaquemines Parish as the water topped the 12-foot levee.  Below are links to video and photos of the storm surge and rescues that occurred today.


Interview with a woman rescued from the attic of her home in Plaquemines Parish (WFAA)–167838635.html

Hurricane Isaac blows massive waves from New Orleans’ Lake Ponchartrain on shore

Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans

West Closure Complex Pump Test

Isaac causes rough conditions at the levee in Kenner

Intense storm surge from Waveland, MS

Rough seas in Pensacola, FL from Hurricane Isaac

Isaac hits Pensacola, FL


New Orleans Isaac Landfall Slideshow:


More Resources:
Personal Accounts of Hurricane Isaac as He Lashes the Louisiana & Mississippi Coast – Social Media Resources, Part 4

Hurricane Isaac to Make Gulf Coast Landfall Tonight – Social Media Resources, Part 3

Isaac Reaches Hurricane Status – Social Media Resources Part 2

Tropical Storm Isaac Social Media Resources – Disaster Social Network
- Part 1
A Comparison of Hurricane Isaac’s Track and Historical Hurricane Katrina Track

Economic Losses from Hurricane Isaac Could Reach $21 Billion

Personal Accounts of Hurricane Isaac as He Lashes the Louisiana & Mississippi Coast – Social Media Resources, Part 4

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Author: Disaster Social Network, IEM

Hurricane Isaac at 10am CDT August 29th (photo credit: NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center)

Hurricane Isaac at 10am CDT August 29th
(photo credit: NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center)

Hurricane Isaac made landfall during the overnight hours.  At 9am CDT this morning, Isaac showed some weakening, but is still a Category 1 hurricane. It is moving slowly at 6mph and is center about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans. It is the threat of dangerous storm surges and flooding that has officials most concerned. There has been a very close watch on the levees as water topped the 12-foot levee in Plaquemines Parish this morning.

This morning IEM’s Disaster Social Network has tracked and collected some of the best eye-witness tweets, maps and video. Some of the Twitter accounts we have reposted from yesterday since we feel they are providing the most credible information and eye-witness reports.

Links to twitter, blogs, picture and video accounts are provided through the links below.


City of New Orleans EM (@nolaready)
CNN Weather Center
Maya Rodriguez
Jennifer Hale
Laura Buchtel
Kim Quillen
Scott Walker
Doug Kammerer
Carrie Rose
Kate Snow
Marnie Williams
(@MarnieTWC )
Mitch Landrieu (@MayorLandrieu)

Russell Lewis (@NPRrussell – NPR’s Southern U.S. Bureau Chief)

John Snell (@JohnSnellFox8 – New Orleans)

Pat Peterson (@WKRG_Pat – Gulf Shores)

WWL-TV (@WWLTV – New Orleans Metro)

Margaret Orr (@Margaret Orr – Chief Meteorologist at WDSU NewsChannel 6, New Orleans)

Dave Nussbaum (@Dave_Nussbaum – Meteorologist at WBRZ Channel 2, Baton Rouge)

Ryan Berni (@ryanberni – Citizen)


New Hashtags/Trends:

#isaacpix – tweet pictures to the Weather Channel


Map of confirmed overtopped levee in Plaquemines


Area live cam views:


Power outages map:

“More than a half-million customers without electricity, utilities report”

“Hurricane Isaac Pummels Louisiana Coast“

“Hurricane Isaac rescue efforts begin for stranded Plaquemines Parish residents “


“Hurricane Isaac Twitter timeline (photo gallery)”

“Isaac Update 3: Ongoing Response Efforts “

Hurricane Isaac – August 29, 2012 – Pictures/Tweets:

More Resources:

Hurricane Isaac to Make Gulf Coast Landfall Tonight – Social Media Resources, Part 3

Isaac Reaches Hurricane Status – Social Media Resources Part 2

Tropical Storm Isaac Social Media Resources – Disaster Social Network- Part 1

A Comparison of Hurricane Isaac’s Track and Historical Hurricane Katrina Track