This is part of a series about the largest disaster exercise conducted in Washington State history called Cascadia Rising, 2016. See the other blogs here.
Here’s some articles I found with another perspective on Cascadia Rising.
FEMA Headquarters did a fun live-blog for the duration. They asked bloggers from different areas of the response to post photos and write a few sentences. (Yours truly was featured a couple of times, too.)
A very thorough account of how an earthquake/tsunami would affect the Puget Sound area as well as details about the players in Tacoma. Check out the beautiful map.
A story done about the Navy and National Guard practicing in the field with real paratroop drops, docking vessels, and helicopter fly-overs. I was told that both the military and national guard were doing their own training concurrently with Cascadia Rising, but I was unable to ask more about it. Glad to have seen this story to get another perspective!
Really nice overview of the exercise with quotes from around the state and beautiful pictures from the Seattle Times.
The Navy and Coastguard practice building docks to deliver supplies at Port Townsend, Port Angeles and others. During this kind of event, one of the best ways to deliver help will be via water. The military has both super cool tech and super cool expertise.
I am embarrassed to tell you, friendly reader, exactly how UNprepared I am despite my extensive knowledge of and buy-in to disaster facts. I have no bug out bag, no emergency supplies for my cat, no evacuation plan (my husband and I share a car! How will we evacuate if we’re separated?), and no copies of important documents. I have a fire extinguisher only because it was here when we moved in (Landlords, take note!). But, I’ve decided to reject my feelings of shame and do something about it. Therefore, I’m introducing a new “Boot Camp” series. And I’d like you to partner with me! I’m taking a lesson from weight loss psychology. No shame, no guilt, only working together toward progress.
Notice, I said working toward progress not perfection. The thing about disasters is that they are uncertain. Take tsunami’s. We know that tsunami waves decrease exponentially in power the farther they get in land. And we’ve seen from the Japanese earthquake/tsunami that people who left immediately survived. Since no one can tell you exactly how far inland the tsunami will hit–both mathematically and practically–every step you take up or in increases your chances of survival. It’s the same for other disasters. Don’t be overwhelmed and disheartened by the awe-inspiring lengths Preppers go to survive an extinction-level event. No one can say exactly how big of an event you’re likely to experience, so every little bit of preparation adds up to better survival. You’re FAR better off BEGINNING to prepare than “finishing” (if you ever do finish, which is debatable). So if beginning is what’s important, let’s do that.
Ready? Goal One: Find out what hazards are in my area.
I’ve grown up in this area so I felt pretty confident in my assessment of the hazards. (Maybe you feel the same). Even when I lived briefly in Tornado Alley and the Wintery North East, I felt I understood what natural disasters I faced from their reputations. But, recently, I’ve discovered not one, but TWO different hazards in my home town that I didn’t even know existed. Awkward. Every Communications and Management expert will tell you that good decision making starts with knowing your initial conditions. So let’s do that. Let’s verify what out there.
1. Know the history. Let’s start with this simplified map which makes a list of likely disasters by region. I like this one because it includes tsunamis, pandemics, and economic downturns that the other maps don’t.
Now, let’s look at a more detailed map of disaster declarations over the last 50 years from FEMA (It’s really big and beautiful. It has to stay in a link because of formatting issues). Then, let’s look at this more recent map for the last 10 years.
There’s lots to see here. Notice that FEMA breaks up the US into “Regions”. This will be helpful to you later on. Each state is broken up into county. The darker red the county is, the more disaster declarations it’s had. The red doesn’t tell you what kind of disaster, just how many (see the key at lower right). The pie charts, on the other hand, tell you what kind of disasters but not where. So…you’ll have to do a little inferring. It looks like we all have flooding and winter storms in common. Last thing: in some pie charts you’ll notice “Other.” The “other” is different between the maps, so I highly recommend you look at the definition waaaaay down at the bottom left. For instance, in the 50 yr map, volcanoes, dam breaks, and landslides are included in “other” This is where knowing what land features are around you would be helpful.
2. Know your area. Let’s do a little geology/geography.
Ask your local authorities. A quick Google search of your town, county, or state’s “Emergency Management System” or “Disaster Response”. Some may continue to use “Civil Defense” name, though that is becoming increasingly rare. I highly encourage you to do this!
Map library based on state. Has maps of roads, rivers, elevation, etc. If you click on the river map in your state and scroll down, you’ll find a drought map, water flow rate map, and more. (Left: water features of Washington State. Right: drought map of Nevada)
USGS “water watch” site. Updates drought and flooding maps daily.
EPA EnviroMapper. Search for chemicals and industry that could affect your air or water.
Level Up: A lot of places have information on the intensity of a potential disaster. San Fransisco, for instance has numbers on how big of an earthquake to expect. Ask your local authorities if this information is available for your area.
3. Gather situational awareness.Situational awareness is knowing what’s happening around you right now. Do you know where to go for severe weather advisories or flood predictions?
Know what kind of warnings your area uses. Outdoor alarms? Push notifications (reverse 911)? Often you have to opt-in to local or regional push notifications. Your jurisdiction EM office should have information on how to do that.
Red Cross weather hazard library. A collection of constantly updated maps. Find rainfall/flood risk maps, wind gusts, status of tsunami and earthquake monitoring stations, air quality or heat maps, etc.
Map of seismic zones overlayed with nuclear reactor locations (courtesy Mike Meuser via CrisisHQ)
You can make your own “Lifeline” map here. (A lifeline map shows roads, sewers, electrical plants–anything a city needs to survive). I encourage you to play around with the map. There’s lots and lots of USGS info on it that you can overlay onto your specific area. It’s a really good source for local knowledge.
ESRI Severe Weather Public Information Map. Real time, crowd sourced severe weather reports. Puts NOAA warnings, and Twitter, Youtube, and Flikr info on a map. (Click “Fullscreen” over upper left map corner to get details like pic below).
4. Know what to do about it.
The Red Cross has a list of (almost) all possible hazards. It’s good to start with a long list so we don’t miss something important. Notice the lovely alphabetical order and the lots and lots of further resources listed underneath.
I think that’s enough for today. Whew! Good work, everyone. Look at how much better prepared we all are!
If you found helpful resources, please do share them below.
As Emergency Managers (EMs) we talk a lot about “resilient” communities which are cities and towns that can bounce back after a disaster. Lots of things make some places more resilient than others: stringent building codes, strong local business, committed volunteers, closely connected IRL social networks (IRL = in real life… we’re talking about how well people are connected to their neighbors).
But individuals can be resilient too.
I’m reading Resilience at Work by Salvatore Maddi and Deborah Khoshaba for class and it got me to thinking about what happens to people under high stress–why some people crumble and why some withstand or even thrive under the stress. Understanding what makes people resilient is important to me (and you!) for three reasons:
1. Both of our jobs (mine and yours) are likely to change frequently and rapidly these days due to changes in technology, political/social contexts, etc. It behooves our mental and physical health to withstand the stress that comes with change. In other words, I want to be prepared to be happy more frequently than miserable.
1b. Emergencies are stressful so practicing coping skills is part of being prepared.
2. The more resilient we are, the more we can help people.
3. The more resilient everyone is, the better we can recover from disasters and the better the world is.
So what makes us resilient?
Good question. Lots of things. Resilience is a mosaic of attitudes, beliefs, and skills that you can learn. (Yay!) Lets look at what the experts say. (For ease of viewing, I’m going to group overlapping ideas into categories with citations after each line.)
Believe growth is possible instead of believing you’re born with a finite amount of intelligence/talent/creativity/etc. (This is straight from Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset“. I HIGHLY recommend you read it if you haven’t already. Not only is it important, but it’s got interesting stories too.)
Be pro puzzle/challenge. Resilient people see problems as an opportunity to grow their toolbox. They think puzzles are fun and like challenging their brain. Seen in this context, problems and failure aren’t so threatening. (Dweck)
Failure isn’t final. Failure doesn’t mean your stupid or talentless. It means you’re learning which is valuable. (Dweck)
Change is an opportunity. Rather than fear or avoid change, Resilient people think of ways to benefit from the change. (Maddi & Khoshaba)
Practice good mental tools:
Choose what you tell yourself: (What Pscyhology Today calls “self-talk”)– talk to yourself about your strengths and support. Reject self-criticism and fear. Be thankful. Remember, you head toward where you look.
Fake it till you make it: (Psychology Today). This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you act confident, soon you’ll feel confident. Here’s a wonderful TED talk for more.
Practice Functional Attitudes: Give yourself a break if you don’t get these right away. They take practice.
Stay positive/optimistic (Psychology Today)– this isn’t to say you should avoid the realities of your current problem or deny your fear, but you can choose to focus on things your thankful for or a cautiously optimistic picture of the future.
Stay open and curious (Psychology Today)– stress can narrow our focus and cause us to rely on old habits to get us through. Resist that temptation. Brainstorm other solutions, talk to people, be curious about the new changes and your role in it.
Be brave As Maddi & Khoshaba state in their book, “It’s difficult to completely eliminate the fear that comes with stressful changes, but you can learn to manage it and do what needs to be done anyway.”
Tolerate a little Uncertainty. We don’t like it, but since you don’t know the future, you’re just going to have to be flexible (Psychology Today) For more info, here’s what wikipedia says.
Believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Psychology Today calls it “stress inoculation“–those who have experienced some stress are better able to handle later stress.
Embrace change as a part of life
If you expect it to happen, it’s not so scary. (Me)
Maddi & Khoshaba’s 3 C’s
Commitment: view work as important enough to stay engaged
Have a sense of purpose. (Maddi & Khoshaba)
Control: Believe that you can positively influence outcomes. Resist sinking into powerlessness.
stay engaged with your work, the process of change, your fellow coworkers/family, etc.
Challenge: be alert for opportunities, embrace change as a part of life, and express optimism toward the future
Get Support: Stay connected and engaged with coworkers, resolve conflicts, and work for win-win solutions (Maddi & Khoshaba)
Get Organized (Psychology Today). List coping mechanisms you can employ, list possible solutions, choose a goal, list steps to get there, list opportunities you could forsee, list priorities (maybe it’s time to clear a few things from your plate?), put your projects on Trello, Make a to-do list. Whatever you need to feel more comfortable, do it.
Get prepared (me)– get training if you need it (especially in technology–I know I tend to avoid new tech that I don’t understand. But that just makes it worse.). Get mentally prepared (Psychology Today calls it Visualization)
Set limits (my mom)– say no to extra projects, set a timer on odious projects, etc. This is good advice for lots of areas of your life. Learn more at PsychCentral.
Take care of yourself: (Psychology Today)
Stay connected with family/friends
Take time to de-stress But make sure you aren’t avoiding the stress of work with Netflix marathons (Maddi & Khoshaba)
Watch your health: (Maddi & Khoshaba) Stress often causes us to over-eat, over-drink, and under-sleep. Remember, exercise is an excellent de-stresser.
You can see how these resiliency factors overlap and support one another. The good news is you probably already have functional coping skills that you can build on.
While Maddi & Khoshaba were writing primarily about work-related stress, I believe the principles hold true for disaster-related stress. The book uses army personnel as examples of resiliency under acute stress, so there’s some precedence here.
If you’d like to know more about how YOU cope. Take my QUIZ! It’s quick.
Are you practicing any of these ideas? Tell us about it!
Last week my Crisis Communications class looked at the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings as an example of government using Twitter effectively to communicate with the public. What I noticed most was that the author’s attributed Boston PD’s adept handling of social media to the fact that they had had a standing relationship with a Twitter audience already–long before the marathon even happened. Granted, their followers were fairly few, but when people flooded to their stream (heh, pun) they had the culture and infrastructure in place to handle the misinformation, the safety concerns, and the expectations of the public. [If you want to read what the academics are saying about the event a year later, check out these summaries of journal articles. Fascinating.]
All this prompted me to think about the public’s relationship with the government and how unusual it is to find a government (or sometimes even private business) entity that does Twitter well. As an Emergency Manager, part of my job is making sure people get warned about impending doom and more and more, people are getting warned through breaking news on Twitter. So I want to make sure that the information people get from their social networks is high quality information: useful, accurate, and timely. By the way, my textbooks tell me that according to a recent survey, about 80% of you expect someone to be monitoring Twitter during a disaster for distress calls. That’s an important expectation for us to respond to. I have a vested interest in making sure that the communication that happens over social media is effective and that the public develops a good relationship with high-quality informers BEFORE a disaster happens. Because after a disaster happens, we’re in the “fog of war”.
That’s a lot of build up to say that basically, I went forth onto the Great Information Highway and collected tips for you. Free of charge.
How to Find Quality Disaster Tweeps:
1. Twitter Alerts. Before you do anything, I want to talk about Twitter Alerts. Go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) twitter page. These are the storm people. NOTICE: on the left side under the “Tweet to NOAA” button there’s a little statement that says “In times of crisis this account helps share critical information with Twitter Alerts. Be Prepared“. Accounts with that statement are top priority. If you’re only going to follow one person, make sure it’s a person with that statement. Click the Be Prepared link and Twitter will take you to a page that explains how Twitter Alerts works and allows you to sign up to get alerts from NOAA. It’s sorta like a mobile version of a reverse 911. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ok… now when we talk about other accounts, watch for that little statement.
2. Quality Accounts. Here are a few people already doing a stellar job in the Twitterverse.
* Craig Fugate, FEMA Director. If you’re still thinking about the last director who some believe tanked the Hurricane Katrina response, don’t worry. This guy is new, experienced, and pretty hip. His site has cool new facts, FEMA programs (like this partnership with Disney’s Big Hero 6 movie), and a nation-wide/birds-eye view perspective.
* Besides NOAA (above), you also might like the National Weather Service. They also provide information about storms and unexpected freezes.
* Bill Gates, entrepreneur/philanthropist. You never hear much news about Bill Gates anymore and that’s because he’s traveling all over the world doing work for his foundation. He just met with the House of Lords in England and Germany’s Chancelor, Angela Merkel to garner support for Ebola aid in Africa–and more broadly–world health. I’m a huge fan of his work. You might like to follow him if you want a world-large perspective.
* I like Ready.gov ‘s account because it retweets from the Fire Department, National Guard, Homeland Security, and almost anyone else talking about preparedness. It’s nice because people like the Coast Guard don’t ONLY talk about preparedness, but when they do it’s important. So Ready.gov is like a filter for all the non-emergency news. They also have some content in Spanish. It might be a good starting place to see who else you like.
* FEMA en espanol. Pretty much the only Spanish-only Twitter Alerts I could find readily. If you know someone who speaks Spanish as a first language, send them here.
3. Local Accounts. How to find people near you.
In America, it’s the local authorities who are in charge of the disaster response (and the national authorities who send the money). When a disaster happens, you’ll want information from the people in your jurisdiction just like Bostonians wanted the BPD’s info. Here’s how to identify quality local accounts.
* WeFollow.com is a user-generated director that collects Twitter accounts into hashtags. Best of all, it displays them based on influence and/or follower counts so you can get an idea of who’s awesome on Twitter. Furthermore, the little search bar on the side lets you search by location so you can find quality people near you. Check out these Emergency Managers. Notice the grey bar at the very top suggests other key words to search with.
* Go to Craig Fugate’s Following list. Hit ctrl+F or find your browser’s search bar then type in your state’s name. He follows all the state’s Offices of Emergency Management, but they’re not all called the same thing, so it’s sometimes hard to find them. Chances are your state’s OEM (or EMD, SMEM, etc.) will be following local entities worth noting. For instance, my state’s –Washington Emergency Managment Division– follows the National Weather Service, Seattle branch.
*FEMA Regions. FEMA breaks up the country into regions and those regions have their own Twitter accounts. The posts often overlap with the national account, but they sometimes have good regional information like storm-specific preparedness tips (not a lot of Tornadoes in WA state.) or tribal news. Look at the map below to see which region you belong to then go find that account by searching Twitter’s search bar.
* Search your local city hall, state government, police/fire departments and anyone else you can think of to see if they’re on Twitter.
* Make sure their profile is fully filled out
* Determine how frequently they tweet. If they’re last tweet was a week ago, ditch them.
* Determine quality of tweets. Do they retweet relevant material? Do they balance their retweets with original content? (If they only retweet, they’re lazy. If they only post original content despite what everyone else is talking about, they’re not good listeners and probably won’t be too helpful during an emergency) Do they participate in the conversation or do they treat their account like a bulletin board? Can you tell if they’re responsive to other users?
* Who do they follow? Maybe it’s someone useful. Make sure they follow a wide range of relevant people. They shouldn’t be following everyone who follows them and they shouldn’t be too insulated by following only people who they agree with.
4. Preparedness accounts. Other honorable mentions. These people don’t necessarily post emergency updates, but they do talk about preparedness topics.
Why Pinterest might be a super-great thing for public education.
I read a cool report in a magazine while I was standing in line for my coffee which discussed a recent consumer survey studying American spending habits since the Great Recession in 2008. It was particularly interesting to me, because–as a Millennial– I came of age during the recession and therefore have (according to most industry experts) a permanently altered spending strategy. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the article again on the internet, but I did find others which I will share below.)
Here’s what happened. The 2008 recession was so huge and long lasting that it created a new generation of spend-thrifts with almost the exact same values as we saw from those who lived during the Great Depression. (My husband’s grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and they behaved remarkably similar to the way we do.) We carefully research before we buy big ticket items. We save our windfalls or apply it to debt instead of taking expensive vacations. (Read more here and here) And–most important to this blogger–we’ve seen a rise in the DIY movement.
Pinterest was created during the upswing of this “return to self-sufficiency” mentality. (In 2011/2012 according to Wikipedia). Parents (mostly women in America) began to see their job as home-makers to encompass self-sufficient activities. Like cooking in instead of eating out (which is both cheaper and healthier); Remaking clothes out of thrift store finds; Planning stay-cations instead of expensive trips; and making gifts instead of buying them at Christmas and Birthdays. Pinterest became the ideal place to save recipes, sewing patterns, furniture fixes, life hacks, gardening tips, and more. It supported this drive toward “make it work” in a compelling, visual way.
Neo-Survivalism Finds an Audience
This return to self-sufficiency also triggered a renewed interest in “prepping”. This 2008 New York Times interview illustrates the image shift survivalists experienced during this time. They went from gun-happy weirdos in the mountains to normal, concerned citizens who no longer believed in the infallibility of governments and infrastructure. (And just look at how Hurricane Katrina went).
It turned out that Mom’s on Pinterest–focused on their family’s well being– responded eagerly to “prepping” activities. They melded family preparedness with DIY values and crafting skills into a powerful, synergistic model. Pins about Bug-out bags stand shoulder to shoulder with pins about canning, document organization and retention, pet first-aid, and educational kid’s activities, games, or puzzles.
Consider the paracord.
A good example of this kind of influential melding can be seen in paracord crafts. During war time, troops were taught how to use their parachute cords in a variety of life-saving ways like making tourniquet’s, shelters, snares, etc. Survivalists rediscovered (or at least re-disseminated) all kinds of military and back-country survival methods and began advocating taking paracord on hikes, in bug-out bags and emergency kits, etc. On Pinterest, it rapidly took on the facade of crafting as cool paracord macrame crafts became available: bracelets, key chains with hidden compartments, water bottle slings, shoelaces, and on and on. Survival techniques like this one become cool on Pinterest. Conversely, crafting becomes useful. Many people (myself included) are less willing to do crafting for the sake of the craft. We want everything we do to have both form and function.
A Motivated Audience
Pinterest is host to an audience of highly motivated, caring citizens. We want preparedness education. We love our families and want them to be safe. Emergency Management is in a prime position to be an influential voice on Pinterest because there’s already a culture of self-sufficiency and life hacking there. While Emergency Managers don’t often view their messages as “life hacks” maybe they should. Maybe it would get more attention.
Here’s a list of some of the best Preppers on Pinterest. I highly recommend a peek:
* The Survival Mom –anything you would ever want from a book list, to craft projects, to frugal living, to fire arm safety/self-defense, to health, to fashion… I love her.
* Preparing for SHTF — Probably the most pins I’ve ever seen. High quality information. Ranges from the intense, military-grade prepping to the more casual “I want a useful garden” type prepping. Definitely worth a visit.
* Backdoor Survival — A few more homesteading basics and some mental health tips and quotes.
* Knowledge Weighs Nothing — it’s true. Very good source for at home medical remedies and survival uses for common household items.