Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter
July 2010

In This Issue
Featured Whitepaper
What's New?
Emergency Management Comptencies
Social Media and Disasters
From the Bookshelf
Speaking Engagements
Featured Whitepaper
The Heat's On! 
Planning for Extreme Temperature Events



low-onset disasters are insidious - they frequently start off so slowly that it's hard to realize you're facing a crisis until you're stuck in the middle of it. This is the result of the human tendency to normalize events - that is, to see them as routine occurrences that resemble previous, non-threatening experiences. One of the most common slow-onset events faced by emergency managers is the extreme temperature event.

According to the NOAA, this past January - June had the warmest worldwide temperature average (57.5F/ 12.2C) ever recorded. At this writing, the United States and Canada have been enduring a heat wave that saw temperatures of over 100F in many major cities on the East Coast, with New York City hitting 103F for the first time since 2001. Europe is also experiencing a heat wave that has produced temperatures in the mid 90's. China is seeing temperatures of 104F.



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Welcome to the July issue of Emergency Management Solutions
 Wherever you stand on the issue of climate change, there is no arguing that this summer has certainly been one of the hottest on record. This month's featured whitepaper and book recommendation offer some tools for your use in planning for extreme temperature events. I hope you find them of value.
Lucien Canton
What's New? 
If you missed last month's issue, you'll notice some changes. I've moved a number of shorter articles and recurring features to the email portion of this newsletter to make them more readily available to you. In the column at the left, you'll find the first paragraphs and the link to my featured article. These articles will no longer include the newsletter material, making them more useful for handouts and training courses. Past articles can be found under the heading  "White Papers" in the Free Resources section of my website.
Emergency Management Competencies
My friend and colleague, Valerie Lucus-McEwen, blogs for Emergency Management magazine and is currently doing a seven part series on careers in emergency management. Several of her articles deal with the issue of competencies. You're going to be hearing a lot about competencies over the next year or so as a number of organizations are working on defining who we are as emergency managers. The NFPA 1600 Technical Committee has a task group on competencies. IAEM's Standards and Practices Caucus also has a working group on competencies, which I chair. Colleagues in Ireland and New Zealand have shared competency documents that are already in use in those countries.
Defining competencies for our profession is an important step. A competency framework can be used as a benchmarking tool for professional development, a basis for job descriptions, a foundation for higher education courses, and a guideline for certification, to name just a few of its potential uses. It will go a long way to truly defining who we are and what we do.
I'll keep you informed as things develop. At some point, drafts will need to be reviewed and your input is essential.
Social Media and Disasters
If you're like me, you've probably been spending some time trying to figure out how we can best make use of social media in disasters. A recent session at the FEMA Higher Education conference moderated by Rocky Lopes helped lift some of the fog. Imagine if your plans section could graphically aggregate the various bits of information that is coming in via social media. That's the concept behind Ushahidi, a program originally developed to post-election violence in Kenya. Ushahidi was deployed with great success during the earthquake in Haiti.
I do have reservations about using individual social media reports to deploy tactical resources, despite at least one documented case where a Twitter message led to the rescue of a person buried in rubble. But as a former Plans Section Chief on many disasters, aggregate information all pointing to the same problem areas would definitely get my attention. If nothing else, I would deploy some of my intelligence-collection resources to check it out.
Check out Ushahidi. The software is free and it just might be the tool you've been looking for to deal with the social media flood.
From the Bookshelf
This month's whitepaper makes the case for extreme temperature events as social problems rather than a traditional response problem. A lot of my thinking on extreme temperature events has been influenced by Eric Klineberg's book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. Klineberg analyzes the heat wave of July 1995 that killed over 700 people in Chicago. The book is written from a sociological perspective but there is plenty in it  for emergency managers (particularly Chapter 3). If nothing else, it will raise your awareness on why we cannot separate social vulnerability from emergency planning.
Speaking Engagements
October 30: Emergency Management Program Fundamentals Workshop, International Association of Emergency Managers Conference, San Antonio TX.
November 1: Forge of the Gods: Volcanoes as the Ultimate Cascading Event,  International Association of Emergency Managers Conference, San Antonio TX.
Need a speaker for your next conference? I offer keynotes, seminars and workshops. You can find more details on my website.