Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter
December 2010
Happy Holidays!

In This Issue
Featured White Paper
Professional Development
Life Balance for Emergency Managers
From the Bookshelf
Speaking Engagements

Featured White Paper


Emergency Plans: Are They Really Necessary?


Five Steps to Better Response Operations


n my first month as Director of Emergency Services in San Francisco, I was notified about a four alarm fire in one of our residential hotels. Not being really sure what my job was in such cases, I went to the scene and found that about 120 elderly Filipinos, many war veterans, had been displaced. When I asked about our sheltering plan, I was told that our plan was "just for disasters."

Over the next few days, it became apparent that the usual procedure of dumping the problem on the Red Cross was not working. The Red Cross could not deal with the wide range of issues resulting from an aging population of non-English speakers with significant health and geriatric issues.

If you've spent more than ten minutes as an emergency manager, you've probably heard the famous quote from General Eisenhower about plans being useless but planning essential. It's as valid today as it was when IKE first used it but maybe we should ask, "If plans are so useless, why do we bother writing them?"


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Welcome to the December issue of Emergency Management Solutions

As emergency managers, one of our major tasks is to develop emergency plans. But even with over fifty years of experience in doing this, we still seem to have problems developing effective plans. My whitepaper this month looks at some of the reasons our plans may not be as effective as we think. 

If you are having trouble viewing the white paper, try clicking on the link at the top of the page. Alternatively, you can always find my white paper on my blog site, Canton on Emergency Management.
And from my family to you and yours, happy holidays and may the new year be one of peace and joy!
Lucien Canton

Professional Development 

You may have read about the recent grand jury indictment of a former emergency manager in Lincoln County, North Carolina on charges of forgery and falsifying documents. Unfortunately, these crimes were not committed for personal gain but rather appears to have been an attempt to circumvent Federal grant requirements. The person in question used grant funds to obtain equipment that was not on the list of grant-eligible items and then falsified documents for submission to the state.


Anyone who has worked with the Federal grant programs has experienced frustration with the list of items approved for purchase with grant funds. Simply put, the list is an attempt to impose a "one-size-fits-all" solution that doesn't always meet the needs of a local jurisdiction. And we've all done our best to try and get what we need using grant funds, in spite of the list.


But there is a line we cannot cross. One of the Principles of Emergency Management is professionalism, which includes adhering to high standards of integrity. Further, we are expected to put the best interests of the people we serve before everything else. Leaving aside the issue of public embarrassment, this particular case can have serious financial repercussions for a county already struggling with budget deficits.


So resist the temptation to go beyond creative interpretation of grant requirements and cross the line into fraud. Make it clear to your subordinates, vendors, and others you have regular contact with that you have no tolerance for this type of behavior. You may not always be popular but you'll sleep better at night.

Life Balance for Emergency Managers 

When was the last time you gave yourself a reward? As emergency managers, we tend to live in the future rather than the present. We focus on where we need to be and not what we have accomplished. This carries over into our lives and we set tough criteria for rewarding ourselves. "I'll take a vacation when this project is done." "I'll take a few days off after we get this through the legislative process."

We need to do a bit better for ourselves. It's allright to reward ourselves in small ways on a regular basis. You are not indispensable. You can give yourself a day off or take some needed sick time. You can spend time with your family.

Learn to trust your staff; learn to delegate. Take a few minutes each day to recognize what you've accomplished and reward yourself, even if it's in a small way.

From the Bookshelf

Ever wonder why your elected officials seem unmoved by your careful marshalling of facts and data? It may well be because their personal vision is self-contained and self-justifying and independent of reality. This is the premise of Thomas Sowell's The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as Basis for Social Policy. Sowell uses a number case studies to demonstrate how social policies evolve based on assumptions rather than facts and how measures of success can be redefined after the fact. Worse, opposing social policy may cause you to be perceived as morally wrong.

While Sowell talks specifically about social policy from a conservative viewpoint, his book made me realize why I had to shift strategies when dealing with some elected officials. It also helped me decide which political battles to fight and which to avoid. 

Speaking Engagements
February 8: Ten Reasons Plans Fail Textile Rental Services Association regional meeting, Los Angeles, CA

February 8: Ten Reasons Plans Fail Textile Rental Services Association regional meeting, San Francisco, CA
September 28: Social Media and Disaster Management, TAK Response Conference and Exhibition, San Jose, CA
Need a speaker for your next conference? I offer keynotes, seminars and workshops. You can find more details on my website.