Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter
 March 2011

In This Issue
White Paper
Disaster Preparedness Video Series
Professional Development
Life Balance for Emergency Managers
From the Bookshelf
Speaking Engagements

Japan's Earthquake: What Will We Learn?


Four lessons we will continue to ignore

Just one week after the earthquake in Japan we are already seeing numerous articles and news stories about "lessons learned" from the earthquake and tsunami. There's certainly no doubt that we learn a lot from disasters and we should continually strive to improve our capacity to respond. However, I share the opinion of one of my colleagues who once told me, "It ain't a lesson learned until you actually do something about it." I'm afraid that he will be proven right again and that we will really learn nothing from the suffering in Japan.

The problem is that we learn the technical lessons of disasters very well. We have made amazing technological improvements in predicting disasters, showing graphically how they occurred and improving warning systems. However, we still continue to ignore the fundamental lessons readily apparent in every disaster.



Disaster Preparedness Video Series 

Part 1

GGRC - Disaster Preparedness & Mitigation
Disaster Preparedness & Mitigation

In 2008 I was asked by the Golden Gate Regional Center in California to serve as the adviser on a series of preparedness videos for the developmentally disabled community. It was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable projects I have had and I'm delighted to learn that this series of videos is now available on YouTube.


This is the first video in the series. It describes disasters, introduces a strategy for preparedness and looks at simple non-structural mitigation. While intended for the DD community, the video does address universal themes of preparedness and mitigation.


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Welcome to the March issue of Emergency Management Solutions
All of us, I'm sure, have been focused on the earthquake in Japan a little over a week ago. We also continue to support our colleagues in Christchurch, New Zealand, as they continue their relief efforts. These events have, as usual, sparked the call for lessons learned. But do we really learn from disasters? This month's white paper asks that question.
You'll also notice that something new has been added to this month's newsletter - video links. This month I link to the first in a series of eight videos on preparedness for the developmentally disabled community. I'm hoping to link to the other videos in the coming months. If you'd like to see them all, you can find links to the entire series in the Free Resources section of my website.

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.
Lucien Canton

Professional Development 

Have you been following the recent earthquake in Japan?  As professionals, we should be eager to learn from the experiences of others. Our Japanese colleagues are among the best in the world when it comes to pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness and this earthquake and tsunami will be a proving ground for a lot of our theories and tactics. But have you ever considered how you're getting your news?


If you're just watching the evening news, I submit that you're not being serious about it. Not to denigrate my colleagues in the media, but the short capsulated format of the nightly news and the emphasis on video really doesn't allow them to provide the type of information we need. On the other hand, there is so much flooding the Internet that you can well suffer from information overload.


So where do you go for good information? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Know your source. News sources don't always get it right. Bloggers tend to pass on information gleaned from other sources. Look for credible information sources.
  • Whenever possible, go to primary sources. Instead of reading a news summary or consolidated report, go to the sources cited in the report and read them yourself. If an article references a report that seems important to you, see if you can locate it and read it yourself.
  • Check official websites for reports. Check to make see if these reports are about the organization's activities or just a compilation of data from other reports.
  • Work your contacts. This easier if you're a member of the International Association of Emergency Managers or a similar organization. You can reach out to colleagues for information. Remember, though, your colleague may only know the small piece of the disaster that he or she is working on and may not have access to the big picture.

Life Balance for Emergency Managers 

Are you there for your friends? The recent tsunami warning in California sparked a number of calls from friends who were concerned. They knew nothing about tsunamis beyond the news reports for the big ones in Far East and were understandably concerned so I began receiving calls early in the morning.


Do you see these calls as annoyances? What about similar calls from concerned citizens? If you do, maybe you need to rethink your attitude. I realize that in times of crisis we tend to focus on essential tasks to the exclusion of others but ultimately our job is about people. We need to take the time to provide that moment of reassurance, to provide that little bit of customer service.

From the Bookshelf

A huge earthquake followed by devastating tsunami, thousands killed and displaced, infrastructure completely obliterated. Sound familiar? I'm not talking about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, however. On November 1, 1755, Lisbon, Portugal, was destroyed by an 8.6 magnitude earthquake that generated a series of tsunami waves reaching 40 feet. The earthquake also caused fire to break out and what was left of the city burned for over five days. How the government coped with the disaster and the lengthy recovery is the subject of Nicholas Shrady's book

The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.


The Lisbon earthquake has rightly been called the first modern disaster because of the innovations used during the recovery, including the first use of structural mitigation and economic incentives. Shrady's book reminds us that it's still possible to learn from the past.

Speaking Engagements 

April 16: Social Media and Disaster Preparedness Redwood City Chamber of Commerce 42nd Annual Progress Seminar, Monterey CA

September 14: Keynote Address Kansas Emergency Management Association Annual Meeting, Topeka KS



Looking for a Speaker?


Need a speaker for your next conference? I offer keynotes, seminars and workshops. You can find more details on my website  or on my new SpeakerWiki page. 


Lucien Canton Seminar Excerpts

Lucien Canton

Seminar Excerpts

If you've heard me speak...

...I'd greatly appreciate it if you would take a minute to give me feedback on my SpeakerWiki site. Just go to the site and click on the "Write A Review" button. 


Many thanks!

ŠLucien G. Canton  March 2011