Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter


Helping Managers Lead Better in Crisis

September 2011

In This Issue
Strategic Planning
Video: Social Media Policy
Professional Development
Life Balance
From the Bookshelf
Speaking Engagements

Strategic Planning


Getting the most out of your program

If I were to ask you if you have an emergency management program, what would you say? Most of the people I meet are quick to respond, "Well, of course!" However, the single most common problem I find in both the public and private sector is the lack of two basic pieces of program documentation: an administrative plan and a strategic plan. I suggest that without these two documents, you really don't have a program, just a collection of tasks and requirements.


The administrative plan documents the governance structure of your program. It describes the membership and authority of your advisory group or planning team, the source of your program funding, how often you meet, how you communicate, and how you make decisions. In short, it answers the question. "Who are we?"


The strategic plan documents what you are trying to accomplish with your program. As such it serves as an agreement among participants in the strategy, a tool to keep the program on track, and a yardstick to measure progress.


The strategic plan is without a doubt the most important component of your program. It should be the centerpiece of your program, not your operational plans. The strategic plan creates the context that allows operational plans to be effective.



Disaster Preparedness Series 


Part 4 Safe Shelter and Recovery
Part 4 Safe Shelter and Recovery


This is the fourth video in the Golden Gate Regional Center Disaster Preparedness video series for the developmentally disabled. This video discusses three options for safe shelter after a disaster.

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Welcome to the September issue of Emergency Management Solutions. This month's issue is devoted to the subject of management.


It's easy to forget that the word "management" is in our title for a reason. But we can never lose sight of the fact that, while we may be more comfortable or excited about dealing with the tactical aspects of our job, we are managers first and our thinking must be strategic. We have a critical job: to build the framework that allows for effective response and recovery. No one else is charged with this responsibility - it's what makes us unique.


If you are having trouble viewing my featured article, 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 


I've devoted the past ten years or so to convincing my colleagues that the emphasis in "emergency manager" should be on the word "manager". It's not always an easy sell for a lot of reasons. However, if you can make the paradigm shift, your perspective changes drastically.


To illustrate my point, think about the following two statements:

  • I write the emergency plan.
  • I make sure the emergency plan is written.

It's a bit like looking at one of those Victorian pictures that has a hidden image that becomes obvious when you shift your perspective. The first statement is that of a technician, an expert in emergency planning. The second is that of a manager who understands that planning is about relationships and meeting needs and not about the written document.


Thinking like a manager not only changes our perspective, it changes how others perceive us. Technicians generally don't get invited to advise senior executives or to participate in strategy development. Managers do. You'll be more effective if you can deal with executives as a peer rather than as a technical specialist.


There's a reason why the Certified Emergency Management application requires 100 hours of general management training in addition to 100 hours of emergency management training. General management skills such as strategic planning and budgeting have direct applicability to your program. Take advantage of them. You'll never look at your program the same way again!

Life Balance 

A big problem for many of us is the volume of information we receive each day. A good part of that arrives electronically. If you're like me, your typical day begins with emails from colleagues in other time zones. Then there are the messages from social media groups and the RSS feeds from blogs and other information sites (hopefully, Canton on Emergency Management is one of them!). How do you keep it all straight?
Here are some of the techniques I use to better manage my time:
  1. Consider using digests rather than individual emails from social media groups. It keeps you from being distracted by a thread and allows you to skim messages once.
  2. Set up folders in your email program and route messages directly to them. This helps you prioritize messages you need to action over messages you can review at your leisure.
  3. If your email program offers a preview pane, use it to skim through messages.
  4. Flag messages that require action and set reminders if necessary.
  5. Use an aggregator such as Nutshell or Tweet Deck for your social media sites. Aggregators allow you to skim messages and keep current without investing a lot of time. If you're spending more than a half hour on social media everyday, you're probably putting too much time into it.
From the Bookshelf 


There are hundreds of books on leadership available, most of which are not terribly useful or practical. Michael Useem's book,The Go Point: When It's Time To Decide - Knowing What to Do and When to Do It, is both. Unlike books that focus solely on theory or strictly business examples, Useem draws from interviews with leaders in many fields to establish common principles. He uses examples from different professions and historical periods to demonstrate these principles. Of particularly interest to emergency managers is the chapter on the 1994 Storm King Mountain Fire in Colorado that sparked changes in how the fire services train leaders. Each chapter provides a decision making template that the reader can use to construct his/her own memory aid.
Speaking Engagements 

November 15: A Tale of Three Fires: Do We Really Learn from Disasters? International Association of Emergency Managers Conference, Las Vegas NV

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 SpeakerMixpage. 


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 SpeakerMix site. Just go to the site and click on the "Write A Review" button. 


Many thanks!

ŠLucien G. Canton  March 2011