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Note: This article was written in collaboration with Kelly R McKinney, AVP, Emergency Management + Enterprise Resilience at NYU Langone Health in New York City and Mark Annas, Emergency Management Coordinator of Riverside California. Originally published in the Resilience Post.

“The thing we need to get people to understand is that when you’re dealing with an infectious disease outbreak…it’s the country that’s involved, so we need to respond as a nation, not in a fragmented way.” Dr. Anthony Fauci [1]

As President-elect Biden prepares to assume command of the ongoing pandemic response, we are calling for a long overdue upgrade to our existing national disaster system. The system we have in the United States is based on the “home rule” concept of government that enables cities and counties to manage their own affairs without interference from their states. Over the past fifty years, home rules laws in most states have been used to delegate to local governments — some thirty thousand across the country — the primary responsibility for disaster response. …

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COVID-19 WEA message sent to Harris County, TX residents on November 17, 2020.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) have come along way. Established in 2008 by the Warning, Alert and Response Network Act, WEA became operational in 2012. It is a unique public-private partnership: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency working with the wireless industry, on a voluntary basis, to provide actionable emergency information to the public.

The state of technology in 2012 left much room for improvement in keeping up with the latest capabilities we are now accustomed to on our mobile devices. I recently had the opportunity to chair a working group that brought together government, telecommunications, academic, technology and innovation leaders to make these needed changes. …

The Second Half of 2020

The blinking red light

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The alarm is sounding. We usually hear its screeching high pitched sound and it captures our attention. The blinking red light puts us on high alert. But that’s not the case right now. The alarm is now just a constant humming sound in the background. The warning is void of the alarm.

We are only months into a global pandemic and many of us are now accustomed to the alarm. Some of us are resigned to the chaos wreaked by the virus. We’re numb. We can’t imagine that things could actually get worse. …

Hosted by Tetra Tech

“It sounds like a daunting challenge but the one piece of advice I consistently give my colleagues across the country is to cover as much turf as you can. Identify what your priority areas are and focus on those.”


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Read the 2020 hurricane season forecast by NOAA

In this 30-minute webinar, Tetra Tech’s emergency management experts focused on what local governments are thinking about and planning for as they prepare for hurricane season in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tetra Tech’s post-disaster team is sharing the platform with representatives from Harris County, Texas; Richland County, South Carolina; and Tampa, Florida, to hear what steps they are taking and what concerns are keeping them up at night. …

I See You: An Open Letter from Emergency Managers to Those We Serve

Sawubona: the beautiful African greeting that literally means, “I see you, you are important to me and I value you.” It is the most common greeting of the Zulu tribe.

In context it can also mean, “We see you.” This is important, because while I write this on my behalf, I am certain it represents the views of a great many of my friends and colleagues from around the globe.

Sawubona. I see you.

This COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in every corner of our society. The human cost in lives and health has been catastrophic. Our medical systems are drowning or bracing for the possibility. The social norms that connect us as a society, both locally and as a global community, are shredded. Our primary connectedness is now our disconnectedness as we isolate ourselves. …

Our faith based partnerships as we enter a holy season

Today marks our 40th consecutive day of the activation in our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Harris County’s response to COVID-19. This is now our longest running activation, longer than Harvey. Our previous record was 37 days last March and April in response to the ITC explosion and fire.

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Social distancing in Harris County’s Emergency Operations Center

We are still facing a very real threat in the spread of the novel coronavirus, so we are actively working. Public safety is essential. In our EOC are the most essential of the essential elements needed to keep you safe and healthy, and supporting our front line healthcare workers and first responders in the field. …

How the coronavirus response began and how we can win it

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New York, NY, March 31, 2020 — The USNS Comfort arrived in New York Harbor to support the national, state and local response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: FEMA

Disaster responses, much like wars, are “Come as You Are” parties. Their premise is simple. You get a phone call. The phone actually rings, so by today’s social standard you know it is already something out of the ordinary. It is the invitation. You are invited. You were chosen. The time, the place, the people — the party itself — chose you.

No notice.

There is one more catch; and this is important. You must come as you are. As you are, in this moment. You cannot go home and change. You cannot scramble to find something cuter to wear. You can’t go clean up first. You can’t go shave real quick. You might be in gym gear. Perhaps you are in your jammies. Maybe you were fiddling under the greasy car hood or layers deep in the garden. You can’t start planning, because the call means the party just started. …

Time-Out on T-Band: It’s Time to Repeal the Sale Mandate

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(ITC Fire- Deer Park, Texas. Photo Credit: KTRK Channel 13, Houston)

In 2012, as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Act, Congress passed legislation requiring by February 2021 that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) begin competitive auction of the T-band spectrum and relocate the licenses of public safety agencies across the country which have relied on the spectrum for decades. The band consists of otherwise unused broadcast spectrum in certain TV channels. That previously unused resource is now put to good use day-to-day in 11 cities by 925 public safety entities and 700 industrial stakeholders. A review by at least two federal agencies deems the legislatively mandated sale of the spectrum to private interests as “unviable.” …


Disrupting Disasters

Francisco Sanchez | @DisasterPIO

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