EM Forum Presentation — December 14, 2011

U.S. Emergency Management
Looking Back to Look Forward

Claire B. Rubin
President, Claire B. Rubin & Associates

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/Rubin/LongView.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm111214.wmv
An audio podcast is available at

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome once again to EMForum.org.

I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us.

As mentioned in our announcement, this is our last session for 2011 and we want to take the time to thank all of you for participating and all of our speakers who have made our programs possible.

So for an end of year wrap up, and as we look forward to the new year, we wanted to take a look back at the history of emergency management and how it has evolved into what it is today. And there is no better person to guide us into the discussion than today’s guest!

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest: Claire Rubin, President, Claire B. Rubin & Associates. She is a social scientist with extensive experience in public administration and emergency management. As a consultant, she has worked for many organizations — private, non-profit and governmental — over the past 33 years. Her work includes basic and applied research; the development and presentation of training programs; and the creation and operation of various information dissemination and utilization projects.

Please see today’s Background Page for additional biographical information and several links to Claire’s endeavors, including her Recovery Diva blog!

Welcome back Claire, and thank you very much for joining us once again today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Claire Rubin: Thank you, Amy. Thanks to everyone who is here today. I appreciate you tuning in. I want to talk about the history of emergency management obviously, but the long view is what I think is different about this presentation.

I want to talk about the many decades of U.S. disaster history and when and why governmental agencies got involved. But I also want to talk about something we don’t say too much about and that is why governments should stay involved and stick with what they have set up because failure to do so will result in a lot of significant problems for future disasters.

This is an aspect I need to highlight because of budget cuts and problems currently. I think many of you can relate to that.

[Slide 2]

We really did take quite a long view in the research we did for the book. We went back to 1900 to get a century plus of information about major and catastrophic events, how they were handled and then the gradual involvement of governmental entities—local, state, federal, and of course the military has been involved over the years.

We got into some very important past events and past deficiencies because it is the response to the past that while many things were not perfect, a lot of the functions and purposes and systems we have developed do work and have resulted in less harm and danger to people. Dismantling such a system would certainly cause problems.

[Slide 3]

Why do we study history? Some people refer to history as "one damn thing after another" and some days feel like that, I have to say. But the history of emergency management is important because we need the larger context. Not only do we need to understand emergency management, we need to understand the general public administration context in which emergency management evolved and functioned.

We also need to know causal relationships—that is, what events caused what outcomes and as a result of past events, what has driven changes. We need to document and learn from our own experiences and those of others to avoid fatal mistakes.

[Slide 4]

Why do we focus on the emergency management history? We want to know why we do what we do. We have a lot of systems in place and a lot of regulations—why do we do that? Mostly it is because past events have shown lapses, failures, gaps, and in many cases past events have driven change in policy, programs and systems.

Again, I want to mention the two charts on the bottom, partly because they provide a little graphic, poster-size shot of our history. We can’t be short-sighted. We need to take the long view. When it is time to talk to elected and appointed officials about what is going on and why not to cut essential programs, it is really essential to know.

Remember many disasters are like geology, seismology and hydrology—these things occur with decades and centuries as yardsticks—not just a year or a term of office.

[Slide 5]

In 2007 we wrote the first edition of this history and we covered 105 years at that time.

[Slide 6]

What did we cover in the book? We focused on response. To be honest, someone else should be writing a book. It would be nice to know what our recovery experience has been over the last century. It would be nice to know how mitigation has evolved in the last century. Those books remain to be written.

We also focused on public sector involvement. We certainly all know that a lot of non-governmental actors, organizations, businesses, various non-profits of all sorts, humanitarian organizations are involved and their story should be told, but we couldn’t do it all. We used a series of case studies to emphasize public policies and to take a look at the public administration and we used a conceptual framework that we had developed earlier for the timeline charts that focus on cause and effect.

We do things for a reason; it might make things easier if we knew what that reason was.

[Slide 7]

The questions we focused on, national in scope—we took a look at when and how the federal government got involved. There was some pulling and pushing and after many decades and various administrations have tinkered with their form of involvement, but the federal government does appear to be quite involved for the foreseeable.

[Slide 8]

Now a few observations—we all know disasters are complex and often tragic. They are certainly fascinating. I don’t know what the TV and movie industry would do without them. They feature disasters but rarely feature recovery and in-depth issues, so that is not helpful.

As a relatively new professional field emergency management is certainly important. By starting the book in 2007 we began to document the kind of official history and key facts and figures about the evolution of that profession. As you know, the United States as well as other countries has had disasters for centuries, millennia, or whatever.

In many cases, the ability to deal with and understand disasters has been achieved the hard way. Doing things the hard way can get you killed in this line of work. It would be a good idea if we could learn from others. The federal government’s involvement, and certainly FEMA, is a relatively recent occurrence.

[Slide 9]

We took a look, when we were looking for case studies, for all three of the traditional kinds of disasters that we talk about in the United States—natural, man-made/accidental, and man-made/deliberate, which is for the most part, terrorism.

[Slide 10]

We made a selection of what we call "focusing events". As many of you know, the federal government declares dozens of disasters, perhaps 100 this year. Not all of those are "focusing events". We chose disasters that had some of these characteristics; a focusing event is one that drives change.

After the event, Congress, the White House and others say, "What happened? Why did that go so badly? What do we need to do?" The focusing events we chose for study and to feature are those that drive change—changes in laws and regulations, changes in programs, and changes in policies.

[Slide 11]

As a quick overview, in the first half of the twentieth century, we initially saw the prevailing attitude or philosophy or culture in the country that disasters were not a governmental matter—it was a moral and ethical responsibility for the community, religious groups, humanitarian groups, and spontaneous ad hoc response.

Gradually, local and state governments became increasingly involved. They were concerned with the health and safety of their citizens. Certain large events, such as the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and other events made it quite clear that just relying on spontaneous and non-governmental organizations wasn’t adequate.

The federal government, if it got involved, tended to came in after the fact. Sometimes years later, the feds would help with flood control projects such as dams, dykes and levees. One example is the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was formed because of repetitive flooding. The federal government began to make sizeable investments in loss reduction.

As the years went on, science, seismic safety, weather science, hydrology and behavioral sciences began to have more understanding and have some application. Regarding the military, they have been involved. For example, in communities where there was a military base, like in 1906 in San Francisco the Army was based at the Presidio. In many other cases, there is a base and they have taken a role, but it has been ad hoc and not planned.

[Slide 12]

In the second half of the century, attitudes and needs changed. Among other things, you had an increase in scientific knowledge and more ability to anticipate and understand the ramifications perhaps of an earthquake or flooding became possible. The federal government gradually became involved. State and locals asked for more help.

The federal government perceived a need. Of course, it varied by political administration as to what they cared to do. State and local governments gradually increased their role and finally, over time, emergency management came to be regarded as the quintessential public service.

[Slide 13]

Let’s talk about the twenty-first century. In just ten years, the first ten years, we have already seen at least one huge and highly dramatic event in each of the three categories of disasters—9/11, with its multiple incidents was the worst set of terrorism events on U.S. soil in U.S. history.

With regards to natural disasters, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma had the largest geographic impact and were the most costly disasters to date. In 2010, we saw the BP oil spill which was the largest and most costly domestic hazmat incident we have seen to date.

[Slide 14]

In the twenty-first century, what are we dealing with? We have seen the response and the recovery for three sets of events. It is interesting. After 9/11 you had this hugely positive feeling for the emergency management community. New York City fire and police and emergency management systems—everybody wanted to wear the ball cap and be affiliated with them.

It was a huge boost. It was also true of the Pentagon. I know less about the Somerset, Pennsylvania incident. I’d say emergency managers were in the public eye and had an all-time record popularity. After the three hurricanes it was not so good. Emergency management and related organizations—the Red Cross and FEMA and many other groups—took a hit because there were so many problems connected with Hurricane Katrina and the two other hurricanes of 2005.

Then in 2010, with the BP oil spill, I’d say the net result is confusion in the emergency management communities. Partly because it was a very different sort of response—it was done under the National Contingency Plan, you had the EPA, NOAA, Admiral Allen, the Coast Guard and a different cast of actors and some questionable outcomes still about various impacts.

There is a question mark about the emergency management community at the present time.

[Slide 15]

The role is evolving—this is just a brief recap. The first half of the twentieth century, government was kind of marginal. Gradually, it grew in the latter part of the twentieth century and certainly here in the twenty-first century, the government at all levels is heavily involved.

[Slide 16]

What’s ahead? We can make some estimates based on what is going on in this country and certainly some of the international disasters like the ones we have seen this past year in Japan, New Zealand, and Pakistan. There are some huge, complex, very very costly, very labor intensive kinds of events that have been occurring and we really have got to broaden our vision and think ahead.

Because we are linked with a global economy there are more secondary effects. Among the effects are some of the economic issues. We have our own in the United States. We are affected by what is going on in Europe. Budgets are tight and emergency management people are surely feeling the pinch.

Nevertheless, we have to continue to be far-sighted. We have to think comprehensively and we need to do more strategic thinking. I would like to compliment FEMA on an ongoing project called The Strategic Foresight Initiative. Some good work has been done. I hope to write and talk about this in the coming months.

I like very much seeing this strategic thinking so that we can organize emergency management around the likely needs and likely problems we see ahead.

[Slide 17]

The kinds of things that are needed—flexibility, ability to contemplate multiple disasters going on at the same time, perhaps the need to allocate or triage certain resources, again more need for strategic thinking and macro level thinking, perhaps more leadership training and the ability to galvanize and then learning about and accommodation of new social media.

Other countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Japan have been doing some very useful things using social media—crowd sourcing, as well as getting input from scientific communities as well as citizens about general matters. Of course, as a research we always say we need more research, and of course, better utilization of existing research. I would like to see continuing attention to science and technology, both basic and applied that we so very much need and have benefited from in past years.

[Slide 18]

In working on the second edition of this study of history, the history continues. We added five years. It is hopefully due out this spring. In the years 2005-2010 we had additional thoughts and perspectives of earlier disasters and we tried to explain emergency management within a larger context of public administration in the United States.

Two new chapters that are included, one of which is on the BP oil spill which was handled under the National Contingency Plan and not the Stafford Plan with the Presidential declaration. The reasons for that and the differences in that response are analyzed. An additional chapter breaks out some of the detail of the evolving federal roles for those of you interested in the public administration aspects.

[Slide 19]

I would like to mention that I put up a couple of websites. [See list below] One I forgot to include: disasterrecoveryresources.net. My company website is the first mentioned. The disaster bookstore is something I took over because the Public Entity Risk Institute has failed recently and is no longer in the book business. We took over their books in the hopes of keeping them in circulation and keeping them available at a low cost.

The disaster timeline charts, there are four or five charts mounted for you to browse. My own specialty, the Recovery Diva, where I try to provide some informal information about the recovery phase—it is one of my long term interests because recovery isn’t spoken about or studied often enough in my opinion.

I will now open it up to questions.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Claire. Now, to proceed to our Q&A and audience comments.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Avagene Moore: Claire, thank you for being here today. As we think about our history and hopefully what we have learned, I am concerned about the turnover of personnel and loss of institutional knowledge due to retirement, etc. of so many players at all levels of the business. In your opinion, what impact does this have on programs, regulations and the new folks coming into the field as we move forward?

Claire Rubin: I agree—that is quite a serious problem. Just in terms of the book in the last four years about half the people who were chapter authors or reviewers have retired from their primary jobs. It shows me how fast some of the key people are leaving their jobs. Luckily a lot of them don’t leave the field and either volunteer or go into another aspect. It is worrisome. It has been bothering me for a long time.

I have urged many people, particularly FEMA, to do more to create a knowledge base or a series of knowledge bases. Certainly I have advocated for one about the recovery phase because that research is so difficult to get a handle on and to find and contain. That is one of the reasons I put together disasterrecoveryresources.net which is a website where I have tried to capture this information.

I share the concern. Some of today’s electronics and technology would allow us to compensate but we really have to work on that and perhaps use some of the new social media devices—there could be Facebook pages or something around issues people want to talk about. Definitely it is an issue and we need to think creatively about responses.

Amy Sebring: My concern, and I have heard others express it, is that policy for emergency management being driven from the federal level down versus being driven from the locals up—can you draw any conclusions from the study of the history about the balance there?

Claire Rubin: No, it is actually kind of tricky. Just this morning in trying to answer someone else’s question I downloaded an excellent report done a couple of years ago by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York. The title is, "The Transformation that Fell Short—Bush, Federalism and Emergency Management".

Some political administrations, like the G. W. Bush administration, wanted to centralize a lot of emergency management features, particularly after Hurricane Katrina and other administrations want to decentralize. As you know Craig Fugate and the people at FEMA currently are talking about Whole Community and are urging all domains in society to get involved and all the sectors to take a broader role.

It waxes and wanes with the political administrations in terms of whether they like things centralized or decentralized. One of the dilemmas is that it is the federal government that has the most money. After they’ve had a very large or catastrophic disaster, state and local governments are so dependent on federal money, they kind of have to do it the federal way.

It is a very tricky question and I think we will see pendulum swings in perpetuity. I don’t think there is an easy answer.

Rick Tobin: An interesting outcome of the U.S. reduction of positions is that the expertise developed here is now being diverted to help foreign countries. Do you see this as a benefit as this cross-cultural experience in emergency management brings new ideas back to the U.S., rather than continuing the paradigm that the U.S. has all the answers?

Claire Rubin: That is a good question. I happen to be working with some people in New Zealand on a project in Christchurch. We all know Christchurch has huge problems—5,000 structures in the central business district perhaps cannot be repaired or can only be repaired after the soil has stabilized.

You have some huge issues in NZ about response and response planning. Being an island nation, they are looking out to other countries for information which they haven’t been able to develop. With the use of social media, even technology like what we are using now—we can have people in other countries pose questions, ask for discussions, ask for help—I don’t think we do enough of this.

We have a lot of distance learning going on in the United States and I don’t know why there can’t be more international distance learning. Now, I questions whether we are taking in very much information from other countries and having that feedback loop serve us. For some reason, we think we know it all and often we are not listening.

We learned in Japan that the Japanese people had made seismic safety preparations way in excess of our capability here. We should be able to learn from them. I suspect some of the rebuilding in Christchurch perhaps is more imaginative and different from anything we’ve seen here and we need to keep a close eye out.

The prospects are terrific. We need to get more creative about how to use it and we need to adjust our attitude to take some feedback from the other experiences and learn from them.

Amy Sebring: Do you have a feel for what the status of the investment in research into areas such as social or natural science research or engineering science is? Are the funds to support it declining? What is your overall characterization of the research going on today?

Claire Rubin: It has been a concern of mine for many decades that research funding for the kinds of issues many of us think are needed and are essential—such as how long term recovery is doing. I have been arguing for years that we should be collecting experiences, sharing case studies and practical experiences with other communities so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel—creating knowledge bases and having pools of information.

In some cases, some of this has occurred. For example, we have a couple of excellent university based earthquake research centers, like the ones in SUNY Buffalo and the one in Berkeley. We have a couple of social science organization centers that are university based like Delaware and University of Colorado that do corral the information and support research and quick response studies and other kinds of things.

It has always been a problem for me getting research money out of FEMA. In recent decades the majority of research money for emergency management and disasters, hazards and threats, on the natural hazard side has for the most part, come out of National Science Foundation rather than out of FEMA.

I have expressed my concern before but FEMA has chosen to concentrate large amounts of money on large projects at large consortia of universities, such as the START program at the University of Maryland. I think there are ten or twelve of these centers of excellence. One place, I termed them "research oligarchies".

Those of us who are running small, independent research organizations or researchers at a single university have a really hard time making a suggestion, unsolicited research proposal, and getting heard. I remain concerned. The amount of money available has always been a concerned and it is not getting any better.

With the demise of PERI (Public Entity Risk Institute)—PERI with independent funding as an independent foundation had provided small amount grants to a variety of small projects—$10,000 to $100,000, and gotten an amazing amount of work done. It has never been good, it probably isn’t going to get any easier, but don’t stop trying.

J Spearo: Emergency Management has been struggling with an identity crisis over the last decade. The political flip-flopping of emergency management's flagship, FEMA, has made it difficult for emergency managers at the local level to carry out their duties. Emergency managers have a lot of responsibly but very little authority. In your opinion, do you believe that emergency management could improve its ability to function if it is provided more authority; such as that of its public safety cousins law enforcement and fire services?

Claire Rubin: I think that is true, but it appears that would be a matter you would have to take up at the local level. Perhaps the local to state relationship could be examined. There is not one easy solution to that because we have 50 states and we have various kinds of rules, limitations and laws on whether they are home rule situations or various authorities and limits on budgets and spending that can be done locally.

There are so many variations—there is no really easy answer. Certainly it would be desirable but I don’t know what to tell you. It looks like it has to be a localized fight for attention to that matter. I don’t see it as anything FEMA—I suppose they could advocate for it, but they couldn’t accomplish it.

Amy Sebring: I’m sure folks at the state level feel the same way.

Claire Rubin: There is criticism both ways. States are often criticized for not doing enough and those states that are really trying, because they have to balance budgets and do other things, and perhaps because of long intervals between disasters, it is really a very hard set of functions and services to manage.

Chris Saeger: Claire, I think the retirement brain drain and history of disaster go hand in hand. I had lunch with Roy Popkin recently. We had a great trip down memory lane. I wonder if a storycorps type project with audio narratives from folks could be undertaken to capture the less formal side of emergency management.

Claire Rubin: That is a good suggestion. Thank you, Chris. I know Roy Popkin, too. Roy was a Deputy Director of Disaster Services at the American National Red Cross here in Washington for many years. He is a terrific guy and a treasure of knowledge. I chat with him periodically, too.

The organization EERI (Earthquake Engineering Research Institute), which is essentially an international association of people interested in earthquakes, has commissioned a series of biographies. Various key people—Bill Anderson, who many of you may know—Bill was with the National Science Foundation. Recently a biography of Bill Anderson was completed.

Ugo Morelli, who was active in earthquake hazard reduction for decades at FEMA—Ugo is in the process of writing one. It would be desirable to have some biographies or autobiographies. This could be done. I’m not quite sure under whose auspices—perhaps Delaware or Colorado, but I’m sure someone is going to say they need seed money for it.

John Vocino: Thank you - I am interested in your preliminary views on the recovery from the BP Spill vs. recovery under a Stafford Act disaster — what are the differences and whether one recovery process is more efficient /effective than the other?

Claire Rubin: That is a good question. We are talking a year or so since the event. I personally haven’t looked into the BP spill. I am working closely with a person who is writing the chapter on the response. God knows the response was complex and convoluted and went on for a long time.

The jockeying between the Stafford Act and the National Contingency Plan and the role of DHS and ultimately the role of Admiral Allen, on-scene coordinator—all very complicated. With respect to the recovery, I can’t say and I’m not even sure that anyone is studying the recovery process. Issues about where did the oil go, the long term impact, the natural, the ecological and environmental impacts—for the response phase alone there were lots of organizational and leadership issues.

I simply don’t know. One of the things about history is you have to let a few years go by so that you can pull together what reporters and news articles, and later journal articles and later books, and pull it all together to get a comprehensive picture. I personally haven’t had any involvement, and it is also too early to quite know.

Amy Sebring: I think the primary difference between the two in that man-made type of event you have the concept that you have a responsible party to defray the expenses and reparations and recovery and so forth.

Claire Rubin: I would make the argument that we’ve never seen one this big and we’ve never seen a National Contingency Plan response of this magnitude, cost and geographic spread over a couple of states. The oil company, just like Exxon Valdez, isn’t likely to take a long term interest in the health of the animals and flora, fauna and the biology. They’ll pay up and go away. I’m just not sure. There will be a lot of issues. I recommend it for study for anyone who is working on a PhD.

Avagene Moore: In your opinion, what is the most dramatic change or changes in the EM field that you are aware of from your research and particularly in editing this book?

Claire Rubin: That is a good one. I guess over a long period of time, certainly over a century, you see the change from an ad hoc response—the community does the best that it can. Church groups and others come forward. You’d be fortunate if it were an urban area with a lot of professionals and a number of scientists and if it is reasonably well off.

Perhaps something like San Francisco or Galveston would have stood a better chance of responding well and recovering than perhaps a poor community in coastal Mississippi or a mountain community in West Virginia. There would be a lot of luck as to who was in town and who was willing to drop everything and do things.

We’ve seen some extraordinary heroism where people will leave their paying job and work at a municipal job that pays little or nothing in order to help their community recover. There are some terrific altruistic stories. There is a limit to what you can expect and a long learning curve on the kind of professionalism needed.

So the gradual change from ad hoc, muddle your way through, do the best you can, be a matter of luck who is in town, how well off they are, what time of year it is, things like that—to a kind of system where you can call people and a minimal level of expertise can be expected, and a system for bringing in donors and external assistance. I would say that is probably a very big plus.

Rey Thompson: I assume that the number of people with degrees in Emergency Management is still smaller than the need. Are these new Emergency Managers grabbing hold in the current environment? I wonder if there is a big challenge as these new professionals mingle with the "old guard" of law enforcement and fire. From where I sit, there seems to be a traditional clash between book-taught and experience-taught emergency management professionals.

Amy Sebring: I am going to pile on to that question, with the same question I asked about the health of the research community. What is the health of the higher education program?

Claire Rubin: You guys don’t hesitate! I’ve got to answer all the tough questions. Depending on when you take the count, there are apparently a couple of hundred educational institutions in the United States ranging from community colleges to graduate programs teaching some aspect of emergency management and homeland security. Obviously hundreds of graduates are pouring out.

I participated in the higher education community and I track them. There is a lot of frustration because a lot of for-profit organizations have seen a niche here and they are offering for sale courses in this subject matter and are doing distance learning. People are essentially getting a book and a distance experience. People don’t know them personally and their leadership qualities and decision-making qualities are not known.

Not all of the courses are being taught well because there aren’t hundreds of instructors to teach them well. Not all of the important material is being learned adequately because you have a lot of people who aren’t properly qualified and aren’t able to grasp the information. The book knowledge versus the experience and the guys and gals who worked their way up the hard way are always resentful of these kinds of people.

I don’t see a huge rush to hire people with emergency management degrees. Local officials I know, including some in my own community, did not come in through emergency management experience. They were hired from fire, police, park service, economic development in other departments. They have come into emergency management from another field.

Some of the many graduates of the hundreds of programs are very frustrated because they don’t see job opportunities. There is not as good of a match, and perhaps someone needs to start a clearinghouse, of the available and the needed and help match them up.

My other concern is that emergency management never paid well. I’m not quite sure why people would go through the huge expense of getting various advanced degrees for jobs that are exciting and need doing but don’t pay well. That is always difficult. FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute is indeed worried about the gap between the people acquiring book knowledge and those with the leadership and decision-making skills that are needed to be good emergency managers.

They have formed some sort of academy. It is an Emergency Management Academy out at EMI in Emmitsburg, Maryland. FEMA’s plan is to bridge that gap—to provide those with book knowledge with some of the practical skills or perhaps assess their ability to function in a practical world.

Those are some of my thoughts on this. All the aspects are not meshing really neatly.

Peg Blechman: Recommendations for training for Emergency Managers: Beginners, Intermediate, Experienced?

Claire Rubin: I know Peg and I know she’s concerned with people with disabilities. I didn’t address that specifically but in the many things that we are teaching people and in the range of considerations like handicapped, elderly, special needs—I’m not sure if the curricula being offered include this. I’m not sure if FEMA’s academy that is trying to facilitate practice emphasizes that. But there certainly is a need here. I suspect we are probably not doing enough of it. We will probably see, as we did in New Orleans, that whenever it fails it sure is front and center.

Chris Saeger: What is your take on the mixing of homeland security and emergency management? Seems to me it causes confusion. It reminds me of the formation of FEMA and the early dominance of the defense civil preparedness agency over the disaster assistance administration.

Claire Rubin: That’s true. When FEMA was formed in 1978 and 1979, the DCPA at the Department of Defense was indeed a major force. I would say that Homeland Security and the attention it gets, the money it has had, and the personnel attached to it are a much bigger force than DCPA was in the old days.

Yes, it is confusing. Back in 2003, at about the time the Department of Homeland Security was created and began functioning, Jack Harrald and I, who were both at George Washington University, said the Homeland Security Field and emergency management—the relationship between the two are not very well understood. Wouldn’t it be good to form a journal and talk about it and solicit articles?

Jack and I started the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management with that very mission—to sort out the relationships and interrelationships and where emergency management sat in this larger entity. Seven or eight years later, we are still working that through. So as far as I know people are still struggling.

It is an equilibrium—just as we learned after Hurricane Katrina, the National Response Framework was too skewed toward large scale terrorist incidents and wasn’t adequate to deal with large scale natural disasters. The National Response Framework had to be rewritten to better accommodate natural catastrophic disasters.

Perhaps we’ll be tinkering with these relationships and interrelationships for a long time but I’d say it has not been cleared. It still isn’t crystal clear. We have perhaps reached a combination between the communities. Some people work in both communities and others still prefer one, and not both.

Rick Tobin: When emergency managers look into the mirror and say, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, here's what I am and what I'll be called." The face on the other side of the mirror (the powers that be) simply replies, "I'll tell you what you really are...don't bother us, now say good bye." Don't we need to prepare the audience first to hear who we are? Elected officials will continue to throw us under the other disciplines until they have better understanding when they enter office. Yes, I know Governor's Associations and NACHO and all the others try to make inroads, but most of the time emergency management programs are still seen as an irritant until they are needed. Your thoughts?

Claire Rubin: That is why at the beginning I titled this "The Long View", and I’m still struggling with it. I’m still struggling with something Amy told me the other day about a professional person in a state agency who was decrying the fact that her agency had been pruned ruthlessly. I can only urge, for example, if you take a look at our California timeline chart (and it only relates to earthquake incidents in one state, California) and you see incident after incident. If you look at it currently, you see a gap. There hasn’t been an earthquake in quite a while.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be one. That doesn’t mean you should stop funding the California Seismic Safety Commission or anything else. It means we are overdue. It is crazy to tear back the agency. This is the dilemma—how to tell elected and appointed officials that you have episodic events with years and decades between them. You need to maintain some capability.

One thing we might try to do is maintain more regional organizations—regions within states so that every single county doesn’t have to have a certain capability. Perhaps as we have consortia of states around earthquake matters, like CUSEC (Central US Earthquake Consortium) and there are some other consortia.

Perhaps, and we’ve talked about this before—a SWAT team on recovery, if you had a couple of teams of experts who knew about recovery planning you could send them to Joplin, Missouri and send them to West Virginia, and each and every place would not try to have a standing committee of experts. We may need more like ministers circuit riders that cater to more than one community.

We may have to do things differently and not expect every community, state, or region to be able to cope. We should not let these capabilities and functions disappear or we’ll regret it enormously.

Amy Sebring: Have you had a chance to look through the new National Recovery Framework that just came out? Any thoughts on that?

Claire Rubin: I have looked it through, and that is about as far as I’ve gotten. I’ve been kind of distracted on other matters and I haven’t worked it out. Like any other researcher, you go where the money and the action is until something bothers you, you don’t deal with it.

The most recent thing I wrote on recovery was in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management about two or three years ago. I wrote a piece called, "Recovery—The Neglected Phase of Emergency Management". I ran through the reasons why. That is in the public domain if anybody wants to read it. They can get it at no cost.

I don’t think things have changed very much. I don’t think the new framework changes things very much until and unless FEMA staffs up its recovery component, does a huge amount of technical assistance, perhaps some traveling, staffs up and is able to provide more technical assistance and more knowledge and guidance documents, and again, my pet peeve, accumulate some examples of recovery, successful and otherwise, create a knowledge base and share.

We probably aren’t going to do recovery much better until and unless we get really serious about aggregating what we know and sharing it.

Lori A Wieber: Can you speak to the role of volunteerism and how it has played into the response to disasters during the last decade (or century if you prefer)? And do you see preparedness and response volunteers, as a rule, gaining more acceptance with emergency managers as an integral community resource in light of economic constraints being experienced across the country?

Claire Rubin: I’d have to admit I’m not real strong on the voluntary sector because most of my work has been focused on public policy and public administration and the governmental sector. In an effort to balance that out, I am personally involved in a number of things locally in the county I live in.

I am a member of a CERT team. I am a member of Citizen Corps and I participate in a unique commission we have here locally called the "Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission" which is a group of citizen experts who advise the county board. We report to the county board and make policy recommendations about emergency management.

Amy may talk about this at a later date at a later session, but from the firsthand experience I have locally—and I believe Arlington County is probably unique in this regard—they are very open and welcoming and I believe every major department has a citizen advisory commission connected with it.

Bear in mind that Arlington is full of beltway bandits and all kinds of experts ranging from the Homeland Security Institute to the Office of Naval Research and a ton of federal agencies and the National Science Foundation—we have a lot of talent residing here, many who are willing to spend nights and weekends working in helping the place they live be as sound and secure as possible.

If the attitude is right locally, and the stars are in alignment, and the citizens are interested and available, I have seen a tremendous of array—including this kind of professional contribution from people who can volunteer and augment the local office of emergency management.

We’ll have to get smarter and more astute and better at galvanizing existing resources and getting people to participate because I think that is what the budget crunch is going to mean. It does work, it can work and we can do it better.


Amy Sebring: On that note it is time to wrap for today. On behalf of Avagene and myself and all our participants today, thank you very much Claire. We are looking forward to the next edition of your book and wish you success with the Disaster Bookstore and your other projects. It is always a great pleasure and honor to have you with us.

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In the meantime, thanks to everyone for participating today and we wish you and your loved ones a safe and joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year! We are adjourned