Edited Version of February 17, 1999 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Panel Discussion

"Project Impact Revisited"

Featured Panelists

Larry Deetjen
City Manager
Deerfield Beach, Florida

Renee Domingo
Assistant Emergency Services Manager
City of Oakland, California

Dave Jones
Washington, DC

The original transcript of the February 17, 1999 online Virtual Forum Panel Discussion is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum <http://www.emforum.org>. The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussion, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum!

If you were with us last year, we devoted two sessions to introducing Project Impact, a FEMA initiative focusing on encouraging communities to become disaster resistant. Today, we are revisiting Project Impact one year later, to see what kind of progress has been made over the course of the year. The background page for today's session is located at <http://www.emforum.org/vforum/990217.htm>


We are very pleased to have three individuals, honored by FEMA at its recent Project Impact Summit meeting.

Returning to be with us again is Larry Deetjen, City Manager of Deerfield Beach, Florida and recipient of a Project Impact Person of the Year award. Congratulations, Larry, and welcome back.

Next, we have Renee Domingo, Assistant Emergency Services Manager for the City of Oakland, California and Project Impact Outstanding Public Sector Employee.

"Last but not least" we are pleased to have Dave Jones, Meteorologist for NBC4 WRC-TV in the Washington, DC area, and winner of the award for Outstanding Media Individual. Dave is also Principal Investigator for WeatherNet4, with an excellent Web site. Congratulations, Dave, and welcome to the Virtual Forum.

Dave Jones: Thanks for inviting me to participate, it is a pleasure.

Amy Sebring: We are going to continue with a series of questions for our panelists to address for the first part of our program today, and then we will open it up for questions/comments from our audience. I will review the procedure for the Q&A portion when we get to it, but at this time we will start our round of questions. We will come back to Renee for the questions as soon as she is able to join us.



Amy Sebring: First, Larry, will you please remind our audience, how did Deerfield Beach become involved in Project Impact?

Larry Deetjen: Deerfield Beach was designated a Showcase Community by the State of Florida Department of Community Affairs. Based on this designation, the state of Florida, which has an excellent relationship with FEMA, put us in contact with Federal Officials and our Congressman, and the rest is history.


Amy Sebring: Dave, how did you become involved in Project Impact?

Dave Jones: I first heard James Lee Witt speak at the American Meteorological Society meeting for Broadcast Meteorologists in St. Louis, MO last June. He invited the media to participate. I was the only broadcast meteorologist to "corner" him after his talk and ask if a TV station could be a partner. He immediately said "YOU CAN!" After talking with James Lee and his Project Impact Public Relations chief, Kim Fuller, it was obvious to me that we were on the same wavelength. Just two weeks later, I was sitting with James Lee in his office discussing the possibilities. We determined that NBC4 in Washington, DC, my station, would be the Project Impact Pilot TV station.

I was invited to Deerfield Beach, Florida, on August 7, 1998 to attend a Hurricane Round Table with Vice President Gore and James Lee Witt. While there, I discussed NBC4's participation in Project Impact. It was an exciting day. I, then, reported LIVE via satellite back to Washington, DC during our news at 4pm, 5pm and 6pm to tell the public what we would be doing.

It has been a very interesting and enjoyable 6 months. I am a bit impatient and want results right away, so it is not going as fast as I would like, but this project is right on-target and we are breaking new ground.

My goal is to establish a model that can be implemented by TV stations nationwide. This model will invite community participation and corporate sponsorship to work toward creating more disaster-resistant communities. This will help America!


Amy Sebring: Larry, what impact has your involvement with the Project had on your community? Can you give an example, please.

Larry Deetjen: Dave Jones will be pleased to learn that next week, February 24th, state, federal, county and local officials will join State Farm Insurance Company of Bloomington, Illinois in dedicating a model mitigation home that broke ground on construction in September, 1998. This home features over 100 mitigation products from the building construction industry and will be open to the public for tours and educational seminars.


Amy Sebring: Larry, you had a storm this past season, didn't you? How did your efforts pay off?

Larry Deetjen: The City of Deerfield Beach has also retrofitted 44 single family residential homes, three City facilities, and has on the docket plans and specifications to retrofit our hurricane shelter and upgraded shutter protection for City Hall. Deerfield Beach was spared by the potential threat by Hurricane Georges and Mitch. Preparation by the private sector and the community was significantly better than prior storms. Public attention to Project Impact should be given credit for such improvement.


Amy Sebring: Renee, how did Oakland become involved in Project Impact?

Renee Domingo: The City of Oakland, California was selected as one of 7 pilot communities nationwide to participate in Project Impact. We have been involved with the Project since January 1998. It has been an exciting endeavor and learning experience.


Amy Sebring: Renee, please tell us how your involvement with the Project has impacted your community, and please give an example.

Renee Domingo: Project Impact has had a very positive effect on the community. It has brought businesses, government and community together. An example was our non-structural retrofit program which involved youths. Amy, the youth project was able to do over 100 retrofits within a week for Seniors and persons with disabilities.


Amy Sebring: Dave, how has your involvement impacted your community from the perspective of the media?

Dave Jones: So far, my involvement has been with FEMA and planning community involvement. Because of this, the community has yet to see any benefits, other than seeing our announcement about Project Impact and reading about it on our web site. We are in the process of "adopting" a community around Washington, DC, that we can take them from beginning to end in our disaster resistant efforts.

I have developed a new service with Project Impact in mind. This service sends severe weather information such as watches, warnings and advisories to any pager or cell phone or wireless device as soon as it is issued from the NWS. All advisories are also viewable on my "Storm Display" web site 24 hours each day <http://stormdisplay.com>. It is a fully automated service and one I hope will be used by many people across the nation.


Amy Sebring: Larry, what were your impressions of the Project Impact Summit that was held at FEMA in December?

Larry Deetjen: The event was very well organized and the enthusiasm was remarkable. Next year's event I predict will be demonstratively better because many of the Project Impact initiatives in communities were only started at the time of the first summit and results will now become available for the second summit.


Amy Sebring: Renee, what were your impressions of the Summit from the Emergency Manager perspective?

Renee Domingo: It was an excellent venue for information sharing, networking and learning about the various communities' projects and programs.


Amy Sebring: Dave, can you give us your impressions of the Summit, please?

Dave Jones: I enjoyed the Summit but wished I could have attended more. I had to be on-air that week for our Chief Meteorologist, Bob Ryan, while he was on vacation. I did participate in a workshop entitled "Engaging the Media" which included Don LaBrecht from National Association of Broadcasters, Bill Poole, Owner WFLS & WYSK Radio in Fredericksburg, VA and myself. We discussed ways to get the media "engaged" as a partner.


Amy Sebring: Larry, your award cites mentoring colleagues around the nation. Have you received inquiries from other communities about your involvement?

Larry Deetjen: Absolutely! Not only inquiries, but we have hosted other communities, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Tokyo, Japan.


Amy Sebring: Renee, have you also received inquiries from other communities?

Renee Domingo: We have received numerous inquiries from all over the United States about our involvement and requesting information, guidance and samples of our work products.


Amy Sebring: Dave, your award also cites that you are building a pilot disaster-resistance program for use by broadcasters across the country. Have you also received inquiries about Project Impact from other media?

Dave Jones: I have been contacted by several other emergency management people about how to begin discussions with their local media about becoming a Partner and not just getting Project Impact mentioned in their local newscast.


Amy Sebring: For our last question -- Larry, what is a lesson learned from this experience that you can share with others interested in this approach?

Larry Deetjen: Deerfield Beach approached Project Impact like other critical issues as economic development and crime prevention. YOU GET WHAT YOU PUT IN TO IT! The effort should involve all sectors of the community.


Amy Sebring: Renee, can you share a lesson learned from this experience with us?

Renee Domingo: Project Impact is an excellent opportunity to enhance the safety of your community and bring people together.


Amy Sebring: Dave, what have you learned from this experience that you can share with other media?

Dave Jones: So far, I have learned that many people don't think of the media as a potential partner. I have had to do a lot of "educating" in my own station about how we can contribute to our local communities disaster preparedness efforts --- that the station can actually be the catalyst in this effort.

I have also learned just how enthusiastic and helpful the emergency management community is. I am looking forward to working with them to put together this model and getting it out to the nation.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much panelists. We are now ready to turn you over to our audience but first a reminder as to the procedure.

Audience, if you have a question or comment, please enter a question mark (?) to so indicate, then go ahead and compose your question (type it in the message area) but hold it until recognized. When you are recognized just click on Send or use the Enter Key.

Since we have three panelists with us today, please indicate to whom your question or comment is addressed. We are ready to begin with the first question, please.

[Audience Q & A]


Kellye Junchaya: I commend all of you. I am very interested in Project Impact and it seems to be making a real difference. Dave, can you send me your email I have some questions for you personally.

Dave Jones: My e-mail is <[email protected]>.


Ryc Lyden: To anyone. Have any of the DRC's had any 'disaster' impacts? And if so, what was the impact ?

Dave Jones: Remember, I am a meteorologist. What is a DRC?

Ryc Lyden: Disaster Resistant Community.

Dave Jones: We will be adopting a community and we have not gotten to that point yet.

Larry Deetjen: No, we have had no disaster impact. If designated a project impact community, you are protected from natural disaster. Ha! Ha !

Renee Domingo: We have in Oakland. Last year with the El Nino storms, a grass roots "Adopt a Drain" program helped reduce the flooding potential.


Cindy Rice: Renee, about the youth project --- was this one group Boy Scouts or was it Scouts, church groups, etc.?

Renee Domingo: Americorp and youths from local high schools.


Cindy Rice: Are there retirees or senior citizens that might work in the same way?

Renee Domingo: Excellent idea. We have used Corporate volunteers but that is an excellent idea.

Larry Deetjen: Same as in Deerfield Beach. Volunteers from the local high school and the Americorp Program. In fact, we began the employment of two VISTA volunteers just yesterday.

Renee Domingo: We are also working with two VISTA volunteers via the American Red Cross and are attempting to make the youth program a regular project.


Avagene Moore: What type of publicity on lessons learned are done in your communities?

Dave Jones: As soon as we adopt a community, we plan to follow them through the procedure. We have already aired several pieces on Project Impact in DC.

Larry Deetjen: In Deerfield Beach, a weekly television show featured on our local cable channel about hazard mitigation ran from April, 1998 - September, 1998. In addition, Hurricane Preparedness and Exposition, will again take place in May.

Renee Domingo: Oakland can be considered a foster child and we would love to be adopted by a media organization. We are attempting to work with local media more closely.


Amy Sebring: Did being a Project Impact community assist in getting attention from the public for your existing programs?

Larry Deetjen: Absolutely!

Dave Jones: FEMA participated in our 4-Your Health & Fitness Expo in January. They set up a "Healthy Home" showing retrofitting, etc.


Russell Coile: Larry and Renee - Would you give us web sites where we can learn more.

Renee Domingo: <[email protected]>


Amy Sebring: Does Deerfield Beach have a Web site with some Project Impact info, Larry?

Larry Deetjen: In Deerfield Beach, the web address is <http://www.deerfieldbch.com>. Make sure you reference the Hazard Mitigation.

Amy Sebring: We have the link to Dave's Project Impact info on our background page.

Dave Jones: WeatherNet4's address is <http://wxnet4.nbc4.com>. We have a section on Project Impact at <wxnet4.nbc4.com/chap4/impact.html>


Cindy Rice: Renee, is this also a possible work program like community service that troubled youths could benefit from through the court system? (Sometimes the community service ends up being a walk the highway and pick up any litter you see.)

Renee Domingo: Yes. We have also looked at involving welfare to work candidates.


David Crews: For anyone on the Panel: Have any of you been involved in Community Emergency Response Team (CERTS) in relationship with Project Impact?

Dave Jones: I have not. However, I am working on language issues in conjunction with severe weather and public response. I have also received interest in our Storm Pager.

Renee Domingo: Dave, we currently use our Amateur Radio Groups for severe weather alerting and warning. They do patrols in the winter, during high fire season, etc. They are our eyes and ears, not to mention one source of back up communications.

Dave, we use the ham operators to notify emergency personnel of dangerous or hazardous conditions which we in turn convey to the public via our local public access and radio station.

Dave Jones: We monitor ham radio as well, but the public, if they are away from their TV, do not get warned of potential dangerous weather.

Larry Deetjen: Yes! In Deerfield Beach, we have graduated 3 classes, totaling 70 people. Currently, 30 citizens are enrolled in the 4th class.


Amy Sebring: Renee, do you have a CERT program?

Renee Domingo: Yes. Oakland has a CERT program that is very active and we anticipate having 10 model disaster resistant neighborhoods as a result of the CERT program neighborhoods.


Barbara Sims: How do you get local managers interested in participating in these programs? Everyone wants to re-invent the wheel.

Amy Sebring: Barbara is asking about how to get other communities and local managers interested in this approach.


Renee Domingo: Which approach?

Amy Sebring: The Project Impact/Disaster Resistant community efforts.


Barbara Sims: Project Impact and CERT both depend upon the cooperation of local government agencies who have or want to create their own model programs. Those willing to participate in CERT or IMPACT at the neighborhood level are prevented from participating.

Renee Domingo: The best way to get people involved is to be able to illustrate the overall benefits to the community.


Amy Sebring: Renee, in answer to Barbara's comment; you are involving your community on the neighborhood level, how far along is that?

Renee Domingo: YES. Definitely. Our program was developed by the community which includes neighborhoods, businesses, non-profits. Each year we conduct a functional exercise with our CERT neighborhood groups. This year we will focus on Y2K. In the past, we have tested communications capabilities between neighborhoods and the City should a major disaster occur.


Amy Sebring: Larry, can you tell us a little more about the class you are giving?

Larry Deetjen: In Deerfield Beach, the CERT program is a 7 week course devoted to first aid, small fire suppression, search and rescue and hazard mitigation preparedness.


Cindy Rice: Dave, have you thought about journalism majors or broadcasting majors at colleges and universities to work on sections or parts of what you're doing to gain experience?

Dave Jones: That is an excellent idea. I would be interested in learning more about how to integrate this into their programs. I also hire interns here over the summer.


David Wolfe: Are the selected (volunteer) citizens either notified and or asked to participate in scheduled exercises?

Dave Jones: We are now developing our plan for our "adopted" community and that is a possibility. I feel an essential one.

Larry Deetjen: Pardon me, but, I have to meet with a City Commissioner about a very important matter. As such, I must be going now! I appreciate the opportunity to "chat" with you all!


Cindy Rice: Larry, being in Florida there might be a larger percentage of older adults and some of them may be able to provide insight on how to help where handicapped or elderly homes/neighborhoods need special considerations and what they might be. Your opinion?

Amy Sebring: Cindy, let's let it go there since our guests must leave.

Final Question:

Cindy Rice: Renee instead?

Renee Domingo: We are designing a residential grant program to assist these special needs populations.

Dave Jones: I am open to e-mail discussions. If you are patient, I do answer them. Thanks for allowing me to participate.

Renee Domingo: Dave, I will be available next week, my phone number is (510) 238-6353. Perhaps we can meet.

Amy Sebring: Thank you so much for sharing with us. Continued success with your efforts. It was great to have you back with us, Larry, and to meet our new Project Impact awardees.

Amy Sebring: Before we shut down, Ava, can you give us highlights of upcoming?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. Next week, the Round Table will be led by Tricia Wachtendorf and Gary Webb, University of Delaware, EIIP Partner. The discussion will be a follow-up to an Oct 21 dialogue about the Pop Culture of Disasters. This group now has a Mail List and a web site <http://kfs009.soziologie.uni-kiel.de/~discult/>. You are encouraged to check out the site and the Oct 21 transcript before this informative session on Tuesday, Feb 23, 1: 00 PM Eastern.

Next Wednesday on Feb 24, 12:00 Noon EST, the EIIP Tech Arena will host Edward Addy, North American Center for Emergency Communications (NACEC), also an EIIP Partner. Ed will present a demonstration of DVIS: Disaster Victim Information Exchange System.

Good topics and presenters are lined up for next week. Make plans to participate with us in the Virtual Forum. Back to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Avagene. Again, thanks to our panelists and please join us back in the Virtual Forum room now if you can stay a little longer for some follow up discussion.