EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — May 12, 2010

The Four Essentials of Life
Communications, Transportation, Power, and Water

Garry L. Briese
Principal, Briese and Associates
Vice President/Co-founder, The Center for New Media & Resiliency

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following has been prepared from a transcription of the recording. The complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/FourEssentials.pdf for ease of printing.

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to EMforum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us.

Our topic today is titled "The Four Essentials of Life: Communications, Transportation, Power, and Water." According to our guest, emergency management has followed a linear evolution from the past to the present, often without "zero-basing" how significantly our operating environment has changed and what we need to do to respond to these new realities.

Our goal is to open dialogue about the necessity of re-framing the model we have and the necessity of understanding and integrating human behavior into the design of our emergency management response. We hope you will participate in this dialogue.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest:

[Slide 1]

Garry Briese is the Vice President/Co-founder of The Center for New Media & Resiliency, and a Principal in the professional services and consulting company Briese and Associates. Mr. Briese previously served as Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 8 and as Executive Director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) from 1985 to 2007.

He is a well known author and lecturer on leadership and on the future challenges for the fire and emergency services community and has co-authored two first responder emergency medical textbooks as well as an innovative textbook for the basic training of fire fighters. Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical details and related links.

Welcome Garry, and thank you very much for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.

Garry Briese: Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone. Webinars are always challenging, so I’m going to try to keep this moving as much as we can.


The four essentials of life—what am I talking about? I’m talking about challenging mergency management and homeland security professionals to think differently about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we can do it better.

[Slide 2]

I start with this headline in the Washington Post, that the human response in disasters drives the new approach to emergency management. This headline may appear some time in 2012, and it reflects Covey’s approach to management where you’re talking about starting with the end in mind, and also integrating the issues of human response research in disaster and how we structure our response.

[Slide 3]

Let’s look at some current economic realities that are really providing some emergency management professionals with some real challenges. Across the country, 13, 14, 10, significant poverty levels, significant unemployment levels, and millions (this actually reflects one state—this is actually San Francisco in California) 1.5 million people in California on food stamps.

Important for us, as emergency management professionals, are the next 2 items—22% of our population does not have a single credit card. How does that reflect on what we do? We ask people to do things, whether it’s purchasing emergency supplies, or being able to self-evacuate. When you don’t have a credit card, and you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and using payday check cashing services, and you don’t have a bank account, it’s really difficult to do the things we’re asking.

[Slide 4]

What it means for us is we have a huge increase in special needs population—not "special needs" as we defined them, but "special needs" as the people have defined them. Latest studies say about 42% of an urban population needs some type of assistance in evacuation. When we see the shelter demands, the food demands, they’re all increasing, for instance, when we ask somebody to evacuate, and evacuation for a family of 4 for a week, if I’m going to pay for it by myself, is an excess of $750-$1,000 cash.

If I’m living paycheck to paycheck and I don’t have a credit card, it’s very difficult to do that. That reflects on the fact that emergency management is being asked to drastically increase our shelter demands. We’ve had people in recent hurricane evacuations who did not have enough money to put gas in their car to evacuate. They had a car and they were willing to evacuate, but they didn’t have enough money.

The cost of personal preparedness—I ask the question, are we asking too much? If we go to the ready.gov list, or one of the other state’s lists of what we are asking people to purchase, it’s in excess of $350, some significant amount of which materials require annual replenishment. Well if I don’t have enough money to feed my family, if I’m worried about where I’m paying rent from and putting gas in my car, I’m certainly not going to be at the level of taking $350 and putting it aside and buying disaster equipment.

My question here is, and here’s a note for you—are we asking too much, and can we significantly reduce the list that we’re asking people to have available for emergencies? Reduce it, and target it—maybe it’s a top ten list, or a top ten plus two list, or something like that. I would much rather have more people meet a lower bar of preparedness with the key items, than fewer people meet a higher bar of personal preparedness with so many items that we are not going to have anybody be compliant with it for any period of time.

[Slide 5]

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—right now, a significant portion of our population is operating on this lower two-tiered level, the safety and psychological levels, and maybe, the love and belonging. We’re asking people, when we’re asking about personal preparedness, to move up this hierarchy to these upper levels. Maybe the economic realities today are dictating that they’re not able to do that, and we need to take that into consideration when we do our emergency planning.

[Slide 6]

What does it mean for human behavior? How do people actually react in disasters? We need to look at the research and understand how we take what people actually do and convert into systems that emergency management structures support what they actually do. The idea of accepting what is, not what we want to believe—even though we message something, it doesn’t mean that people act on that message. It is important that we understand.

I’ll give you an example. Going to the University of South Florida—we had issues with sidewalks at the University of South Florida, because there weren’t enough sidewalks. The student government met with the engineering department, the facilities management department, and said, "Why don’t we have sidewalks?"

The facilities manager gave a very astute answer and said, "I’m going to watch what the students do, and then I’m going to build the sidewalks where the students walk." That’s exactly the same kind of approach we have to do with emergency management in matching it with human behavior. We have to understand what people actually do and then support what they do and how they do it.

[Slide 7]

Most people take shortcuts based on experience. We’ve been significantly unable to modify human behavior in disasters. We ask people to evacuate; they stay. The issues in the Galveston evacuation—30% of the people stayed. In the Southern California wildfires, 10% of the people stayed. These are actually staggering numbers and we deal with the aftermath of that.

We know that people take shortcuts based on their experience. They act on what they believe is in their best interest. Anything we do to modify these behaviors, or attempt to modify them, will not significantly influence them.

The Israeli experience reinforces these concepts about modifying day-to-day behavior in response to war situations in Israel. We’ve seen this both in hurricanes and wildfires across the board.

[Slide 8]

From the human perspective, I want to touch on 4 things. I’ve looked at these 4 things and I’ve said that these are critical components to how human beings function today. Each of these 4 items will have some actionable recommendations for you to consider.

[Slide 9]

The first one is the prime directive today, absolutely without question, is to communicate. The idea that we can be without communications in the world of 2010-2011 is actually earth-shattering. We find that in almost every disaster we’ve had, communications, in fact, is a point of failure. We have taught, and people have learned, with the availability of technology that they should be able to communicate all the time.

When something happens, the first urge we all have to do is to communicate. We get confidence provided by that communication. My wife, if I’m in a meeting and she will call me and I don’t answer, she’ll call me a second time and I don’t answer, she’ll text me, she’ll text me another time, and when I finally answer, she’s mad at me for not instantly responding. That’s under normal situations.

That level of confidence and the level of concern when the confidence is removed is something we need to accommodate in our planning. The ability to communicate reduces fear and anxiety, and it absolutely enhances resiliency.

[Slide 10]

One of the interesting things that came out of the London bombing—and the London bombings aren’t on this particular slide, but I’ll share a story with you. In visiting London about 2 years after the 7/7 bombing, I met with the London Ambulance Service, the London Fire Brigade, and the London Metropolitan Police, and I asked them what lessons they had learned out of the 7/7 bombings. As each of you know, we can write those lessons for all of these disasters, because the major lessons are all the same.

Out of that discussion came two very interesting things. First, is the London Metropolitan Police, in restructuring and rebuilding a new Emergency Operation Center, has built that center to accommodate 6 simultaneous actions—6 simultaneous incidents, if you will. That’s one thing. They can actually sub-divide the Emergency Operation Center into 6 distinct components with walls to bring the noise levels down.

The other aspect was that they have now begun training with no communications whatsoever because of the reality of the crash of both public and private communication. They are dispatching police motorcycles. When a major incident is declared, part of their protocol is to dispatch 5 or 8 motorcycles to that location. The motorcycles’ purpose is to carry written messages between that incident and wherever else they need to communicate.

They are planning for 2 things that I have not seen very much planning for in the United States—total communications failure, failure meaning overload and everything else, and then the second component is multiple simultaneous incidents.

As you know, in Mumbai, as bad as that situation was with 160+ dead—that was carried off by 5 2-person teams who in fact, went around the city and began a series of simultaneous attacks that threw the emergency services in Mumbai completely off guard. The idea of multiple simultaneous incidents has got to be part of our planning in the future for both operations and communications.

I just saw in an article recently where now we’re talking about "swarming" as the new term. We’re not going to have one incident; we’re going to have a swarm of incidents.

[Slide 11]

These 2 slides, other than the urban search and rescue missions and response missions, absolutely represent the significance of trying to restore communications. These are people charging cell phones off of car batteries. If a country with the infrastructure as completely decimated as Haiti was—if they see the importance of having personal communications, I think the same thing will happen in the United States if we have a similar incident.

Factoid—3/4 of all children in the United States have cell phones by the age of 12. This dependency, this integration of technology, has put children as the chief technology officers in their homes. If you want something done with technology, you ask your younger generation in order to help.

[Slide 12]

Mind-boggling numbers—87% of the population owns a wireless device. That includes my parents. My dad is 88 years old. They have a cell phone. Do they really know how to use it? I don’t know. I do know, but not so well. The point there is, the vast majority of our population owns a wireless device and they are within 3 feet of it 24 hours a day.

From emergency management’s perspective, this third number is very significant. 35% of the households are basically wireless, and that number is increasing every single year. What that means is, our dependency on landlines and fixed telephone communication systems is disappearing, and it raises questions about how dependent we are on reverse 911 systems, and whether they will function in a wireless environment, and how well that wireless environment is integrating with what we are setting up today.

I just attended a meeting about 3 weeks ago at the National Academy of Sciences. We were talking about the new CMAS, the Commercial Mobile Alerting System. The slide that I didn’t put in here, someone else’s slide actually, if you can imagine the huge number of wireless devices as the total universe, that 87%, and then the pipeline to put all that communication through does not even approach the capacity of the devices to communicate.

We are guaranteed, because of having more devices than we have the ability for those transmissions to flow, of crashing our communication system anytime anything significant happens. I’m not sure we’re planning for that. That’s what we need to do.

[Slide 13]

We have billions of cell phones and communications devices, we have the imperative to communicate, and nothing that we can do as emergency management will reduce that imperative. We’ve seen 2 numbers that really stick out in my mind. In a recent survey, 80% of people between 18-35 years old said their mobile device is what they consider their lifeline to other people.

In fact we’ve already had one incident in Australia where 2 girls were trapped in a sewer. Rather than call the Australian equivalent of 911, they logged onto their Facebook account and told their friends they were trapped in the sewer, and one of their friends called the 911 system in Australia. To have children who are looking at Facebook as the first thing I turn to says that our messaging may not be coming through as clearly as we want given the new technologies we have.

[Slide 14]

We know the public to public communication is on the scene before the authorities arrive. Imagine, here’s a quick scenario with communications—an incident happens at any particular place in the United States, the only way we can communicate with the emergency services is by calling 911. It’s a verbal communication to the emergency services.

At the same time, the public has the ability of sending videos, and photos, and audio to their friends anywhere else in the world, but they can’t communicate with the 911 system. It’s viral, and in fact, in the 8 or 9 minutes it takes the first arriving unit to come on the scene after a 911 call, if one person sends it to 5, and those 5 send it to 5, and those 5 send it to 5, the numbers run out about over 8,000 people could have video and audio of the incident before the first emergency unit arrives.

That’s what the public does every single day. That’s what we do every single day, but yet we don’t have the ability to communicate with our own emergency services.

[Slide 15]

The media understands this and they utilize this all the time. They are pulling information from the public. We can, in emergency services, make a decision about how we’re going to handle new media and social media by basically saying we’re going to allow the media to do that for us. Then, like we do today, we’ll watch CNN and FOX and MS-NBC and stuff like that, and get live updates.

Let’s make that a conscious policy decision that that’s what we’re going to do, as opposed to backing into it and not doing it. We can justify that kind of approach, but we have a current overload in our emergency management organizations, our PSAPs, and our emergency operations center, so we may not be able to handle the big influx of video and things like that from the public. Maybe we do allow the media to take that role and help us filter stuff—interesting question.

[Slide 16]

Actions for emergency managers—here are 3 recommendations. Prepare the PSAPs and EOCs to use new media, whether we engage directly with it, whether we engage through an intermediary, or whether we engage through the traditional media. We follow the lead in news media—we push and pull information both ways. We’re just starting this now, this flow of information.

Here’s the big one. I believe there is very little that is going to be a higher priority than restoring cell phone service post incident, post disaster. It needs to go to the highest priority. Why? Because if we have cell service, even over public safety radio service, we have the capability of communicating with our public and with our emergency services at the same time.

They all have cells right now. Without necessarily providing high priority of restoring cell phone service, we’re denying the public their ability to communicate and we’re decreasing resiliency, and we’re increasing concern and uncertainty. Interesting item for discussion—I believe in highest priority for cell service post incident.

[Slide 17]

VNL—this is a company in Sweden that is now putting solar-powered cell sites in India. They come with wordless instructions, very much like IKEA does furniture installation. You put them together in about 3 to 4 hours, and once they are set up, you rotate the mast until there is a steady tone. Once the steady tone is there, you’ve established cellular communications with the next station.

This is the kind of thing we need to be looking at as far as response, restoring cell service post disaster. It is solar powered, it uses the same wattage as a 100-watt light bulb and it costs about $3,500—interesting, as opposed to a normal cell site, which will cost between $40,000-$100,000 and runs between 600 and 2,000 watts. It’s an interesting approach to be used in developing nations.

[Slide 18]

Transportation is the second priority. Normal rush hour in every urban environment demonstrates the inadequacy of our current highway system during normal rush hour.

[Slide 19]

This is not an interstate anywhere in the United States. It’s in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s considered the world’s largest traffic jam. On the main lanes of the highway, we counted 24 lanes of traffic, 12 in each direction. This happened in November of 2009.

[Slide 20]

I show that to you with the idea in mind—when we move people every day, we are putting thousands and thousands of people on the highway to try to get them either to their family, or get their family away from danger. We’ve increased the self-definition of special needs populations. Ask the question here—with non-self evacuating populations, or the increase in special needs populations, who pays for the movement, in particular the evacuation, of those people?

Do we put people at gas stations, in effect, and say that anyone who pulls in here, give them a fill-up of gas so they can evacuate? Or do we say that this is your problem, and we’ll deal with it some time in the future?

[Slide 21]

Most recently, about 2 years ago, only 11 of 37 urban areas received passing evacuation grades from the American Highway Users Federation. If we look at urban environments, the evacuation of an urban environment is perhaps the most critical unresolved issue in emergency management today. How do we pay for this, and what is our single point of failure?

[Slide 22]

The single point of failure is actually the gas station. To the best of my knowledge and research, there is only one state in the nation that requires, has passed state legislation, to have generators at gas stations within one quarter of a mile of an interstate to facilitate the movement of people. That state is Florida.

We have the single point of failure, where we want people to move but if the power is out for whatever reason, we have gas in the ground, but we can’t get it out because the gas stations don’t have generators. My challenge to emergency managers is this—pass state legislation with incentives to have generators at gas stations within certain distances of interstate highways. Maybe it should be for every gas station in the entire United States.

One of the other items we’re going to come up to here is the loss of power. The loss of power causes all sorts of rippling issues. Put evacuation to a high priority, and decide who is going to pay for it and how it’s going to be paid for. Use easy to understand visuals and processes. Go back to the VNL cell phone station, and the IKEA example of wordless evacuation information—wordless emergency preparedness information.

We don’t have to worry about translation. It is self-evident what we want people to do. Its done every day we fly; we pull out that emergency preparedness portfolio in the seat pocket. We look at it, and it has no words on it. Yet, everybody understands what needs to be done. That’s the challenge for emergency management.

[Slide 23]

Electrical power is the third essential. The loss of power brings our economy to a stop. Everything we do is based on having availability of power. Richard Clarke, in the new book on cyber war, talks about the intrusion of the electrical grid system. It’s interesting that this one factor, losing power, has more catastrophic potential than just about any DHS catastrophic planning scenarios, yet it’s not considered a major catastrophe for planning.

That’s one thing I don’t understand. Nothing that I’m aware of, I would even go so far as to say an improvised nuclear device, would not have the sustained impact that losing the electrical grid system for several months because of intrusion, disruption, and destruction of some of the equipment, like generations and things like that, would bring to our society. It’s really a significant challenge, and one we need to address head on.

[Slide 24]

We’ve seen the numbers of the 2003 blackout. Importantly, when we lose power, we lose everything—no trains, no planes, no cell phones, no computers, no ATMS, no gas, no purchases, no food purchases, it just goes on and on. What we learned in 2003 was that the water systems and sewage systems shut down. Now almost all water and sewage systems have back up power to keep them operating when the lose power.

What else have we learned? How do we function as emergency managers when we have no power? When we have no power, we have no communications, etc. It is a phenomenal challenge, and it’s one that’s unanswered.

Recently we’ve had power losses in Canada, the Western United States, Queens New York, Florida, certainly all the stuff that happens along with every natural disaster that comes, just like the flooding most recently in Tennessee. That’s a rebuildable system because the infrastructure is still there. In this situation, when we lose the power grid, or a significant portion of the power grid, it may not be recoverable for months at a time.

[Slide 25]

The intentional intrusion of the electrical grid system—I mentioned Richard Clarke’s new book on cyber war. There are arguments on both sides of that discussion. As emergency managers, we have a responsibility to plan for catastrophic power failure as a disaster for our community. We still find that most police, fire, and government buildings do not have full building auxiliary power.

If we expect people to gain confidence from our government, we need be able to have our government buildings to have power when no one else does. We need to provide them communication. Interesting here, the power companies selling generators—when I lived in Virginia, I got a power bill from Virginia Power, and in the same power bill, I got a solicitation for the installation of a whole-home generator.

I sat there and looked at those 2 things—a power bill, and a sales solicitation for a generator. What is the power company telling me when they send me a solicitation for installing a generator? It could be a line of business—I understand that, something else they can add on. What they’re telling me that they want to give me this option because they don’t necessarily believe that the power grid system is going to stay up enough.

[Slide 26]

We have power companies selling generators for homes, and we have people saying they want to go out and buy generators. Here’s the mixed message again. A 4,000 kilowatt generator, which is about the size you see here in the picture, uses 12 gallons of gas in 24 hours. In 48 hours, it’s 25 gallons of gas. In the 72 or 96 hours we’re asking people to plan for we’re telling them they need to have availability of about 55 gallons of gas in your house to sustain your 4,000 kilowatt generator.

I don’t think there are very many fire departments that would be pleased about having 55 gallon drums of gas sitting around people’s garages. But if they can’t get the gas out of the gas stations to feed their generators, because the gas stations don’t have generators, the cascading problem becomes increasingly a challenge. It’s really fun to try to see what’s going on and extrapolate this stuff out; mixed messages. I mentioned this.

[Slide 27]

Actions for emergency managers—three actions: sustained power interruptions must be part of your catastrophic planning. We cannot go any further down this road without figuring out how to bring sustained power interruption in. We’ve got to address the availability of gasoline and diesel as far as getting it from the tanks and into vehicles and things like that. Key government facilities must have whole building back up power.

[Slide 28]

Every fire station, every police station, every major building has to become a point of light in the community. When everything else fails, we know they’re going to have power, water, and communication. That’s the message to our community.

[Slide 29]

Here’s another slide from Haiti. You know what they’re carrying as well as I do. They’re carrying water. Now we’ve talked about communications, transportation, and the third one is water.

[Slide 30]

Five weeks without food, five days without water—the movement of water is one of the major logistical requirements and complexities post disaster. There’s going to be a certain amount of movement of water that we have to do. The question is, do we need to do it in the quantities we’re doing it in?

[Slide 31]

In Katrina and Rita, millions of gallons, hundreds of millions of dollars of cost—water weighs 8 pounds a gallon. It is a phenomenally heavy commodity. There has to be a better way.

[Slide 32]

I’m looking at 2 things here. There are about 6 other ones. There’s Lifestraw, and PUR Purifier. You can suck water out, like the see the boys doing here, or you can clean it in a bucket. It’s about $3 for a Lifestraw, about 10 cents for a family of 5 for a day. This is again one of those reverse things—do we have to provide what we’ve always provided, or can we give people alternatives that are more effective, and not only effective in delivering the service, but also in cost effectiveness.

One of the things we did here in Region 8, I had the ability of going out and meeting with the LDS Church in Salt Lake City. They have a phenomenal disaster response program, as you may know. They are now providing purification filters, water bottle filters, as part of their disaster response kit because they recognize how difficult it is to supply water post disaster.

[Slide 33]

We need to increase our public education about water and its availability. We need to address the water supply chain, about how we get water to people. We need to use alternatives for purification. I put this picture here of a water heater. It happens to be one from California that is earthquake secure, but the reality, every home and almost every business, has a water reservoir there. Yet we very rarely address that alternative as part of our emergency planning.

But we start this phenomenally complex water supply chain almost immediately. There are 3 actions there.

[Slide 34]

In looking to the future, we need to base our actions in emergency management on research and what people actually do in emergencies, and then design our systems to support what they do, not what we want to do, or what we have done in the past. Having a passion for an issue is less than half the battle.

All of us have a passion for emergency management. There’s no question. We’ve been wildly successful with almost all of our emergency responses. I made the comment that once we (collectively we) recognized what was going on in Katrina, granted all the criticism, all the reports, I understand all of that, but once that got underway, there is no country in the world that could have done what this country did post Katrina to move the population, to do all the things we did.

Was it terrible? One hundred percent, it was terrible. Thirteen hundred and something people died, it was an absolute human disaster. But once we started things moving, we can deliver. To understand how people behave and how we match what we do with what people do, and how we design our systems is really the essence of this discussion.

Understanding those realities based on research and changing how we operate and manage are really where emergency management is going in the future.

[Slide 35]

We’ll read that newspaper headline in the future, some time soon. I believe this—it’s not that we can’t solve the problem; it’s sometimes that we cannot even see the problem. If we can see it, we can solve it. That’s the challenge for emergency management.

[Slide 36]

That concludes the presentation. I was quick, and I pushed hard. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Amy Sebring: You did great Garry. Thank you very much. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: You pointed out the growth of the special needs population. Sometimes I think part of our problem with getting out preparedness messages to the public is that we do use a one-size-fits-all approach. Different parts of the country may have different hazards and may need to take different measures, but we try to have one national message. What do you think about that?

Garry Briese: I think you can have a national message as long as it’s concise. Let’s say we could finally come to consensus of what the ten items are. Whatever the number is, it can’t be as big as it is now. It physically can’t be that big.

I just picked up one from our local emergency management office here. It’s 4 pages long, and the cost that they put on it on the first page is over $100. If I’m going to pick that up, I’m going to look at the bottom line where the cost is, and I’m going to say, "I don’t have $100 for this."

What do we actually want people to have? Do we want them to have water? Do we want them to have food? Do we want them to have clothing? Good minds can come to consensus on what the 10 items are, but we’ve never approached it that way.

Ken Knipper: Great presentation. As a retired emergency manager my biggest problem was public apathy. Any suggestions for the viewers?

Garry Briese: The hardest thing to understand is that the public is always going to be apathetic unless they have annually recurring disasters. Even in California, we evacuated 350,000 people—put an evacuation order out—because fire was coming. You could see the fire coming. Ten percent of the population didn’t move.

There’s a lot of back-story to that, because we’ve issued evacuation orders before when they weren’t necessary, and that goes to the point I made in the slides—people will take shortcuts based on their experience. Even in Israel, where they live under the threat of war most of the time, the public is incredibly apathetic until it gets really, really close. Then they get concerned about it.

I think that’s just one of the things we have to learn to accept. Our window of opportunity is short. Our messages have got to be targeted. We just accept that.

Pete G: I work for a public electrical utility. We've seen that having internet outage information is very helpful. Even if people don't have home internet in an electrical outage, they use cell phone internet or call friends to get updates from the outage website. I agree that cell phone access is absolutely key

Garry Briese: It’s really incredible, actually, to realize how either you or I feel completely at a loss when we lose one of these essential communication tools. I get mad when my internet is down and I turn to alternatives right away. If the whole grid system goes down, then all that communication ability goes away.

Someone asked in one of the seminars recently that I was doing, "If this grid system goes down, and you say it’s potentially going down for 3 or 4 months, if it’s on the bad end of it, what should we do?" Somebody else in the audience, sort of tongue-in-cheek, said, "Make sure you have a gun." That’s where we’re going to be going when we remove power from our society. That’s how dependent we are.

That’s sort of crazy to say, and I wouldn’t say that publicly, but everything is just-in-time in our society. Every time we have a hurricane threat, or here in Colorado, we have a snow threat, people hit the grocery stores, and it’s like locusts. The stores are cleared. There’s only so much food in the Safe-Way warehouse. It’s all just-in-time.

If we lose the ability to communicate, not only publicly, but in the private sector, where so much of our infrastructure lies, we are in serious trouble. We will go very quickly down Maslow’s hierarchy to the very bottom, which are the psychological issues about food and water and things like that. We will fight for it.

Gaylon Moss: What organizations or educational institutions are studying what people do pre-and post disaster? Are there any books you recommend or authors?

Garry Briese: First book is one called "Leadership in Disaster", and it’s written by Murphy. It talks about the 1988 ice storm in Canada, northern New York and Maine. It goes through in painstaking detail about the problems they had when their electrical grid system collapsed as a result of major ice storms, and they were out for several months during the wintertime. Most of us don’t know about that—1988—that’s ancient history.

The other part of your question was who is doing research. The foremost (there are several around the United States) gathering of behavioral researchers is done each July at the Natural Hazards Center in Boulder, Colorado. They sponsor the Natural Hazards Workshop, done every July, and that’s where the researchers get together and talk about human behavior and disasters.

It’s interesting how few emergency management practitioners and policy people are in attendance. A lot of the policy people fly in, give their speech, and fly out. That doesn’t move the agenda down the field when it comes to understanding the research that’s going on. The Natural Hazards Center in Boulder would be a good linkage point, the University of Colorado in Boulder, and the Natural Hazards Workshop in July are phenomenal resources.

Chip Seigler: You stated DHS does not have a plan for power disruptions. Do they have a plan for an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event?

Garry Briese: I would anticipate that DHS (FEMA) does have an EMP plan, simply because it’s part of the scenario that the legacy issues from the Civil Defense days. In one sense, the fact of DHS having or not have a plan is less consequential than local jurisdictions having a plan for the failure of the electrical grid system.

The federal government is going to be in a very similar situation as the local governments are. Most of the federal government buildings do not have whole-building generators. The FEMA regional offices do not have whole-building generators to run all of our systems. Even if we had that, if the internet goes down, we don’t have any ability to communicate with anybody outside of our immediate jurisdiction.

The planning for catastrophic failure is what is important. That is most important at the state and local. Federal government can do it—the federal government does. But state and locals must do.

Amy Sebring: While we’re on the topic of power, I was really struck by that solar powered cell phone tower that you showed (VNL). I’m wondering if we shouldn’t be a little more proactive in terms of trying to get these disaster and emergency situation issues into the planning that may be going on in this administration for alternative power sources.

Garry Briese: Again, it’s like all of these things, they have very long actionable horizons. They’re way off in the distance. But the sooner we start it, the better off we’re going to be because we’ll get there sooner. In talking with the telecommunication companies, in particular, I’ve talked to representatives of AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint/Nextel, and they all understand the criticality of their systems. But, they all understand also the economic realities of their systems.

There’s so much they can do. All three of them have significant plans and equipment and personnel ready to respond in a disaster scenario to try to get the cell systems back up. I’m saying that needs to be supported as a policy from emergency management across the country. That is, we will do everything in our power to facilitate that telecommunication system going back in service, in particular the cell phone systems.

Dick Bolt: Retired NASA System Safety Engr. What is your opinion of taking the message to the school students that will carry the concern for family safety home? I am working on this in Philippines.

Garry Briese: I think as long as it’s simple, we’ve got to bring it back down to absolutely the basic thing we want them to do. The Fire Service has been messaging to the public for decades about smoke alarms, and yet we still only have, numbers vary between 40%-60% of all private residences with smoke alarms.

This is an ongoing problem. The schools—absolutely, it’s important. But what do we ask them to do with it? We can’t give them a list that costs $350, and say, "Here, we want you to do this." Simplify it, and make it something that is doable that they can get their hands around with minimal effort.

Amy Sebring: When you talk about that long-term horizon, that really struck a chord with me. To this day, I don’t believe I’ve come across a really clearly articulated long-term national preparedness goal that we could be working toward over the long haul. At least, the long-term vision of where we want to be as a nation in 10 years—do we want to be in the same situation we are now, or do we want to be making progress toward the goal? Until you have a clearly articulated goal, we cannot measure that progress.

Garry Briese: Yes, you’re 100% correct. I think each administration continues to try to refine what we mean by "preparedness" and how we can do that. Resiliency is the ability of the local community and individual home to withstand an incident and continue to function. And what does that mean? It means different things for different people and different industries.

If we set a preparedness goal, an easy one, for instance, would be for 80% of the people to have—what do we want them to have—a battery-powered radio? If there’s one thing that I want people to have, it’s the ability to communicate, then it may be, in fact, a battery-powered or solar-powered or crank-powered radio. Go to Radio Shack and buy that. You can buy it for $29. Red Cross is selling them also.

I’m thinking that is the single most important thing we can ask people to have—the ability to receive information so we can tell them what to do. Maybe that is preparedness.

Amy Sebring: I can see just having whole-building generators as being part of the national preparedness.

Garry Briese: That’s a policy decision. We either are or are not going to have that. I think we need to have that and we need to set about funding it. We put lots and lots of money out to all different aspects of preparedness, and I would hope that somebody would communicate to me and say, "One of the things we did in our community is we put generators in all of our public buildings, and we assisted all our gas stations to put generators in the gas stations so we can keep transportation flowing."

Avagene Moore: Garry, your presentation was very sobering to me. Thank you! I wonder if others are willing to join you in your thinking. In your opinion, how can we make folks think a bit broader and bigger about the points you have made today? My feeling is that we are still hung up in old SOPs and plans at all levels and sometimes a bit fat and happy with the old status quo.

Garry Briese: In many ways, I agree with that. What I’m asking for and what I’m advocating for is people to look at what we’re doing and ask the question—why are we doing it this way? Is there a better way? Our citizens are telling us what they want. They are either telling us by their actions, or they’re telling us by their inactions.

We have to understand that, and then guide everything we’re doing by what we’re trying to ask them to do. We live in a tornado-prone nation. We just had terrible tornados about 2 days ago in Oklahoma City. Yet, we continue to build houses without safe rooms. It’s beyond my understanding why we’re doing that. We continue to build mobile home parks without centralized safe structures—whether it’s a bunker, reinforced concrete, whatever—where people could go to be out of their trailers when things like that happen.

There are things we can do, but we’re headed down a road and it’s really difficult to change the course and direction. But if enough people begin asking the questions, I think we may be able to make some progress and become even more rational and more effective than what we’ve been in the past.


Amy Sebring: I think that’s an excellent note to wrap up on. I’m going to change back to your slide with your contact information. We thank you very much Gary. It’s been a very thought provoking discussion and I’m sure many people will come away from it just thinking about the ideas that you’ve talked about – and thinking outside the box. That is what you are talking about.

Garry Briese: I'll leave everybody with one thought. It’s a favorite thought of mine. It’s one of those little phrases that say, "When all is said and done, more is always said than done." If the people on this thing will go away and do one thing differently, that’s all I’d ask for. Thank you very much.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Garry. We appreciate your taking the time to share your ideas with us.

Again, the recording should be available later this afternoon. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to Subscribe.

Now PLEASE take a moment to do the rating/review! I am going to load the rating/review form into Live Meeting so you can complete it on the spot. Note: We are asking you to rate the relevance of the information, and this will assist us in our future programming.

We hope you will think about the things raised today. Thanks to everyone for participating today. Please join us next time.