Edited Version October 6, 1999 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Online Library Presentation

"Public Entity Risk Institute's Internet Symposium
Oct. 4 - 8, 1999"

Gerry Hoetmer
Executive Director
Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI)

EIIP Moderator: Amy Sebring

The original unedited transcript of the October 6, 1999 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Forum Archives (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 input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the Virtual Library!

• For the benefit of our first-timers, when you see a blue web address, you can click on it and the referenced Web page should appear in a browser window.

• After the first one, the browser window may not automatically come to the top, so you may need to bring it forward by clicking on a button at the status bar at the bottom of your screen.

• We will start with a presentation, and then follow with a Q&A session for your questions and comments. Right before we begin the Q&A portion we will review the procedure.

• Please do NOT send direct messages to the speaker or moderator as it makes it difficult for us to follow the discussion.

Today we are going to be discussing the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) Internet Symposium that is taking place this week. Background information on today's session may be found at http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/991006.htm.

The PERI Symposium Center may be accessed via http://www.riskinstitute.org/docs/symposium.html.

We are very pleased to have Gerry Hoetmer, PERI Executive Director, with us today. Prior to joining PERI, he had a long professional association with ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. He has also had a long professional interest in disasters and preparing for them, and conceived and led the development of a course for city and county officials, which is offered through EMI.

Welcome Gerry, and thank you for joining us today.

We are going to handle the proceedings a little differently today. I have previously sent some interview questions to Gerry, which he has taken the time to answer in a thoughtful way. We would like you to think of this as a pre-recorded interview! I will be doing the input of all the questions and answers, then we will follow that with Gerry's responses to your questions and comments.

Before we get started, I would like to mention the papers that are posted and that all of them are relatively brief and easy to read.

The symposium framework paper is entitled "Dealing with Disaster: Examining Approaches for Small Public Entities, Non-Profit Organizations and Businesses to Reduce Losses and Overcome the Effects of Extreme Events." This fairly concise paper provides a synopsis of the escalating costs of disasters in recent years, and also introduces the remainder of the papers.

The first symposium paper, from Monday, (appropriately enough) was written by Jacquelyn Monday and Mary Fran Myers and is entitled "Coping with Disasters by Building Local Resiliency." If you do not have the time or the money to read Dennis Mileti's book, "Disasters by Design," then this is the paper for you.

The Tuesday paper is by John Pine from LSU, entitled, "Looking Beyond the Obvious Risks: How Small Localities, Businesses and Non-profit Organizations Can Assess and Manage the Ripple Effects of Disasters." John recommends looking and planning for the less obvious consequences, in addition to the obvious.

Today's paper is by John Clizbe, V.P. of the American Red Cross, entitled "Making Disaster Mitigation Personal," and emphasizes a strategy for educating individuals in the local community.

Thursday is Howard Kunreuther, Wharton School, on "Linking Insurance and Mitigation: The Need for Public-Private Partnerships" who describes some of the reasons why insurance is not a cost-effective risk mitigation measure, and offers some alternatives.

Then on Friday, the wrap up by the conference moderators. Now the questions we asked Gerry and his answers.



Amy Sebring: Before we talk about this week's Internet Symposium, I would like to get a little background information on the Public Entity Risk Institute. Gerry, what are the purposes of PERI?


Gerry Hoetmer: The answers to most of these questions can be found on our website http://www.riskinstitute.org. Just click on our profile.

Briefly, PERI's purpose is to enhance risk management in smaller organizations. We have three primary goals:

1) To facilitate the development and delivery of risk management education and training;

2) To serve as a information resource and clearinghouse; and,

3) To encourage innovation in risk management through a grant and research program.

PERI is not a membership organization but we do have publications such as our quarterly newsletter and our annual report which report on our activities and funded grants. These are available free of charge and our mailed to those who are on our mailing list. To get on our mailing list go to our website and send us your address.


Amy Sebring: How does PERI meet its goals?


Gerry Hoetmer: PERI primarily addresses its goals by working with other organizations and through its grants and research program. There are some direct PERI programs such as our annual symposium but most of our activities are done through other organizations such as the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA), the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), etc.


Amy Sebring: What is the relationship between risk management and disaster management?


Gerry Hoetmer: Insurance, liability and loss control issues are important considerations in all four phases of disaster management, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. But whole textbooks could be written on this topic.


Amy Sebring: Does PERI have special expertise in the area of insurance?


Gerry Hoetmer: PERI has a small staff of four. Our staff does have a strong background in risk management, disaster management, environmental management and local government management. However, our principal means of doing business is through other organizations.


Amy Sebring: Now let's turn to this week's symposium; how did this symposium come about?


Gerry Hoetmer: One of PERI's key strategies is to establish distance learning mechanisms to help reach smaller public, nonprofit and private organizations that have difficulty in sending their staff to traditional training opportunities.

This symposium provides PERI a way of distributing risk management information to a wider audience that perhaps normally could not get this information by travelling to attend a workshop or a conference.


Amy Sebring: What do you hope to achieve through this symposium?


Gerry Hoetmer: We hope that the papers presented, as well as the discussions, will stimulate further investigation. Perhaps refocus community efforts in improving land use and zoning, etc, etc.


Amy Sebring: The framework paper mentions "Small Public Entities" -- what constitutes a small public entity?


Gerry Hoetmer: We have defined a small city as under 50,000 in population and small county as under 100,000 in population. But these are very arbitrary definitions.

What we are more concerned about is an entity's capabilities and understanding of risk management. In that sense a larger populated rural community may not have the same staff expertise as perhaps a smaller urban community or then again visa-versa.


Amy Sebring: The framework paper also mentions non-profit organizations. Do you feel that more outreach to non-profit organizations and community-based organizations is needed to make them more aware of the risks they face from disasters?


Gerry Hoetmer: Absolutely. We are working with the Nonprofit Risk Management Center (NORMAC) with several of their training initiatives.


Amy Sebring: We have had a number of programs pertaining to business, especially small business and the potential impact of the loss of businesses for a community due to failure to recover from disaster. Do you do any work in this area in particular?


Gerry Hoetmer: Yes, we do. We are currently working for example with the Association for Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) which counsels small business owners when they are seeking a SBA loan.

There are nearly 1000 of these counseling centers across the country. We are working with the ASBDC to train their counselors to help small business owners on risk management and insurance issues.


Amy Sebring: Regarding the Symposium, how is it going so far in terms of the comments you have received?


Gerry Hoetmer: After each day our moderators Laurie Johnson and Felix Kloman give their assessment on the papers and comments presented. We are pleased with the dialogue and hope others will continue join in.


Amy Sebring: Do you plan to have future symposiums and will they be on this topic of disasters or other topics?


Gerry Hoetmer: Yes, we do plan on having future symposiums probably on a biannual basis. Since risk management is such a broad field the topics will vary a great deal but include environmental liability, personnel issues, loss control training, etc.

Amy Sebring: Now we will turn to our audience. Please enter a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to be recognized, go ahead and compose your comment or question, but wait for recognition before hitting the enter key or clicking on Send. We are ready to begin now please.

One of the things I also thought we might discuss today is some of the special challenges faced by small jurisdictions. So if anyone has comments on this as well, please go ahead.

[Audience Questions]


Warren Vaughn: Mr. Hoetmer, I am in the process of researching a paper

for public employees and safety during disasters. Is there information on your web site that may help me?

Gerry Hoetmer: On what subject? Perhaps we work through other organizations. So check us out.


Genevieve Pastor: I've read the papers in the symposium and gave the topics some thought. I've worked with the State of California OES Hazard Mitigation and the issue that would arise with small jurisdictions would be that if they were impacted by a disaster and applied for hazard mitigation funds. If their project did not fall within the priorities of the state, then they would be up the creek with no funding to cover their mitigation measure. The problem lies with the population the HM project impacts. If you compared the population of a small county (Madera in CA) to Los Angeles County. LA would get the hazard mitigation grant because of the sheer size and population it would impact. My question, is how can PERI assist in getting other sources or means of helping the smaller jurisdiction?

Amy Sebring: Do you hear these types of concerns from your constituents?

Gerry Hoetmer: PERI is trying through its resources to highlight the needs of small jurisdictions in these areas.

Amy Sebring: My experience is that smaller jurisdictions do not have, cannot afford full time emergency management programs.

Gerry Hoetmer: We do have a grants program through which you can apply for funds

Amy Sebring: Somebody may have such a title, BUT is that the experience of this group as well?


Genevieve Pastor: Gerry, is the grant fund posted on the PERI website ?

Gerry Hoetmer: Yes, it is!


Amy Sebring: Gerry, can you tell us about some of the grants you have awarded in the past in this area?

Gerry Hoetmer: Well since we are so new, none so far. But have given a grant to the Natural Hazard Center and a grant to John Pine for his recent symposium.


Warren Vaughn: In Tennessee the majority of the local EM programs are either volunteer or part of another agency.

Gerry Hoetmer: PERI would be interested in hearing from these organizations on how we could help. All it takes is to send in a letter of interest, we will work with you in shaping a proposal.


Amy Sebring: Does the amount of time they spend on EM vary, Warren; or is it usually pretty low in your experience? Or how much other more urgent job duties he has?

Warren Vaughn: It varies. Depends a lot on if the director is paid at all (part time) or is strictly volunteer.


Warren Vaughn: Mr. Hoetmer, is there a grant program for employee assistance to local programs for planners or such?

Gerry Hoetmer: The PERI board has indicated a high interest in funding projects in the mitigation and preparedness arena. It would be interesting to hear from perhaps a group of small jurisdictions in the same general area.


Amy Sebring: I am interested in the effort you mentioned with small businesses; how has that been received? Have you had any feedback?

Gerry Hoetmer: Great feedback so far in our effort to train the counselors.


Cam King: Are the grants available outside of the U.S

Gerry Hoetmer: Our board has not dealt with that question but I would like it to.

Amy Sebring: Gerry, I have thought that a possible solution for smaller jurisdictions was to share a multi-jursidictional program, to make it more affordable. Such as 3 or 4 counties "going in together."

Gerry Hoetmer: All our current funded projects are described on our web site. I would be interested in a letter of interest on that.


Cam King: Could I get your email to follow up with you?

Amy Sebring: Cam, see also the PERI Website, which is http://www.riskinstitute.org.


Amy Sebring: There may be some models out there although I am not aware of any that does not have a good sized city involved. Does anyone here have any further thoughts on that idea?

Warren Vaughn: That has been looked at in the past in Tennessee but it has never panned out. Not sure of the reasons why.

Amy Sebring: Perhaps this may be an opportunity to study such a model.

Frederick Frey: MD Emergency Management has a tri-county Project Impact site in southern MD.

Genevieve Pastor: An example of a multi-agency collaboration would be during the Oakland Hills Fires several years ago. Several agencies, i.e. UC-Berkeley, City of Oakland, City of Piedmont, East Bay Conservation Corp, East Bay Regional Park District got together to provide a grant application for Vegetation Management. This worked because all the entities knew they needed to do something about the urban/wildland fire situation. Because of their joint efforts and hard work, they got the grant.

Gerry Hoetmer: I like the idea.


Amy Sebring: I would think these multi-agency initiatives would be particularly well-suited in the area of mitigation. Anyone know of other examples?


Amy Sebring: Gerry, do you have any other specific plans for the future or ideas on the drawing board?

Frederick Frey: In MD, antiterrorism planning and training is done on a regional scope.

Gerry Hoetmer: At our last board meeting the board priorities for next year was to initiate projects that used alliances.

Genevieve Pastor: During Loma Prieta, Santa Clara County served as the grantee for HM funds to local residents who owned single family one story homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains The homes originally were small vacation homes without foundations. The HM funds were distributed from the State to The County to residents (no more than $10K) to help install seismic retrofits.

Cam King: There are some efforts with regard to flooding in the Red River (North) Basin with hopes it will be Cross-border alliances. This involves mostly small communities on both sides of the border.

Gerry Hoetmer: PERI would be interested in participating in these projects.


Amy Sebring: Genevieve raised what I thought was a good point earlier, regarding priorities being set by the number of people potentially served. Gerry, do these small communities have a political voice?

Gerry Hoetmer: We do not get involved in those types of political issues.

Final Question:

Amy Sebring: Gerry, is it ok for these folks to participate in your symposium?

Gerry Hoetmer: Absolutely.

Amy Sebring: Great, thank you very much. Thank you very much for being with us today Gerry -- we hoped you enjoyed it and I hope you have some tangible outcomes from this event.

Gerry Hoetmer: Thank you.

Amy Sebring: We are going to have some announcements now. Please stay with us a moment longer.

Before we go to upcoming events, we would like to acknowledge some new pledges since yesterday, Rick Wood and Steve Smith that were with us yesterday, Jerry W. Harrison and Ray Pena. That brings us up to 70! Only 30 more to go. Thanks Rick, Steve, Jerry and Ray!

If you have not made a pledge to join us for at least one session per month, please consider doing so and see http://www.emforum.org/eiip/pledge.htm for further info.

Our October newsletter is now posted, and if you are not subscribed to our EIIP or Partner mailing list, you may access from our home page.

Next Tuesday will be our Community & Family Preparedness Round Table, with Kellye Junchaya hosting. Her guest will be Ron Gird of the NOAA/NWS Customer Service Outreach Program.

Next Wednesday, we will celebrate World Disaster Reduction Day for the third year in a row! I cannot believe it!

Thanks again, Gerry, and thank you, audience. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are invited to remain for open discussion.