Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's inundation of Crisfield, Maryland

On Sunday evening, October 28, as I kept one eye on supper cooking on the grill, another eye on the late NFL football game, and still another eye on the track of Hurricane Sandy, I received the phone call that I had been waiting for. My state mass care coordinator counterpart in Maryland, Pam Spring, wanted to know if I could give her a hand.

I had been playing my favorite game all weekend, following the track of the storm using my Hurrevac software and figuring out where it was going. More correctly, guessing where the storm was going based on the NHC forecast. And the storm looked like it was heading for Baltimore, MD.  

By Wednesday, October 31,  when I got on the plane to Baltimore the storm had jogged to the right. Pam and I knew that Maryland had dodged a bullet but I also knew that some parts of the state had been hit hard. Sandy's impact on Maryland wasn't the big disaster like New York and New Jersey, but the state had flooded homes and citizens in  distress. A lot of them were in Crisfield, MD.

Crisfield is a small town of 2,700 souls in Somerset County on the southwestern tip of the peninsula. Sandy's winds, coming off the mainland, pushed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay into the city, inundating as many as one third of the 1,100 structures.  I got that estimate directly from the city's building inspector in his office at city hall.

Pam and I along with Ginny Hazen, a fellow Floridian from Broward County, who accompanied me on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) mission to Maryland, left Reisterstown the morning of Thursday, November 1, to drive to Crisfield. I drove Pam's state vehicle, with Pam in the front seat, while Ginny followed in our rental car.

In a trend that was to continue for the next three days, Pam talked on her cell phone almost continuously. From Resisterstown, location of the State EOC, and northwest of Baltimore, there was no easy route to the DelMarVa peninsula. It was either sit in traffic on the interstate or grind our way through the big city. Ginny and I got the non-scenic tour of the city. 

Having only been to Baltimore once, I was totally dependent on Pam's directions, and Pam was busy filling up a notepad with incoming and outgoing phone calls. Ginny, behind us, was focused on keeping up. At one point in the middle of the city, I got Pam's attention and asked for directions.

She looked around and said, "We missed the turn." Pause. "We're in a really bad part of town." Pause. "Lock the doors."

We got out of Baltimore and I made my first trip across the Chesapeake Bay bridge. I would have had a better chance to see the view if I hadn't been driving. I had never been to the beautiful, rural, farm country of the Maryland peninsula, and I thought it sad that it took a disaster to bring me there. After a 4 hour drive halfway across Maryland, I reached Crisfield and finally saw a place that looked like it had been hit by a hurricane. You know, the usual signs: utility trucks, chain saw crews, traffic lights not giving out a lot of guidance. 

We had a meeting scheduled at City Hall  with the Mayor of Crisfield and we were there on time. As the senior, local elected official,  he was in charge, and we were there to do what we could to help him and his city. The big issue facing the Mayor was that his city inspector was getting ready to condemn 123 public housing units and place up to 278 citizens in the position of having to leave their home.

We walked out of the meeting and into a 2 1/2 day whirlwind of activity. The Mayor wanted a shelter, a Point of Distribution (POD) and an information center set up at the Woodrow Wilson Community Center, which was a short walk from the affected public housing units.

The Woodrow Wilson Community Center in Crisfield

The line of trash on a fence near the Community Center showing the height of the surge.
The Crisfield Essential Services Center
Volunteers assembling at the Crisfield City Hall for a day of service
Supplies at the POD in the Fire/Rescue facility in north Crisfield
The Red Cross, the Salvation Army and I outside the Woodrow Wilson Community Center.

Me, Pam Spring and Ginny Hazen on the last day of our assignment in Maryland.

After three hours of frenetic activity, triggered by Pam's cell phone, trucks were unloaded with supplies, tables were moved and set up, a Salvation Canteen showed up in the parking lot to feed, and the Mayor had what he wanted.

The Mayor wanted to call the information center a Disaster Recovery Center but I advised against it.

"A Disaster Recovery Center implies that FEMA is here, and as of right now, we have no federal declaration," I said. "When we have this situation in Florida, we set up what we call an Essential Services Center."

The Mayor agreed. As a reward for my suggestion, Pam put me charge of the ESC.  The Governor decided to put those in the condemned units that wanted to leave in a hotel, and some of them took him up on the offer. 

With the immediate needs of the affected inhabitants of the public housing units addressed, we expanded our outreach to the rest of the town. Ginny Hazen, my partner from Broward County, took over the Volunteer Coordination role for the city and did a fabulous job. The volunteer response was tremendous, and there was a lot of work to be done in the town. The locals were remarkably well organized and industrious. They sent volunteers out to assess the need on one day, recording exact addresses and requirements. Then, when the Southern Baptist chain saw crews showed up the next day, they had a list of jobs to perform.

The Mayor directed that a second POD be set up in a Fire/Rescue facility in the northern part of town. Feeling that I was underemployed, Pam added responsibility for establishing the second POD to my portfolio. I met with whoever was in charge at the Fire/Rescue station and showed him how to set up a drive through POD. A truck from the Food Bank arrived with canned goods. Other trucks arrived with bottled water and Red Cross Clean Up kits.

But I can't forget the elderly woman who showed up and asked the most repeated question I was to hear during the time I was in Maryland: "Is FEMA here?"

"No, Ma'am," I said. "They aren't."

"Well, my carpets got all wet and they're starting to smell. Do you know when they're coming?"

"Well Ma'am, FEMA can't do anything until there's a federal declaration. The Governor and the President are discussing it. When they make a decision, they'll let us know."

There was nothing that I could do to put this old woman's life back in order, but I still felt bad that I couldn't do anything. Crisfield reminded me of Pearlington, Mississippi, a small town that was hit much harder than Crisfield, but still left me feeling bad that I couldn't do more. Unlike Pearlington, however, I wasn't sure that Crisfield was going to get their federal declaration. Therefore, I was pleased to hear today that Crisfield and Somerset County were awarded a federal declaration last Friday and a Disaster Recovery Center is now open in the city.

By Sunday we had addressed the immediate needs of Somerset County. The long road to recovery was still ahead. Pam released Ginny and I from our EMAC assignment and we headed home. Sandy wasn't finished for me, however. When I got home from Maryland on Monday, November 5, I departed 3 hours later for 2 weeks in New York. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Forklifts, big trailers and Hurricane Sandy

I am sure that New York City and the American Red Cross aren't resting on their laurels about how perfectly they played their response to Hurricane Sandy. Emergency management is logistics, and doing logistics in a big city is tough. After two weeks spent in NYC during the Sandy response, I feel like FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who recounted his response to a reporter's question about how he knew so much about emergency management by saying: "I've been doing this for so long that I've made every possible mistake and learned from it."

While in NYC I had the great opportunity to work with the Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation and the highly professional NYC Office of Emergency Management. I saw both organizations making mistakes with the exceptional clarity of one who has made the same damn mistakes myself. And some more than once.

A lot of people have years and decades of disaster experience but very few have experience in disasters dealing with millions of people. And of those who have experience in such disasters, most were operating at the street or shelter level, and not in the big emergency operations centers. I have spent most of my emergency management career working in the big EOCs, places full of so much information and so little clarity about what is really happening to those people working in the cold or the heat in the affected areas.

My job in the EOC, when boiled down to its essential essence, is to make sure the people in the street and shelter have the right kind of resource, with the right capability, in the right quantity, at the right time. This sounds simple but its not easy.

The responders in the affected area are worrying about Right Now. Right Now could be the next minute, or the next hour or Today. For them, long range planning is Tomorrow. At the State EOC in Tallahassee I can't do anything Right Now. If you need something Right Now, and that resource is already positioned in the Logistic Staging Area (LSA), I can arrange to have it delivered to you tomorrow. We can't deliver it to you Right Now because all the vehicles at the LSA are out delivering resources that were requested yesterday.

If the resource you need is not in the LSA, then I have to go get it. This means that I have to arrange for the State to buy it or request FEMA to provide it. This can take 48-96 hours, at best. And if you need it Right Now, 48-96 hours sounds like Next Year. Therefore, my time horizon is never Right Now, but is focused on what I anticipate the people in the field are going to need 48-96 hours from now.

That means that I am in the prediction business. In small disasters any errors in my predictions are usually small. In big disasters the errors in my predictions have the potential to be very large. And the question is rarely about WHAT we need but rather HOW MANY. That is why I have spent many years trying to devise ways to predict the quantity of resources that we would need in a big disaster.  One of the best ways to improve predictions is to make them a collective judgment of the stakeholders involved. In Florida, we do that on the daily state mass care conference call.

What happens in big disasters is that the people in the EOCs are stuck in Right Now and aren't thinking about the next 48-96 hours. The reason they are stuck in Right Now is that they are understaffed for the size of the disaster. The reason that they are understaffed is they don't know what they don't know. You don't know what you need in a big disaster until you experience one. But big disasters don't happen that often, so few people have the experience required to deal with the more complex issues presented.

In 2009 the State of Florida ran a catastrophic hurricane exercise to test our new catastrophic hurricane plan. This was Craig Fugate's last exercise as Florida's EM Director. I was the State Mass Care Coordinator in the exercise and I was overwhelmed by the quantity and complexity of the problems that I had to address. At one point, I needed to be in 3 critical meetings at the same time. I learned that I was understaffed for the size of the disaster and needed to plan to do something about it should the real event happen.

Which brings me to forklifts and big trailers. The biggest and most impressive lesson that I learned while responding to the 8 hurricanes that hit Florida in a 16 month period during 2004 and 2005 was the critical importance of having lots of big trailers and forklifts.

In big disasters involving millions of people you need to fill the big 48 ft or 53 ft trailers and direct them to a staging area near to or within the disaster area. The staging area is important because when you order the trailer loads (48-96 hours in advance) you may not know the ultimate destination for the load.

This is the most effective way to get large quantities of "stuff" to large quantities of people in a big disaster. In the 2 weeks that I spent in NYC I didn't see or hear about people using lots of big trailers and forklifts. They were using a lot of straight trucks and unloading the cargo by hand. This technique works just fine in little disasters. In big disasters you need big trailers to push the supplies as far forward into the affected area as possible and then unload them using pre-positioned forklifts.

I spoke to several people about why they didn't use more forklifts and they said that they tried. There are thousands of forklifts in NYC but they aren't where they need them for the disaster. And moving forklifts around is H-A-R-D. They're heavy and don't travel very fast.

That is why I advised the American Red Cross to get a national forklift contract for use in big disasters such as Sandy. We used these contractors in Florida to position forklifts at over 70 Point of Distribution (POD) sites in Dade and Broward Counties after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The contractors carried the forklifts in on flat bed trailers and dropped them off at the POD locations and field kitchen sites.

Another important reason to have the capability to quickly pre-position forklifts is that in a big disaster big trailers become a critical shortage item. In 2004 the Florida SERT and FEMA disrupted commerce in the Eastern United States because we rented every available trailer and filled them with disaster supplies. We needed the forklifts to empty the trailers at the field sites because we needed the empty trailer in order to go back and get more disaster supplies. And when you are trying to empty thousands of big trailers, you need a lot of forklifts.

Finally, to make this system work you need tractors to move the trailers to the field sites. The big "linehaul" tractors with the sleeper cabins are great to move trailers inter-city but don't serve as well positioning trailers in the city. The linehaul tractors move the freight from origin to the LSAs. The "city" tractors make the short trips from the LSA to the field site.  You can contract for a fleet of city tractors with drivers and a dispatcher at the LSA to make sure the supplies get to the right place at the right time.

Boy, this all sounds expensive, you must say. But in a $30 billion or $50 billion or $100 billion disaster these costs are chump change.

Besides, there are 3 types of disaster responses: Efficient, Cheap or Quick. You have to choose one. The public and our elected officials demand that it be Quick. Our job is to make it happen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The transition to long term disaster feeding in New York City after Sandy

From November 12 to November 19 I shuttled between the New York City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Brooklyn, the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation (DRO) on 49th St. in Manhattan and my hotel near Times Square. The objective of my efforts was to achieve a coordinated transition in the City to long term disaster feeding.

The New York City Emergency Operations Center in Brooklyn

The nationally developed Multi-Agency Feeding Plan Template describes the three phases of disaster feeding: Immediate, Sustained and Long Term.  In the Immediate phase disaster feeding is conducted using local production and distribution resources.  If additional resources are required, then the voluntary agencies establish a mass care feeding infrastructure consisting of field kitchens producing hot meals for distribution by Red Cross and Salvation Army vehicles. This is the Sustained Phase of disaster feeding.

As electrical power is restored to the affected homes the daily count of distributed hot meals declines and is eventually terminated. The cessation of the distribution of hot meals to the survivors is always and everywhere a political decision, made by the voluntary agencies in consultation with local elected officials. The end of the Sustained Phase of disaster feeding does not mean that the need has been eliminated. Rather, the means of delivering feeding support shifts to the Long Term Phase.

The two principle mechanisms for delivering long term disaster feeding are the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) and the limited, targeted distribution of food boxes.  At the beginning of this year I knew very little about these topics so I worked with subject matter experts from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Feeding America and the Florida Food Bank Association to gather information. 

As I produced drafts of what became the Household Disaster Feeding document my contacts sought out additional experts who also contributed to the excellent quality of the final product. We have to produce these reference documents in this bootleg manner because getting a document through the federal agency approval process is more effort than it is worth.

We finished the document in June of this year. Five months later, when I walked into the New York City EOC, I knew that the Household Disaster Feeding Template could provide a framework by which the City of New York could devise a plan for the implementation of the Long Term Phase of disaster feeding the the city.

I arrived in the NYC EOC as a Red Cross volunteer working for the Disaster Relief Operation but without an operational role in the disaster. The reason I volunteered, and the reason that I was asked by the ARC to go to the EOC, was that I had been planning to implement a catastrophic feeding plan in Florida for over 6 years. I had technical expertise appropriate to this disaster, and I also selfishly wanted to bring back any lessons learned to Florida.

The Greater New York Chapter of the American Red Cross on 49th St
in Manhattan. The Sandy Disaster Relief Operation was on the 4th floor.

In any disaster feeding operation (and Sandy was my 16th hurricane) the key events requiring the most coordination are the transitions between the phases.  The disaster had already transitioned from the Immediate to the Sustained Phase. The conditions for a successful transition from the Sustained to the Long Term Phase needed to be set in place.

I had previously met with key members of the NYC emergency management team and found them to be some of the most competent and profession emergency managers that I had met in the nation. I also found the NYC emergency management team to be extremely well resourced for the difficult job of managing disasters in the city.

New York City is one of the most difficult environments I have ever encountered in which to conduct mass care. Doing anything in the city on a good day is hard. Trying to feed and shelter hundreds of thousands survivors after a disaster is a tough and complex task. 

The coordination mechanism in the city for disaster feeding is called the Food Access Task Force. The concept of Food Access was new to me but it was an apt manner of describing the feeding situation in New York. In blue skies there is a food access problem in the city. A bewildering (to me) number of government and non-government programs operated to address this issue.

Two important actors in the city are City Harvest and Food Bank of New York. These non-governmental organizations provide food to a wide network of food pantries and soup kitchens. Sandy not only added survivors with food access problems to the existing population but caused damage to the capacity of the food banks and their networks.

I played a very small role during the week that I spent working with the different stakeholders on the Food Access coordination call. During the call, which was held daily, I was able to introduce the framework outlined in the Household Disaster Feeding Template. After a number of days of discussion, the concept of transitioning from the delivery of hot meals by the city and the Red Cross to a long term feeding strategy led  by the food banks and the other voluntary agencies was agreed to by the participants on the call. The details of this transition and the manner in which the food banks and their networks will be resourced are still under discussion.

My flight home to Tallahassee took me through Miami. As I approached the Miami airport I looked out the window of the airplane at the tall buildings on the barrier islands in Broward and Dade counties.  They brought to mind the similarly situated New York areas of Long Island, the Rockaways and Staten Island. I thought of the tremendous mass care problems presented by Sandy's surge and how Florida's State Emergency Response Team would have to deal with the same issues confronting New York City.

I also thought that when, not if, a major hurricane hits southeast Florida the mass care problems will be greater than the ones I encountered in New York City after Sandy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

FEMA releases Mass Care Resource Typing documents for public comment

I have written before about my part time job as the Chairman of the NIMS Mass Care Working Group and our efforts to classify and define mass care resources (equipment, personnel and teams) according to the capability that they can deliver (See Creating National Standards for Mass Care Resources). Since November 2008 our Working Group has struggled to put together documentds for FEMA to approve and disseminate to the nation. This classification process is called "Resource Typing."

For reasons that I don't want to get into our Working Group has been unable to share these documents with anyone outside FEMA. Today, FEMA released the documents for public comment. (They can be found at this link, http://www.fema.gov/national-incident-management-system/national-incident-management-system-alert-01-12). With that single act, the FEMA Administrator increased mass care capability in the nation by one notch, or even two. The Mass Care Community can raise the mass care capability bar a few more notches by reading the documents and then spreading word of their existence throughout the Community.

The Resource Typing documents are an excellent source of information on mass care operations for the nation. One document types mass care equipment (like Field Kitchens) and teams (like Shelter Management Teams). Another document types Job Titles and Position Qualifications (like State Mass Care Coordinator - my personal favorite - and Shelter Manager).  Additional documents are still in the hopper awaiting approval and hopefully they will be released from captivity soon.

I am very proud of our Working Group and the products that we were able to produce and deliver to the nation. These documents are now out for Public Comment. Comment on them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dealing with TS Isaac

Tropical Storm Isaac was the 35th tropical cyclone, 20th tropical storm, that I have worked in my emergency management career. Every storm is unique but this one had a new level of uniqueness. Florida's State Emergency Response Team (still the best in the nation) had to simultaneously deal with three separate and distinct issues.

First, we were still recovering from the impacts of Tropical Storm Debby in late June. Twelve weeks ago the city of Live Oak was waist deep in fresh water from RAINFALL,  and not a river. On my trips from Tallahassee along I-10 to I-75 I pass through north central Florida and am amazed at the standing water that remains in that area. A large, vacant office building at the Northwood Center on north Monroe St in Tallahassee (right next to my office) became the FEMA Joint Field Office for the disaster. Hundreds of FEMA employees arrived to work with our state Recovery people on getting help to the affected citizens and communities.

Second, there was the Republican National Convention due to begin on August 27 in Tampa. A lot of effort and planning over the last year went into preparing for this event. Considerable state, local and municipal resources were drawn from around the state to support the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County for the week of the Convention. Florida welcomes over 80 million tourists a year so the 50,000 or so convention delegates would place no strain on emergency management resources considering the 3 million plus population in the Tampa Bay area. Still, this wasn't just another industrial buyers convention. The media attention, and the information requirements that arose from this attention, was a distraction for the SERT.

Finally, there there was the uncertainty of the track and intensity of the storm itself.

I keep an eagle eye peeled during hurricane season on any actual or budding storm, but the moment the 5 day cone of error touches any part of Florida I start to resemble a Labrador staring at the ball during a game of fetch. I went into stare down mode on Wednesday morning, August 22, when the 5 A.M. National Hurricane Hurricane Center forecast for Isaac placed the southern half of the Florida Peninsula within the 5 day cone. When I awoke on Thursday morning, August 23, and looked at the 5 AM NHC forecast I put on my SERT shirt. I knew I was heading to the State Emergency Operations Center instead of my office.

When I arrived at the EOC the Governor and his entourage were there to receive a briefing from our State Meteorologist, Amy Godsey, and the Director of the Division of Emergency Management, Bryan Koon. Mike DeLorenzo, the SERT Chief, told me that we were going to a Level 2, Partial Activation, that day. My instincts were correct. On Friday morning, August 23, the Keys and south Florida were within the 3 day cone and we were looking at a potential second hit in the Panhandle. The EOC went to a Level 1, full activation. Below is a picture of Amy Godsey briefing the SERT in the EOC on that Friday.

Florida State Emergency Operations Center briefing on Isaac, Friday, August 26

All  day Friday we were looking at an initial strike of a Category 1 hurricane on the Keys and south Florida and then a potential Category 2 storm impacting the Panhandle. We watched the storm all day Saturday and the only question appeared to be the intensity of the storm for the 2 impacts. Correction - the only question in MY mind was the intensity for the 2 impacts. Many other inquiring minds were VERY interested in the timing of the arrival of tropical storm force winds in the Tampa Bay area on Monday.

On Sunday morning, August 26, the track of the storm shifted left to Alabama. Most of the computer models were already pointing at Louisiana but the NHC is very conservative about making radical shifts in the forecast track. When the forecast shifted left again toward Mississippi at the 11 AM forecast I suddenly had the hope that I would be able to use my tickets to the Gator football game the following Saturday.

We weren't totally out of the woods. The correct decision was made to delay the start of the RNC by one day. Amy Godsey kept her record of 40 straight storms during her tenure as the State Meteorologist without a hurricane hitting Florida. Palm Beach County received a record amount of rain from Isaac.

Yet, while I was working my rear end off over the weekend my counterparts in Louisiana and Mississippi were enjoying the end of the summer. The pressure was suddenly off us, and now is was their turn to scramble. That's the life of an emergency manager.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The National Mass Care Strategy

Knowledgeable sources have told me that the New National Mass Care Strategy will be unveiled to the public by the end of this month. Look for it on the National Mass Care Strategy website. I have had the opportunity to review and comment on earlier drafts and participated in July at a National Mass Care Strategy Conference with a sizable number of representatives of the national mass care community.

This is a good document and I want to commend FEMA, the American Red Cross and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) for leading the effort to develop this strategy. Implementation of the strategy will begin upon publication of the document, and will take years to accomplish. I won't summarize the document here but encourage everyone involved in the mass care community to read it and think about how they can contribute to the implementation of the strategy.

I have already been thinking about where I can contribute. The Strategy has five goals:

  • Build Scalability into Service Delivery
  • Create the Opportunity for Improved Coordination and Participation
  • Engage the Whole Community
  • Standardize Mass Care Practices
  • Strengthen and Unify Mass Care Legal and Policy Foundations

For each Goal a number of Sub-Goals were developed. These Sub-Goals are assigned in the Strategy to one of three Implementation Teams: Planning, Operations and Legislative Action. Some of the Sub-Goals are in areas of interest to me and for which I have expertise. I will be looking to the National Mass Care Strategy website for information on when and how these Implementation Teams will be formed and for opportunities to comment on the various implementation documents as they are drafted.

In the meantime the best contribution that I can make to the Strategy is to spread the word. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I learned from TS Debby

My friend Chuck Hagan, Logistics Chief for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, says that if you can still count the number of disasters you've worked, then you haven't been in the business that long. With the aid of the National Hurricane Center website, I figured out that Tropical Storm Debby was the 34th storm that I have worked. Of those 34 storms, 19 were Tropical Storms and 15 were hurricanes. I guess that means that 17 years in the disaster business isn't that long.

I learn something from every disaster and I learned a lot from Debby. What is disturbing to me is that I keep relearning the same lessons. You can't say that it's "just" a tropical storm or "just" a category 1 hurricane. This is where my experience screws me up, where I remember all those tropical storms and category 1 hurricanes that unrolled uneventfully while I sat bored in the state EOC. Every storm is unique. Every disaster is different in some important way.

Every storm is unique. Every disaster is different. We should put those phrases on a poster and post them in every EOC.

Let's go back to fundamental meteorology (I completed 2 1/2 days of meteorology classes at the Governor's Hurricane Conference in May. I guess I didn't listen well).  Tropical cyclones generate four principal threats: surge, wind, tornadoes and flooding. The Saffir-Simpson Category of a storm categorizes the hazard from only one of the threats: wind. For each storm we also need to analyze the potential for damage from surge, tornadoes and flooding.

This was the rainfall forecast we received in the State EOC from the State Meteorologist on Monday afternoon, June 25th: "Locally heavy rainfall of potentially up to 6-12 inches over North Florida, 4-8 inches in Central Florida, and 3-5 inches across South Florida through the next few days will lead to flooding of some areas. Isolated storm total amounts may reach up to 25 inches in North Florida."

This was two sentences in a very complete and detailed report (Note: I am not blaming the meteorologist). The main focus, as with all tropical systems, was on the track and the potential for surge. I wasn't the only one focusing on the wrong thing. Later in the week, during a county conference call with the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service Offices, I heard a County Emergency Manager ask where the eye of the storm would impact the coast. The NHC forecaster correctly noted that the threat from Debby was not from the eye but from the intense rain bands many miles from the center of the storm.

The key phrase of the week, of the entire storm was: " Isolated storm total amounts may reach up to 25 inches in North Florida." Somehow, I don't remember that phrase. 25 inches of rain anywhere is going to cause problems. I started to get a clue Monday night while watching the Weather Channel, when the on-air meteorologist started talking about the "unbelievable" amounts of rain that was falling in "isolated" areas of North Florida.

Suwannee County, at the intersection of I-75 and I-10, with a County seat in Live Oak, was one of those isolated areas receiving an unbelievable amount of water. At 6 A.M. on June 26 Suwannee County, which had partially activated at 3 A.M., delivered a two sentence situation report to the State EOC: "Suwannee County is evacuating many many houses within the County as well as City of Live Oak, US Hwy 90 and Pine is waist deep... We are contacting local air boat owners and school bus persons to assist with evacuations."

That got my attention. I looked up US Hwy 90 and Pine St on the map and realized that it was in the center of the city.

Does any of this sound familiar? How about Irene, you people in the Northeast? While the World focused on the eye of Irene heading for the coast of New Jersey and downtown NYC, the enormous rain bands in advance of the storm began to drop a record breaking amount of rain on the inland states from Pennsylvania to Vermont. A NOAA forecaster at this year's National Hurricane Conference pointed out that that the ensuing rainfall amounts were accurately forecast 5 days in advance, when Irene was sitting on the Bahamas. The forecast also noted that these same areas of the mid-Atlantic and New England had already received considerable rainfall.

Yet, later in the Conference, a Vermont emergency manager described his surprise when an idyllic stream rose in fury at Irene's assault and inundated his County EOC. I shook my head at him at the time. Now I'm shaking my head at myself.

Every storm is unique. Every disaster is different.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Mother of All State Mass Care Exercises

Last December we invited a bunch of mass care people around the country to come to our Florida State Hurricane exercise in May and play in our mass care sandbox. In April, when we realized that most of them were going to show up, we scrambled to accommodate them. I didn't want to turn anyone away.

Ultimately, 64 people participated in the mass care portion of the State's Hurricane Gispert exercise. Over 50 of the participants came from out of state (some from as far away as California and Arizona). These 64 people came from 26 federal state, voluntary agency, private sector and academic organizations. The scenario was for a major hurricane to strike the Tampa Bay Region. If this was a real event, we would need about that many people from all those organizations to coordinate the mass care response to the high standard that the Governor and the public expect. In all the hurricanes and disasters we had done, both real and practice, we had never practiced a mass care response that large - which was why we did it.

Needless to say, some things went well and some things didn't. We all learned a lot. It's hard to bring together 50 people, no matter how good they are or how much they know, who have never worked together before, and put them in a organization and a system that is untried and untested, and not expect problems. I had spent several years thinking and talking to people about how we would organize something this big and I thought that I had a good plan. My plan lasted about 2 hours into the exercise.

Despite the problems we encountered the exercise was a tremendous success.  We got the job done, even if it was ugly. Come to think of it, that's a good summary for a lot of disasters many of us have worked. The After Action Report is now available online: Florida Hurricane Exercise 2012, Mass Care After Action Report. I recommend it to you.

We also developed and tested a document to assist states in acquiring mass care resources from the federal government. The document was posted online today and is called Acquisition and Employment of Federal Mass Care Resources: A Guidance Document. I recommend this document to you also.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2 Days of Tropical Meteorology at the GHC12

Tropical Meteorology

The able and competent forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are proud of their accomplishments but humbled and honest about their failures. While their record on predicting the track of the storm has shown slow but steady improvement the last decade their skill in predicting the intensity of the storm over the same period has been abysmal.

The science and forecasting tools (satellites, planes, dropsondes, computer models) have improved dramatically, just not in the area of intensity forcasts. The average forcast error at 24 hous before impact remains at 10 knots. The rule of thumb I learned 15 years ago, plan for an impact one category higher than forecast, still applies. The NHC documented that they are wrong by 2 categories 5-10% of the time.

Here are some notable comments that I wrote down over the last two days of listening to NHC and National Weather Service forecasters here the the Governor's Hurricane Conference in Ft. Lauderdale:

  • The Saffir Simpson Scale (SSS) is now used only to categorize wind speed. A cyclone has other impacts, inland flooding, surge or tornadoes, that must be considered separately.
  • Freshwater flooding from rainfall is the biggest killer in cyclones.
  • Cyclone induced tornadoes most often come in an extended rain ban in the right front quadrant of the storm. 
  • The size and strength of a hurricane not a reliable indicator on inland flooding. Get the six hour flash flood guidance values from your river forecast center.
  • The Tropical Storm Surge Probabilities Product (created in 2008) is produced only when there is an active storm threatening land. This looked like a good product to evaluate the dangers of surge during an event, but I wasn't very familiar with it. That could be because Florida hasn't been hit by a storm since 2005.
  • The SSS for each storm is derived from the highest measured estimate of one minute intensity wind speed. This intense wind speed is normally only in a very small part of the right front quadrant of the storm. Thus, category 4 intensity winds, for example, may only make up 5% of the total hurricane force winds generated  by the storm. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

A National Mass Care Exercise - Hurricane Gispert

The draft of the new "National Mass Care Strategy" recommends that the nation conduct "an annual national Mass Care System exercise that focuses on state-to-federal coordination systems and integrating staff from key federal, NGO, faith based organizations and the private sector into an effective Mass Care Multi-Agency coordination system." The state of Florida  will conduct just such an exercise in conjunction with the annual State Hurricane Exercise in Tallahassee May 21-24, 2012.

Over 70 persons (50 of which are traveling to the site from out-of-town) from 29 different federal, state, NGO and private sector organizations representing the nation's Whole of Community will participate in the exercise as player, evaluator or controller. The focus of the exercise will be on building the state and the nation's capability to deliver Mass Care Services in furtherance of the National Preparedness Goal.

The scenario for the exercise involves the landfall of Hurricane Gispert in the Tampa Bay area as a major storm. Such an impact on a large, urban, coastal community would require a coordinated, national mass care response. The purpose of the exercise is to test the systems, processes and procedures necessary to coordinate a mass care event of this magnitude.

Many of these procedural documents are new, still in draft form, and have never been tested before. They include:
1) "The Acquisition and Employment of Federal Mass Care Resources, A State Template,"
2) "The State of Florida Multi-Agency Feeding Task Force Standard Operating Guide,"
3) "Draft Multi-Agency Sheltering Task Force Guidance Document,"
4) "Household Disaster Feeding Guidance Document."

Three of these documents are draft national templates that will be refined based on participant feedback during and after the exercise. Once refined, the documents will be made available on the National Mass Care Strategy website for use by the national mass care community.

The exercise will have 3 evaluators to ensure that the lessons learned are captured. There will be a daily and a final "hot wash" to ensure that this critical information is captured while still fresh on the participants minds. The results of these efforts will be incorporated into the After Action Report. This document will also be made available to the nation via the Web.

The ambitious nature of this exercise, both in the number of participants and the complexity of the tasks to be performed, guarantees that this endeavor will be challenging for all participants. This is the best way for us to prepare.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Home cooking in Sokone, Senegal

Observing the  daily, laborious, backbreaking job of preparing lunch and then dinner for 25 people at Jamie's home in Senegal was one of the most interesting parts of my visit. The cooks were a crew of young women, supervised by Jamie's host sister Sophia, the eldest sibling in the family and the one who ran the household on behalf of her mother.

The women at work cooking another meal.
The count for each meal was about 25 and could vary from that number by five either way. The patriarch and matriarch of the family ruled over a household compound filled with children, grandchildren, students from the country living as boarders and one Peace Corps Volunteer. Almost all of the household were women and children: the men worked in other towns and only came to visit.

The menu was some unvarying combination of rice, fish or chicken, onion and some other vegetable. On rare occasions (like our visit) they prepared noodles.  The family was Muslim so pork wasn't served, even though pigs were raised and no doubt eaten by members of the country's minority Christian population. The rice came from Thailand in 100 pound bags, examples of which I observed in abundance on trucks and donkey carts throughout the country.

Jamie's host sister Sophia
Sophia starts off each day with a bean sandwich from her mother's stand at the front of the house before heading to the market to buy the vegetables and chicken or fish for the day's meals. The family has no freezer or refrigerator so items other than staples like rice must be purchased daily. The morning we accompanied Sophia to the market was a Wednesday, the big market day of the week, so Sophia dressed for the varied social aspects of the visit.

 The day was already warm as Jamie, Gale, Sophia and I left the bean sandwich stand for the 20 minute walk to the market. On the main street we joined a stream of empty handed pedestrians moving to the market to make a purchase and a series of heavily laden carts drawn by donkeys, horses or oxen with products destined for sale. The market itself was a riot of color and activity.

Scene at the market in Sokone. The colorful clothing is made with the famous
Senegal “waxed” fabric.

Buying food at the market in Sokone on market day. Note the dried fish and the
scales in front of the seated woman with the blue turban.

The kitchen in the compound of my son Jamie’s host family in Sokone.

Cutting up the vegetables for the meal. 

Dividing the food in the communal bowls.
There was no running water in the household. All water was brought in buckets from a public spigot on the street. Goats, chickens and ducks shared the interior compound with the family. There was no chopping of vegetables on a cutting board. The vegetables were cut by  hand over a bowl with a small knife. I asked a young woman in my broken French, as she was busily engaged in this task, if this didn't result in cuts on her hands. She nodded and showed me a example.

Cooking the food was a laborious, time consuming task, with the women spending too much time (in my view) either squatting by or bent over a pot of bubbling liquid. Once the food is cooked the rice  is put into the communal bowls from which it is eaten by the family. Pieces of chicken are apportioned to each bowl. Almost everyone eats from the bowl with their right hand. The family divides by age and sex to their assigned bowl. 

As guests, we were given spoons to eat with. Jamie, Gale and I ate from a bowl with the mother and father of the family, a duck darting between my feet to catch any stray grains of rice that missed the passage from bowl to mouth. The mother tore off bits of chicken with her right hand and laid the pieces before us to eat. She squeezed the rice into a ball with her hand and then ate by passing the ball with a vertical motion in front of her mouth, almost as if she was licking her hand. Except her hand never touched her mouth, because she was using the same hand to divide the food in the communal bowl. She ate sparingly until she saw that we had our fill. 

The food was delicious.

One of the meals that we shared with Jamie's family.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ecotouriism and the bats in the beobab tree

At the end of our arduous first day of travel in Senegal we arrived at an island outside the town of Toubacouba on the southwestern coast. The Saloume River created a mangrove tree covered delta that came under the ecological protection of the government in 2003.

We stayed in a thatched hut on beds with mattresses and mosquito nets. We had started our malaria medicine 48 hours prior to our departure but we still needed to avoid the mosquitoes. The electricity came from solar panels and the water from overhead tanks. The bathroom, such as it was, had no roof.

We slept the sleep of the exhausted and awoke to a clear, cool, fresh morning and a beautiful view of the salt water and mangrove trees of the delta. Except for the occasional splashes of fish feeding in the water below our world was silent.

Unsure of when lunch was to start, we arrived an hour and a half early. While waiting, Jamie and I cleaned out the island's supply of Flag brand beer and started on the Gazelle. For lunch we had a traditional Senegalese lunch of rice and fish called ceebu jen. During the heat of the day we slept and swam and returned the to the dining room for a late (for me) supper.

When darkness fell we armed ourselves with mosquito repellant and sat in wooden chairs by our hut, gazing at the night sky. Gale wanted to see a shooting star. That's when the bats showed up.

"They live in a beobab tree over there," Jamie said, pointing to his right.

I briefly thought about rising from my wooden chair to investigate. Sanity and lethargy prevailed. My weekly quota of adventures had been exhausted the previous day.

The bats were dark shadows that flickered above or even between us as a few flew under the roof. That was the closest that I had ever been to a bat in my life. Gale quoted her kindergarten statistic on how many mosquitoes a bat consumed in an evening. 

A shooting star fell. We went to bed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 2 of the National Hurricane Exercise

The highlight of the day was the presentations of Bill Read, Director of the National Hurricane Center, and Craig Fugate, the FEMA Administrator. They both emphasized the same point, that the devastating inland flooding that occurred in the Northeast as a result of Hurricane Irene was forecast well in advance.

Bill Read showed a 5 day inundation forecast map for Irene that was close to what actually occurred. He raised the question: why was the inland flooding a surprise to the public and some emergency managers? He offered the additional point that the areas that ultimately experienced record flooding (northern New Jersey, upstate New York, Vermont) had received considerable rainfall in the previous 10 days and the ground was saturated. Thus, it should have been no surprise that the large quantities of tropical moisture that Irene dumped on these areas created destructive flooding.

Craig Fugate pushed forward the suggestion that the lessons of Katrina may have led people to concentrate on the storm surge threat from Irene to the exclusion of the inland flooding threat. Bill Read raised the possibility that the media focus on the beach, with constant footage of meteorologists before a backdrop of a foaming ocean, may have contributed to the diminishment of the inland flooding threat.

Bill Read also asked: Did the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center do a poor job of communicating the threat? 

In an admirable piece of self-criticism, Bill showed a slide that highlighted how the NHC consistently overestimated the strength of Irene. He admitted that after much study there were unable to determine the source of their error. The barometric pressure of the storm is normally highly correlated with the intensity of the wind. In the case of Irene, this correlation did not hold.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 1 at the National Hurricane Conference

The first day of the National Hurricane Conference was a serious of vivid and engaging sessions on the response to Hurricane Irene from our friends in the Northeast. The New York City (NYC) Office of Emergency Management as well as representatives from the states of NJ, CT and NY filled us in as they related their challenges in sheltering and making evacuation decisions.

As I told one of them, "Welcome to our life here on the Gulf Coast."

In 2005, after witnessing the horrific images from Hurricane Katrina, the NYC OEM began doing the difficult but necessary planning required to evacuate and shelter the 8 million people in the metro area. Some of the key players in this effort, the Logistics Chief for NYC OEM, the Emergency Management Director for the NYC Department of Education, and a representative from Menlo Worldwide Logistics, spoke about their multi-year effort to develop a plan and the days that they had to execute it.

NYC has a series of shelter hubs throughout the city. They tried to make the hub locations as close to walking distance as possible. As the people arrive at the hubs, they are transported by city buses to the shelters. The supplies for all these shelters must be loaded from central warehouses and transported by truck through the city to the shelter locations.

The shelters are located in schools. The average age of the school buildings is 70 years, so many are missing conveniences such as elevators, loading docks or even front doors wide enough to admit palletized loads of freight. Visualize, if you will, hauling a truckload of bottled water, by hand, a case at a time, up several flights of stairs. Multiply that by the cots, food and other supplies necessary to stock each shelter and you get an idea of the effort required.

They talked about how their timelines to deploy these resources didn't exactly match with the Mayor's timeline for declaring a disaster. Thanks to their excellent planning, the resources were deployed to the right places at the correct times. What they hadn't planned for was picking all these supplies up again. Demobilizing the resources proved to be the more daunting task, but they worked thought it.

The discussions about the gut wrenching task of making the local evacuation decision were particularly interesting. They talked about evacuating all the hospitals and nursing homes in the designated zone. What really had an impact on everyone, the public and emergency managers alike, was when the announcements came that the subways, buses and trains were going to shut down as the storm approached. This was always in the plan, but no one could believe that it would actually happen.

I told them all that they did a great job, but they were lucky that the storm was essentially a very realistic, full-scale functional exercise. When the next time comes, and it will, they will be a lot better prepared.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paris, France

Throughout my life I have struggled, either fitfully or concertedly, to improve my French. Achieving facility in a language is not a destination, but a process that requires continuous application. During the last 10 days in Senegal and France I was able to resuscitate my French (once again!) from the grave.

That is not to say that I was able to achieve the meagre levels that I obtained, with great effort, in the past.  Rather, I was pleased that I was able to execute the simplest tasks of a tourist verbally, and extract the essence of the meaning from innumerable placards adjacent to the countless paintings that I viewed in museums. I even scanned a few newspapers in Dakar and Paris.

Although Spanish is my second language and I am extremely proud that I am able to speak a second language, my secret dream has always been to be fluent in French.  I so much wanted to be able to answer the question: "Parlez vous frances?" with the word, "Oui."

But I cant. Ce la vie. 

But I have enjoyed tremendously the pleasure of sitting in the sidewalk cafes in Paris and listening to French being spoken around me.  The words "voila" and "d'accord" are wonderful words that convey so much of what it is to be French. The French language and culture and food and drink are pleasures that I have enjoyed and hope to continue to enjoy for the rest of my life.

Merci. Avoir. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dakar, Senegal

We landed in Dakar, Senegal on March 11, the day after our 34th wedding anniversary. Neither of us had been to Africa before. In fact, Senegal wasn't on my top 50 list of countries that I wanted to visit before I died. The magnet of our sudden attraction to the Dark Continent was standing outside the terminal  behind a  metal barricade that separated the crowd of expectant hosts and eager taxi drivers from the stream of weary, arriving travelers. Our Peace Corps Volunteer son Jamie had been in Senegal for 19 months.

The Dakar airport, hub for Western Africa and gateway to Europe and North America, reminded me of a dozen drab, dim and decayed terminals that I have passed through in Latin America. Our daughters and a niece had preceded us in the last year but I knew that their stories and pictures could not rival the real experience: the musty smell of the terminal or the herds of goats that inhabited the medians of the roadways in the city.

While we were over the Atlantic, the United States (with the exception of Arizona and Hawaii) transitioned to Daylight Savings Time, so I think that when we arrived our bodies said that it was 3 in the morning but the sun was up and it was 8 A.M. in Dakar. Our son Jamie met us with an elaborately conceived and well coordinated plan. The essence of the plan was for us to spend the next 10 hours in a succession of hot and wind blown hired vehicles.

Thus came about our introduction to and education in the Senegalese inter-city public transportation system.  When I worked for the Florida Department of Agriculture I escorted a bus load of Danish fruit & vegetable buyers around Florida. I took them to breakfast at a Waffle House because, having lived in Europe, I knew that the bustle of the restaurant, the shouted orders from the waitresses and the frenzied dance of the cook would be something beyond their cultural experience. One of the Danes ran out and came back with his movie camera to record the experience.

Gale and I were similarly entertained when, several hours after our arrival in Dakar, a taxi dropped us at the central Dakar "garage." On the way over Jamie turned around from the front seat of the taxi and, with a stern look, warned his parents of the ordeal to come. 

"This garage is my least favorite place in Senegal," he said. "In order to survive, you need to put on your F### you face."

Kindergarden teacher Gale was genetically incapable of such a feat, but they both agreed that I could handle the task with ease.

The Dakar garage looked like a junkyard packed with vehicles, swarming with drivers engaged in cleaning, repair or indolence, and with an impressive horde of Senegalese street vendors. The arrival of three white people with luggage created a sensation. The sales mob descended on us before we could even exit the vehicle, thrusting their wares through the window and into our faces. 

The garage was ordered according to the destination city. At each departure point was a vehicle called a "sept place," which is French for 7 places. The vehicles had 7 places available, 3 in the back, 3 in the middle and one in the front. We were heading to Kaolack, the next big city on our journey. 

Jamie forged ahead toward the Kaolack departure point while Gale and I followed, dodging vendors. When Jamie arrived and announced that he wanted to go to Kaolack he was surrounded by drivers, all talking to him at once in Wolof, the local African language. The proposition was simple: we would pay for all 7 places for the 3 of us and our luggage. Although a lot of words were flying about, communication was in short supply. Jamie hated the whole Senegalese contract negotiation process and the fact that he had to do it simultaneously with 5 or 7 or 10 different people. The negotiation came to an abrupt end when Jamie walked with the driver to a nearby car and waved us forward.

We were able to exit the Dakar metropolis in record time and soon were gazing at the Senegalese countryside for the first time. The land was parched and hungry for the arrival of the rainy season in June. When we arrived in Kaolack, the headquarters for Jamie's Peace Corps Senegal Region, we took a brief break from the road for lunch.

After lunch we shouldered our luggage for a road march through the streets of Kaolack to the garage to get transport to Sokone, Jamie's home city, and Toubacouta, our destination for the day.

As we approached the garage Jamie turned to us and said, "This is my second least favorite place in Senegal."

The arrival of three white people, two looking elderly and infirm, elicited the same reaction as it did in Dakar, only on a smaller scale. Jamie immediately entered the "shouting match in a crowd" system of negotiating a price. The discussions were more heated and confrontational because we wanted the same 3 places for the price of 7 but we also wanted the vehicle to take us beyond the usual destination point and drop us in the center of Toubacouta, instead of on the main road from Sokone. Like the Dane in the Waffle House, I pulled out my camera and recorded the scene for posterity.

On previous trips Jamie forced our daughters and accompanying friends to endure the Toubacouta Death March. They returned with some horror stories of the ordeal. Both daughters advised Jamie that "the parents" should not be subjected to the strenuous hike, with luggage, from the Sokone road to the center of town. Gale and I agreed.

Thus the intensity of the negotiations in the Kaolack garage. For Jamie, it wasn't the money, but the principle of the thing. Just because we were white tourists we shouldn't be taken advantage of. Gale and I agreed.

After arriving at a price that both sides considered unfavorable but tolerable, we climbed aboard. Jet lag, the heat and the fact that we had been traveling for 30 hours in the same clothes began to impinge on our dispositions. We passed through Sokone with the intent to stop there on the way back and pushed on to Toubacouta, seeing our first monkeys scampering through the grasslands and the baobab trees.

In Toubacouta we transferred ourselves and our luggage to a small boat for a 20 minute ride through the mangrove forests of the vast Saloume river delta to a small island. On the island a donkey cart waited to transport our luggage as we walked for 30 minutes from the south side of the island to the north.

At about 6 PM we arrived at the Ecotourist resort in the Aire Marine Protégée du Bamboung. I was ready to stop traveling and rest for a while. Gale agreed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Shelter Guidance Aid and Shelter Staffing Matrix

When I deployed to the New Jersey State EOC for Hurricane Irene a state logistician asked me for assistance with a sheltering problem. The wind and storm surge had done little damage to southern New Jersey but the deluge of tropical moisture caused record flooding to northern New Jersey (as well as much of the rest of the Northeast). A county in the north requested from the state showers for their shelter occupants and the logistician had a good question: "How many showers should I give them?"

I knew just where to find the answer. I went online and consulted The Shelter Guidance Aid and Shelter Staffing Matrix. On the chart on page 3 I saw that for a standard or short term shelter (up to 2 weeks duration) the ratio was one shower head for every 48 survivors. He didn't ask but I also could have told him using the same chart that he would need one toilet and hand wash sink for every 20 persons. If someone wanted to know how many Mental Health Counselors the shelter needed, I could refer them to page 5 of the Shelter Staffing Matrix where it says that for a Standard or Short Term Shelter the ratio is 1:250 survivors in the shelter.

As you can see the Shelter Guidance Aid is a useful document, not only for mass care planning, but for response as well. The document came about as a result of the efforts of many mass care subject matter experts on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Mass Care Working Group (MCWG). The Group has been in existence, and I have been the Chairman, since November 2008. The Group is made up of national experts on mass care, primarily from the voluntary agencies, but there are a few state and federal workers like me on the Group. FEMA created and funds the activities of the Group through a contractor and our mandate is to "type" mass care resources.

Resource typing is categorizing, by capability, the resources requested, deployed, and used in incidents." In 2010 the Shelter Subcommittee of our Working Group was working to type Shelter Teams. The Teams varied by capability, indicated by a number, with the lower the number the greater the capability. Thus a Type 1 Shelter Team has greater capability than a Type 2 Shelter Team. The Type of Shelter Team selected for use or deployment depended on the "kind" of shelter that needed to be staffed. The difference in the kinds of shelters was in the level of services provided to the occupants, and the level of services depended on the expected time that the shelter was expected to be open. 

This was too much information to stuff into a typing document for a Shelter Team so we created the Shelter Guidance Aid and Shelter Staffing Matrix. The Table that starts on page 2 of the document and continues onto page 3 defines the different kinds of shelters and explains the different levels of services. The emergency management community needs to learn these definitions because the resource requirements for an evacuation shelter are considerably different that the resource requirements for a long term shelter. And so, if you are asked to set up a shelter, the correct response is "What kind?" 

I would love to show you all the wonderful mass care products that our Working Group has created over the last two plus years: Field Kitchens, Mobile Kitchens, Shelter Teams, Shelter Managers, and (my favorite) State Mass Care Coordinator. But I can't. We all had to promise not to share what we had done until FEMA had reviewed the documents and released them.

Our Working Group's Resource Typing documents and Job Titles are now enduring what the Femites lovingly call the process of "concurrence." Which means everyone in the organization who might have an opinion on the contents of these documents will have their say. Hopefully, they will defer to the collective knowledge of the subject matter experts. When everyone has "concurred" the documents will be released in the Federal Register for public comment. Which means that those of us who have worked on them for so long will finally be able to show the world what we have done.

When that day finally comes (sometime in the next week to next year, according to reliable sources) I will shout it from the rooftops. I believe that they are excellent products that, like the Shelter Guidance Aid & Staffing Matrix. will assist the emergency management community and increase mass care capability nationwide.