Make Your Plan – Week 2

Make Your Plan - Week 2

Now that we are aware of our risks, this week we are going to make our own disaster plan. This week will probably require the most work of all because there is so much to think about  and plan for. Fortunately for us, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has created a few resources to help us with our plan. The FEMA website recommends we consider the following and incorporate this information into our plan. So if you want to work along with me and make a plan for yourself, grab a notebook or open a document on your computer and let’s go:

Know and list your risks and hazards

One of the first steps is to list the types of hazards and risks you have. If you participated in last week’s step, you should already have these either listed out or in your mind. You may or may not have the same risks we do in our area which are:

Severe Weather, Winter Storm, Tornado

How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?

Next we need to know how we will be warned when hazardous events may occur so we can make sure we receive those alerts and have time to protect ourselves. If your community’s local plan is like mine, it should have indicated how residents and businesses will be warned during an emergency. There are several methods of alerting people in a community:

  1. Community Notification Services – your local community may offer a community notification service like CodeRed. If it does, the information you need to sign up for it should be posted on your community’s website.
  2. FEMA Mobile App – We can also install the FEMA Mobile App on our phones. This app will alert you based on the location you indicate in the app.
  3. Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) – this is a national alert and warning system which can be used by all public safety officials. You can visit the link I’ve listed here to see which communities have received authority to use this system and which communities are in the process of applying for that authority: Organizations with Alerting Authority
  4. Warning Sirens – some communities have warning sirens for different types of hazards. For example, our state, Illinois, has an information site to describe the types of sirens in our state, what they mean, and how we should respond. The site even has an audio of how the sirens usually sound.
  5. Media Alerts – list the local radio and television stations which may be broadcasting in your area in the event of an emergency. If you receive an alert, it often advises you to tune into these stations to get more detailed information.

That’s it for today – list your risks and note how your community will warn you of hazards and how you will respond. We will continue on tomorrow!

As a side note, throughout this series of posts about getting prepared, I may mention certain products, services, agencies, etc. At no time is it my intention to promote a specific product or service or agency. Each is mentioned only for informational purposes.  Of course as a government employee, I do receive a salary from the government for the time I work on my job, but I don’t receive any compensation from any commercial entities I mention or include in these posts.


Are You Prepared for the Next Disaster?

Are You Prepared for the Next Disaster?

We often hear from emergency response professionals that right after a disaster it may be a few days before anyone can assist us and during that time we may need to rely on  ourselves to survive. So having everything in place ahead of time can ensure we make it through a disaster and that our recovery is quicker.

Even knowing this, according to the 2017 American Housing Survey, only half of U.S. residents report having enough supplies set aside for an emergency. There are probably many reasons not everyone is prepared including the cost and time to organize everything needed. The task may also seem overwhelming or not necessary.

Results of readiness survey

If you’ve ever thought about building a preparedness kit for yourself, but one or more of these reasons kept you from doing so, then join me this year in putting one together. Maybe if we all work on it together it might help motivate and encourage all of us to get it all done.

I’ll be posting my progress here along with on Facebook and Twitter so make sure to check it out and share your own progress!


Join me in 20 weeks to preparedness


National Institute of Building Sciences Updates Mitigation Savings Ratio

Elevated House

On January 11, 2018, the National Institute of Building Sciences released their Natural Hazard Mitigation Strategies: 2017 Interim Report. This document reports an update to their 2005 determination of a mitigation benefit cost ratio of 4:1 where “for every $1 spent by FEMA on hazard mitigation, it is $4 in future benefits.” The new study has found this ratio has increased to 6:1 meaning “on average, mitigation grants funded through select federal government agencies can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.”

The new study also broke out benefits of exceeding specific requirements of the 2015 model building code. It reports that, “on average, investments in hazard mitigation measures that exceed provisions of the 2015 model building code can save the Nation $4 for every $1 spent.”

While having additional data explains some of the finding of increased savings, there are other reasons this ratio is reported to be higher than the 2005 ratio. The newer study took a more in-depth look at costs and benefits and leveraged better analytical technologies.  This approach allowed for the inclusion of additional factors not considered in the 2005 study such as the following benefits and costs:

  • Benefits associated with avoided cases of PTSD.
  • Cost of lost wages
  • Losses in household productivity
  • Cost of pain and suffering

Another difference is the new study uses a discount rate of 2.2%. But even though this rate is below the higher discount rate used by the Office of Management and Budget, the study reports the measures remain cost-effective at the higher rate. This study also took into account information from 23 years of grants from EDA and HUD while the original analysis only looked at grants from FEMA.

You can read more about the entire study and findings at the National Institute of Building Sciences Website.  At this link you will be asked to provide your name and some brief contact information to download a summary, the full report, and fact sheets.


Emergency Management Event in Illinois

This week the Illinois Emergency Services Management Association (IESMA) is hosting its annual conference in Bloomington/Normal, Ill., from April 30 through May 2.  According to the association's website, "the annual conference brings together local emergency managers from throughout the State of Illinois for various training opportunities, as well as to conduct the business of the Association. Additionally, statewide mutual aid partners, public safety vendors, emergency management college students and other interested individuals also attend the conference giving them the opportunity to interact and network with the local emergency managers." 

Based on the agenda, staff from FEMA and IEMA will be presenting several sessions. There will also be exhibitors and vendors showcasing their products.



This year I am fortunate to again have the opportunity to attend WATERCON in Springfield, Ill.It's amazing how every year the conference offers so many great sessions, and the exhibitors always have such interesting displays and information. In addition to attending sessions and talking with vendors, I'll be posting as much as I can on several social media sites so that all of you can follow as much of the conference as possible. Because most of these sites are already listed in a blog post over at the Watercon blog site, I won't list them again here. Instead I encourage you to visit over there. And if you're attending too, I'll be looking for your own posts and photos from the event!

One added treat is a virtual expo we set up to try out that technology. Here's an image of the entry screen – you can find the link to visit the expo over on the Watercon site.

Watercon Virtual Expo Image 


Winter Weather Safety – Resources for Braving the Storm of 2014

NOAA Frostbite Poster

Central and eastern sections of the U.S. have experienced snowfall and in some areas record cold over the last day or so. In a few locations, the temperatures have been so low that it has become dangerous to even be outside. However many government workers who provide essential services like police, fire, and snow removal still must brave the cold. If your government is looking for resources to help educate your community about staying safe during extreme weather conditions or if you are looking for information to give your workers to help them stay safe, check out the following agency sites for some winter survival tips:


Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety – this guide combines all of the key content of the CDC Winter Weather website into one downloadable, printable file. The CDC also has infographics, brochures, audiocasts, and other resources you can download and use in your public service messages. You can access this information through the sidebar at the link posted.



WINTER STORMS & EXTREME COLD site – here you can find many tips and advice for before, during, and after a winter storm

Winter Fire Safety – The US Fire Administration has some great resources to get the word out about fire safety during winter weather. They offer an infographic and social media messages and statistics you can post along with videos, audiocasts, and banners like the one at the bottom of this post.


NOAA: In addition to linking to NOAA's forecast page for your area, you can access and use the many resources NOAA offers on their site.


AAA: Tips for Safe Winter Driving Video – the video below was found on YouTube and can be embedded on websites or social media pages to offer citizens winter driving tips. You can also do a general search of YouTube to find other videos offering similar advice.


Additional Resources:

It's also useful to share the following types of information with the public. If you don't already have this information readily available, you can usually find it by searching on Google or Bing for the term and the name of your state or city and then offering the link for your local information. Also, some of this information may already be available from other departments at your city.


Warming Centers – It is common during winter storms to lose power. When that happens, you don't people wondering where they can go to keep warm. So it's useful to post this information ahead of time either on your website or on social media to remind people if they lose power, there are places they can go to avoid the cold. Here is the link to the one I found for our state by searching on Google for "warming centers" in Illinois: Keep Warm Illinois

Closings and Cancellations – extreme winter weather often results in closings and cancellations. If people can find out about these ahead of time, it might keep them from trying to head out in dangerous conditions. You can usually find a link to a site posting these by searching on Google or Bing and adding the name of your city or area in the search space. If your local radio or newspaper sites post a page with these, you can post a link to their page or you can always direct people to listen for closings and cancellations on a station if you know they announce them at regular times throughout the day. 

Pet Care Tips – The Humane Society offers tips and advice on how to take care of pets and wildlife during the winter. Providing a link to their site or to sites of similar organizations can help people keep their pets safe.

Frozen pipes or water meters – sometimes extreme cold can cause pipes or water meters to freeze. Because the process for dealing with this varies from agency to agency, you will need to prepare this information based on how your own area handles this type of issue. The typical type of advice to offer is:

  • How to find and turn off your main water valve in your home
  • Information about keeping drafts off pipes and other steps that can be taken to prevent frozen lines
  • Tips for thawing pipes
  • A number to call for help or information

Snow plowing updates – many communities now post regular updates on where plows are or which roads are open or closed and where there are parking bans. Again, this is highly localized information that is usually obtained by the public works department. Here are some examples of what other communities offer to keep citizens updated on road conditions and snow plowing operations:


Winter Storm Fire Safety