Infographic of the Month – March 2014 (FEMA Flood Maps!)

This month's infographic comes from FEMA – our friendly folks who work to keep us safe and help us when there's a disaster. One of FEMA's tasks is to develop flood maps which show us where flooding is most likely to occur. There's a lot that goes into determining flood boundaries and making these maps so FEMA prepared an infographic to help us better visualize the process. Because this infographic is produced by the U.S. government, there is no copyright. Therefore, any agency or company can print this out to either create a poster to hang in an office to show people who have questions about the process or to print out and make available to citizens as handouts. 

You can always find out more about this process by visiting the FEMA website:


FEMA Infographic - Flood Mapping Process


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


Attending the Emergency Management Institute

Last year a neighboring community applied for a grant to attend a week-long class – E930: Community Specific Integrated Emergency Management Course – at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After hearing they received the grant, they invited other agencies to attend with them. Fortunately I was one of the people invited and attended the class last July with a group of about 60 people from at least five local governments, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and our local 911 center staff. I was so impressed by the facility that I figured I would share my experience so that others can find out about this amazing training opportunity and take advantage of it themselves.

Emergency Mgmt Institute 2012 (6)

Fortunately for our group, the grant paid for almost all the travel and training expenses. We left on a Sunday and flew to Washington, D.C. Then we were picked up and driven by bus to the campus. EMI is located about an hour away from Washington, D.C., on the campus of the former St. Joseph College. The property was purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979 to serve as the National Emergency Training Center (NETC). EMI is located on this campus along with the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Academy (NFA).

Emergency Mgmt Institute 2012 (2)

One of the greatest resources I discovered on the campus is the NETC Learning Resource Center or the library (see photo below). It's a great national treasure of emergency response information that I don't think many people know about. While I was on campus, I had the chance to spend a couple nights reading through several books on local government planning, emergency response, and the history of specific disasters. The good news is that you don't even have to go to EMI to access all their resources. The people there explained to me that anyone can request these publications by going to their own community library and asking to check them out through an interlibrary loan. To find what they have on a specific topic, you can use their WorldCat search tool. For example, I typed in chicago fire and found they have 526 publications related to that disaster. They also told me that they can perform research for you if you need to collect all the information related to a specific disaster.

NETC Learning Resource Center at EMI

Another interesting aspect of training at the EMI is that you stay on campus in their dormitories throughout your course. Of course, it's not the Hilton, but the rooms are very nice and comfortable and clean. There are public areas throughout the residential buildings where students can meet and hang out. Students are also provided all three meals at a cafeteria on campus. But the building and food is not what you would normally think of when you hear the word cafeteria. Instead, we ate in a spacious room with wood-paneled doors and accents and large wood tables (see photo at end of this post). And the food was always very good with a wide selection of all the food groups at each meal. But if students got tired of eating with everyone each night, they could also choose to walk into the town of Emmitsburg to eat at one of the restaurants there. EMI also had a building on campus with a bar and recreational activities like pool. They also provide bicycles, and unfortunately for me, I didn't realize until my last night there they also provide fishing poles and tackle for anyone who wants to fish in the nearby creek shown in the photo below. If students want to work out, there is another building on campus with a swimming pool, exercise room, and running track.

EMI 20120709 (37)

The specific class we attended was a type of course customized for the community receiving the grant. It was a combination of in-class instruction and hands-on simulation. The first day included an introduction then a quick background on ICS and the EOC. I imagine that most people coming to these classes are already familiar with these concepts since most of us are required to take the classes introducing these concepts. The rest of the day included classes about public information and warning, management of an emergency program, fire services, and law enforcement. We ended that day with a short exercise.

The next day included classes about medical services during an emergency, management of the EOC, policy level decision making, and public works. That day also concluded with an exercise. 

On the third day we had a great talk from Dr. Jeff Lating about stress management. This was followed up by mass care information and damage assessments. Then we worked on another exercise in preparation for the final day where we would simulate handling an actual disaster.

Finally on the last day, we started with a quick talk about documentation and then began our exercise. We had been split up into groups with some of us in different sections of the EOC such as logistics and planning and operations and others in a policy group. The simulated disaster was a tornado that hit during a major event although micro-disasters were launched at us throughout the simulation such as sewage overflows, water main breaks, active shooters, accidents, and visits from high-ranking elected officials. 

After a full week of classes and learning, we finished up with a cook-out and left on Friday to return home. One of the benefits of training in this manner is that it allows everyone who normally works together in an agency to get away from the office and distractions and focus on what they need to learn. It also helps build relationships and understanding between participants which can be critical to sustaining staff performance during times of a disaster when they might be faced by sometimes overwhelming demands and stress.

The bottom line on EMI training is that it was one of the best courses I have ever taken. I was exposed to knowledge from industry experts who have experienced and managed disasters all over the country. The facility was excellent, well-run, and comfortable. And the cost was definitely affordable with the main cost to my employer being my time away. The EMI training is definitely a national resource that local agencies and emergency response personnel should take advantage of. Make sure to check out their course selections and subscribe to their feed to get any updates. And if anyone out there has already attended a class at EMI, I'd be interested in hearing your own thoughts and experiences.

Dining Room at EMI



Hurricane: Preparedness and Response Training

Emergency Mgmt Institute 2012

There's a little known secret out there among emergency professionals – FEMA has an awesome training facility in Emmitsburg, Maryland where public works professionals working in local government can get free, high-quality emergency response training. In July of this year, I was fortunate enough to attend a week of training there and plan to share my experience at some point over the next week or so. But for now, I wanted to pass along a notice about an upcoming course to be held at that facility. This particular class will provide Preparedness and Response Training for Hurricanes. So if you get the chance, it is definitely worthwhile to attend or if you can't make it, send someone from your staff. Here are the details:


FEMA Emergency Management Institute

E905 – Integrated Emergency Management Course (IEMC):

Hurricane: Preparedness and Response

Course Date: 11 – 14 Feb, 2013

Course Description:

This IEMC addresses preparedness and response in emergency situations resulting from a hurricane. This exercise-based course is conducted for participants from communities throughout the country. The IEMC places public officials and other key community leaders in a disaster simulation. The course methodologies of classroom instruction, planning sessions, and exercises allow for structured decision making in an educational, yet realistic, environment. A key outcome of this IEMC is that additional planning needs are identified, providing the opportunity to enhance overall preparedness. The exercise scenario for IEMC: Hurricane Preparedness and Response focuses on evacuation issues prior to the simulated hurricane making landfall and response activities after landfall.

Target Audience:

The target audience for this course includes Emergency Operations Center (EOC) management personnel.  EOC management personnel include, but are not limited to, mayors, city/county managers, general counsel, community/county managers, emergency managers, fire/police/public safety chiefs, public works and public health managers, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) managers, community services providers, Private Industry, National Guard Members, and key EOC support staff.


National Emergency Training Center (NETC),  Emergency Management Institute,

Emmitsburg, Maryland.


To Apply:

Complete a FEMA Form 119-25-1, General Admissions Application (  ) with a student signature and signature of supervisor or sponsoring agency official.  Submit the application through the State emergency management training office who will fax it to the NETC Admissions office at (301) 447-1658.

There are no tuition fees for EMI on-campus or off-site courses. All instruction, course materials, and housing (for most participants) are provided at no cost. Participants from other countries, other Federal agencies, and most participants from private industry or contractors to State, local, or Tribal governments must pay their own transportation and lodging fees. All participants are responsible for the cost of cafe­teria meals provided and for personal, incidental expenses.

For additional information contact Doug Kahn,  or