NIMS for the New Year

Want to be able to communicate with your community or institutional first-responders in case of an emergency?  Would you like to be included in emergency preparedness and response activities in your institution or community?  If so, you need to become familiar with the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  This system provides a common language and structure for response that is shared by all first responders and emergency management people in the U.S.  NIMS training is free and open to all, and you can view the course offerings at http://training.fema.gov/IS/NIMS.asp on the FEMA site.  We recommend starting with IS-700 (available here http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/is/is700a.asp), which provides an overview of the system, then you can add any courses that seem particularly applicable to your role.  Most modules, especially the introductory-level ones, are available to be taken asynchronously on your own computer and at your own pace, and you can probably complete one in about 20 minutes or so.  So let’s resolve that 2011 will be the year we increase our knowledge base for emergency response and make ourselves more valuable to our institutions and communities!

More Than Crossing Your Fingers

In this morning’s very informative webinar hosted by the Nebraska Library Commission and featuring Marty Magee of NN/LM’s Greater Midwest Region, Marty reminded us that we can’t help at our libraries in an emergency if we’re not prepared at home.  She recommended visiting the American Red Cross site (among others) at http://www.redcross.org/ to find step-by-step recommendations for putting together a disaster kit, making a plan, and staying informed.   On their “More Than Crossing Your Fingers” page at http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.d8aaecf214c576bf971e4cfe43181aa0/?vgnextoid=d1fc43fb7aca2210VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default, you can view a video of Jamie Lee Curtis showing you how to personalize your disaster supplies, and you can even play a game (see “Prepare 4″ and click the “Play” button) that has you shopping for supplies in a virtual store.  In order to play, you put in your first name and email address, and when you complete the game, the Red Cross will send you a supply list via email.

FEMA’s Community Preparedness Webinar Series

On Tuesday, January 11, at 2 PM EST, FEMA’s Community Preparedness Division will present the first 2011 webinar in the Community Preparedness Webinar Series:  Collaborative Planning–Engagement of the Whole Community.  The live webinar is available to the first 500 log ins at www.citizencorps.gov/news/webcasts/planning.shtm, and will also be available via recording on the website.  Previously recorded webinars are available on the Citizen Corps site at http://www.citizencorps.gov/news/webcasts.shtm

Anyone who needs special accommodations or requires assistance to view or listen to the webinar is asked to email citizencorps@dhs.gov no later than 5 PM EST on Friday, January 7th.

Enter Winter

If you’re trapped in your car during a blizzard, what can you do to alert first responders that you need help?  The Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) reminds us that there are many things we can do to be prepared for severe winter weather, from flooding to blizzards.  See their “Winter Storms and Extreme Cold” page at  http://www.fema.gov/hazard/winter/index.shtm to become familiar with terminology and some specific ways to stay safe in the cold.  The answer to the above question:  at night, turn on the inside light of your car so rescuers can see you.

Enlightening Info from the NWS

Our National Weather Service web site  is an incredibly rich place for exploring and locating a variety of climate/weather/safety information.  Today I found this page, S.E. US, Gulf of Mexico Weather, while looking for information about Hurricane Paula, which has been threatening the SE US for the past few days.  Check out all the radio buttons offered over the top edge of the map to see other views of the area, such as water temperatures, the radar loop, etc.  And click on any of the yellow icons on the map to open a window showing the weather and wave conditions at the observation site.  You can zoom in by clicking on any locality and you can select the “Cities” button, then click on the city you’re interested in to see local conditions.  This looks like a great tool for increasing awareness of possible weather-related emergency preparedness needs.

I found this site by selecting “Marine” under “Forecasts” on the main NWS page, then selecting “Portals.”  There are also marine maps there for the Great Lakes as well as the other US coastal areas.  Thanks, NWS!

Viewing Earl’s progress

Check out Stormpulse.com to see a great map featuring Hurricane Earl, but with the ability to view other storms as well.  The maps are pulling in lots of data from many reputable sources (National Hurricane Center, NASA, NOAA, and others) to provide layered maps of weather patterns and major storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as the contiguous 48 states (see top menu bar on the site to switch maps).  On the Atlantic map particularly, be sure to click the “ON” buttons for Forecast Models and Clouds in the box in the upper right of the map to enhance the view of Hurricane Earl with additional layers. 

A wider-angle lens

Particularly at this time of year, when we are watching hurricanes and tropical storms heading for Puerto Rico and the southesastern Atlantic coast of the continental U.S., we tend to focus on natural disaster events and their consequences that occur here in the U.S., but it can improve our perspective to widen our view occasionally and look out at what is happening globally.

Thanks to Cara Breeden, who posts weekly about publications and resources available to assist with emergency preparedness and response on the DIMRC listserv, I arrived at an excellent tool for achieving this wider view in a report published by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster (CRED), entitled “Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2009:  the numbers and trends.”   The report is well written, and also nicely augmented with charts that tell the stories visually.  See especially pages 12 and 13 for charts that show a telling overview of worldwide natural disasters in 2009, and especially see the “Thematic Frames,” one on storms in Europe and Asia (p. 15) and one on earthquakes (p. 21).  Both of these special topics emphasize how important preparation has been for these events, from more early-warning systems to encouraging  better building practices in earthquake-prone areas, but also how much work remains to be done.  There is an excellent list of definitions of the types of disaster events near the end of the report; see Annex 1 on page 31.

While providing a wealth of detailed information, the report does, as its title says, show trends based on the data; the most important tool we have for making preparedness plans.