The Answers Are Out There: Disaster Preparedness

The Answers Are Out There:

At two minutes to noon on Sept. 1, 1923, the ground began to tremble in Tokyo and nearby Yokohama. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake had struck Japan. The shaking lasted for nearly five minutes, causing gas stoves to topple, which in turn ignited thousands of wooden buildings. The fires eventually claimed more lives than the quake itself — more than 140,000 people died in all. Although Japan had experienced earthquakes in the past, this one was different and for a singularly important reason: It inspired the Japanese to focus intently on disaster preparedness.

Almost nine decades later, that readiness was put to the test in extreme fashion. On March 11, 2011, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck Japan. Within 10 minutes, a tsunami — which in some places towered as high as a 10-story building — crashed into the coast and swept as far as six miles inland. Unlike in 1923, however, this time Japan’s government and its citizens were ready.

(Via Foreign Policy)

Check it: after natural disasters they assess and make adjustments. In between the Japanese practice. They train. They analyze.

How about Bangladesh?

Because of the country’s susceptibility to frequent flooding, it is also vulnerable to the spread of diarrheal diseases, such as cholera. When flooding struck in 1988, such illnesses caused 27 percent of the resulting deaths in one rural area in the country. Yet when Bangladesh was hit by unprecedented floods in August 2017, which damaged or destroyed nearly 700,000 homes, there were virtually no deaths from diarrheal diseases, according to the website Third Pole. The reason? More effective public health measures, including better-equipped medical facilities and greater awareness of the need for preventive action.

And France?

Having learned a bitter lesson in 2003, when the worst heat wave since 1540 killed some 15,000 people there, the country was prepared when a heat wave nicknamed Lucifer stuck Europe in August. Temperatures reached a record-breaking 106.9 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of southern France.

There were no reported deaths in France during the Lucifer heat wave, and the United Nations has cited France as a model for how other nations should respond when temperatures spike.

The article lists many examples of how the French learned and managed.

I love this line about Morocco’s efforts:

In an effort to reduce its vulnerabilities, the country has taken a different but equally important approach: focusing on financing risk reduction rather than recovery.

They don’t waste time or effort on theater, that act where governments and organizations decide they want people to feel safer.

I wonder what lessons my governments learned and what adjustments they’re making in the wake of the natural disasters we’ve faced in the United States & Assoc.

Bringing it around to the professional, how is your organization preparing to avoid and manage risk in advance of weather related issues?

[Emergency Response] Why interaction design is important ↦

Why interaction design is important ↦:

The Honolulu Civil Beat has tweeted a screenshot of the interface that was used to send an real alert for a nonexistent incoming ballistic missile on Saturday morning.

Fake Hawaii Missile Alert

Instead of selecting “DRILL – PACOM (CDW) – STATE ONLY” from what looks more like a list of headlines on The Drudge Report than a warnings & alerts menu, the operator chose “PACOM (CDW) – STATE ONLY” and sent out a real alert.

The design for this is obviously terrible.

Talk about setting yourself up to fail and fail spectacularly. 

The employee made a mistake but it’s not his fault and he shouldn’t be fired for it. The interface is the problem and whoever caused that to happen — the designer, the software vendor, the heads of the agency, the lawmakers who haven’t made sufficient funds available for a proper design process to occur — should face the consequences. More importantly, the necessary changes should be made to fix the problem in a way that’s holistic, resilient, long-lasting, and helps operators make good decisions rather than encouraging mistakes.

(Via Six Colors)

I can’t wait for an in depth professional and academic review of this event. So many basic things went wrong here we can all use this as a reminder to look at the foundations of our emergency response/security incident assumptions, tools, processes, training, etc.

Don’t Neglect Tampons

I visited an AT&T emergency response validation testing session several years ago. After Hurricane Katrina they were able to start restoring service as soon as the area was considered safe enough for their people to enter.

What makes this possible for such teams? Training. Equipment. Food. Water. Most people will flag those.

What about toilet paper? And washing machines for what the teams wear under the protection gear? And sunscreen for when they finally get out from under the protective gear? And tampons? And several hundred other taken-for-granted details that become huge and potentially life threatening in their absence while standing in a toxic soup of stagnant storm water who-knows-what infused trying to restore basic communications for emergency responders.

When working on disaster recovery or an emergency response plan, don’t draft it in isolation. Benefit from other’s learning and iterations (lessons learned). It’s much better to prepare for something with a shopping list than a blank piece of paper. This is not an area where non disclosure is good for anyone.

This is true in the command center as well. How can efficient effective direction & information get communicated when key people don’t have access to their insulin or blood pressure medication? How do you manage your technical expert’s dairy problem while all the food you have access to is a vending machine full of chocolate bars?

Which assumes the machines will be full. What if it’s the day before restock? What if the restocking person broke up with their significant other or was high or was distracted? Are humans part of your calculation?

Granted, squirrelling away prescription medication isn’t easy (& maybe illegal where you are) but knowing the challenge exists before it’s a problem is the first step to solving it. Other things, like stockpiling daily-free & gluten-free food, tampons, tissues, toilet paper, and everything else identified from other’s work and your own tabletop exercises is relatively easy to manage.

And you? What are your thoughts?