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The MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management
Disaster Central
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog

Joe Flood of “The Fires”

November 16, 2010

Metropolitan of New York (MCNY) MPA Emergency & Disaster Management announces reading/talk with book author Joe Flood (joe-flood.com) of “The Fires on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 from 6-8 PM at 431 Canal Street – Room 11K.

A former Bronx-based journalist examines the epidemic of fires that swept New York City in the 1960s and ’70s. Flood focuses on John O’Hagan, the fire commissioner who presided over the worst of “the Wars,” as the era is known in FDNY lore. Ambitious and self-educated, O’Hagan came up from the ranks to become the youngest chief in the department’s history.

When reformer John Lindsay was elected mayor in 1966, O’Hagan, who strongly believed in the use of statistics and systems analysis to organize the department, became one of his leading allies. The new mayor sought the advice of the RAND Corporation, the legendary think tank that had made its reputation analyzing nuclear warfare for the Air Force. On the surface, it was a perfect alliance. RAND needed new clients, Lindsay needed a blueprint for rational government and O’Hagan needed support for his ideas for making firefighting a scientific discipline. But as Flood shows, the reformers’ characteristic weakness was a lack of the local knowledge that had been the bread and butter of the machine politicians they had ousted.

The author writes that harried fire captains, given stopwatches to time how long it took their men to reach a fire scene, often lost or broke them, then submitted figures they thought made them look good. RAND whiz kids used simplified formulas to analyze the flawed data they received. O’Hagan, eager to help Lindsay cut the city’s bloated budget, used the RAND results to close down firehouses he already ‘knew’ were underperforming-which often turned out to be the ones where union leaders were based.

Flood casts a wide net, looking into New York machine politics, the development of systems analysis, the dynamics of urban growth and an array of unexpected byways of NYC history. While his conclusions perhaps go to far in generalizing from the excesses of Lindsay and RAND to condemn liberal reformers as a group, Flood provides a riveting look inside one of the most challenging eras of recent NYC history. Important reading for anyone who cares about cities and how they are governed.” -Kirkus

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Posted by Disaster Central in Disaster Central, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Management Planning, Events, Natural Disasters. Comments Off

Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

ABC-TV’s coverage of MCNY’s Haiti Effort

October 19, 2010

MCNY-EDM program prepares students from Haiti to help rebuild their earthquake-stricken country.

ABC-TV’s coverage of MCNY’s Haiti Effort

NEW YORK (WABC) – Several Haitian nationals who survived that catastrophic earthquake are now here and learning about disaster relief.

The hope is that they can teach others how to prepare for unforeseeable tragedies.

“Suddenly, the earthquake happened and I said, ‘oh, my God,’” Elie Jerome explained.

Jerome was at his office job, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when last year’s earthquake devastated his country.

“There (are) too many people that have been dying because we don’t know what to do and how to do,” he said.

Jerome is working toward a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management at Metropolitan College of New York. The 16-month course began this semester, and includes five other hand-picked Haitian nationals on full scholarships.

“We were looking for people who had a commitment to return to Haiti and in the mitigation of future disasters,” said Vinton Thompson, college president of MCNY.

Ingrid St. Fermin was not in Haiti during the earthquake, but some of her relatives lost their homes and a close cousin lost his life.

“The roof fell on his head and he died at the same moment,” she said.

The course covers how emergency responders should handle both natural and man-made disasters.

Those involved with this course were happy to share it because they believe in it, and because they want all of us to remember that the story of the earthquake in Haiti is not over.

“I am learning here, so I don’t know what will happen later, tomorrow. But I have that feeling, that determination that I will do a good job in Haiti,” St. Fermin said.

The college hopes to help place the graduates in key positions in Haiti.

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Posted by Disaster Central in Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Management Planning, MCNY EDM Program, Natural Disasters, Videos. Comments Off

Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Politics and Major Disaster Declarations

August 11, 2008

It is not surprising that questions exist concerning the exact relationship between disaster preparedness, response, and recovery funding, and partisan politics.  In its August 9, 2008, edition, The New York Times published an article by Austin Bogues that indicated that during the seven and a half years of his administration, President George W. Bush declared 422 major disasters, the most of any prior administration.  The article further asks if there was (or is) a political connection between this seeming largess on the part of FEMA, and disaster-prone areas where the Bush administration has found its traditional support.

But the mechanics of disaster relief are far more complicated (and far more important) than a simple game of partisan politics.  Emergency Management is a profession, a noble endeavor with ethics and skills and traditions, which defies quantification as mere political pawns.  Some theorists and practitioners define Emergency Management as a purely logistical undertaking, while others consider it a more hybrid creation, one where logistics plays one of many supporting roles aimed at restoring an injured community’s vitality.  Emergency Management is often about saving lives through saving systems, and the rules of mitigation require that the endeavor touch upon preparedness, response, and recovery – the recovery of systems.

The most prevalent of these systems is economic.  President Calvin Coolidge once remarked that, “The business of America is business,” and in this sense all that we do as Emergency Managers is directed toward saving the systems – the commercial, retail, banking, health, education, and others – that sustain each of us; and in doing so, maintain our national standard of living.

When one considers the mechanics of liberal democracy, a jurisdiction’s political affiliation is often less important to Washington decision-makers than the ability of that jurisdiction to provide its citizens, businesses, and neighbors with a stable, prosperous environment.  By virtue of its obligations, the federal government is most concerned with the collection of taxes, as it is from this resource that its many other responsibilities can be fulfilled.  It is therefore not surprising that the federal government would want to use disaster declarations as a means for offsetting the economic losses sustained by communities from hydrological, seismological, and technological disasters.  On September 18, 1994, FEMA provided a disaster declaration – a major declaration – for California’s and Washington State’s salmon industry that had been disrupted by a strong El Nino configuration.  A similar declaration was issued in 1953 and 1954 for Alaska’s salmon producers, indicating the often-economic impetus behind disaster declarations.

In the June 2008 edition of Homeland Security Affairs Journal, Professor Christopher Bellavita provides a survey of disasters as defined by FEMA.  In his article, “Changing Homeland Security: What is Homeland Security?” Bellavita indicates that between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2007, there were some 1,205 disaster conditions in the United States and its overseas territories, including 336 wildfires (first place) and 224 severe storms (second place).  In addition, during the same time, there were hurricanes (105 of them), winter storms (102), tornadoes (78), typhoons (in Guam and other North Pacific U.S. holdings), and coastal storms (3).  A comparison between the number of major disaster declarations and the number of “disasters” indicates that if politics were being played, the field could have been potentially much larger.

FEMA provides an excellent online resource that lists all disaster declarations (major and otherwise) by year, and by state and territory.  The database (which can be accessed at http://www.fema.gov/news/disaster_totals_annual.fema) indicates that Texas has, between 1953 and 2008, had the most major disaster declarations – 82.  The Lone Star State is closely followed by California, Florida, Oklahoma, and New York State.  In addition, there were dozens of disaster declarations that were not considered “major” disasters based on magnitude.  It should be noted that according to the FEMA database, 100% of Texas’ major disaster declarations were due to weather and/or fire-related conditions, while a disaster declaration (but not a major one) was issued for 47 states in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to provide federal assistance to communities impacted by evacuees from the northern Gulf coast.

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Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

2008 North Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Season

June 2, 2008

On June 1, the 2008 North Atlantic tropical cyclone season began.  While there have, of course, been instances where hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions have formed outside of the June-November season, the bulk of tropical systems in the Atlantic occur within this six month period.  Although the seasonal peak for New York and the northeastern United States comes in August and September, now is the time to take a moment to review your preparedness levels as they pertain to tropical cyclone activity.  The New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM) provides New Yorkers with useful information on those steps that must (not should) be taken to better protect your family, friends, and property in the event a hurricane or tropical storm “sets its sights” on the Big Apple.  Please keep in mind that a mature-stage tropical cyclone can extend several hundred miles across, so even if the eyewall should pass away from your location, you can still be affected by high winds, heavy rains, and high surf conditions.  NYC OEM’s excellent website can be accessed using the link on Disaster Central’s menu bar.  Remember, preparedness is a decision best made early, so make the decision today to be better prepared tomorrow!

Have you ever experienced first hand the effects of a hurricane or tropical storm?  If so, please share your experiences with Disaster Central.  As the lessons of Emergency Management and Homeland Security are largely experiential in nature, it’s important that readers understand the mechanics and nature of tropical cyclones – and one of the best ways to accomplish this is through a sharing of such experiences.

Professor Longshore

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Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Cyclone Nargis

May 7, 2008

Once again we’ve been unhappily reminded of humankind’s relative fragility in the face of nature’s more dramatic workings.  Earlier this week, Cyclone Nargis brought Category 4 winds, storm surge conditions, and precipitation counts to the northeastern shores of the Bay of Bengal.  Hardest hit was the nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where as of the date of this post, some 41,000 people have been listed as killed, and another 41,000 posted as missing.  The latest media reports have warned that any delays in providing humanitarian assistance could see the death toll rise as high as 100,000.  As with all events of this magnitude, it’s possible the death toll could rise even further, or even drop, as recovery operations proceed and a more accurate assessment is available.  A number of nations and private organizations have pledged relief aid to Myanmar, and Disaster Central urges you to contribute what you can.  The New York City Office of Emergency Management’s website contains important information on the most effective ways to contribute.  Please see the link to OEM’s website on this blog.

Naturally, events like Cyclone Nargis also reaffirm for coastal regions around the globe the need to devise and implement effective early warning systems, improved and enhanced evacuation protocols, more robust and comprehensive public health and mass care practices, stronger shelters, and plans that have a strong operational component.  Much has been said about the current political situation in Myanmar, and its possible influence on the preparedness, response, and recovery phases of this event.  This is a story we’ve heard before from this region, particularly in the case of the Great Cyclone of November, 1970, (also known as the Bhola Cyclone) which killed upwards of 500,000 people in Bangladesh and fueled further political unrest between East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was then known) and West Pakistan (now simply Pakistan) where the nation’s political and response networks were centered.  In time, East Pakistan was granted its independence, and for this reason, the 1970 cyclone is sometimes identified as “the cyclone that gave birth to a nation.”  We’ve also heard it applied to our own nation’s political profile and emergency management practices following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana in late-August of 2005.  Only time and history can reveal the “truth” of such assessments, but it is well known that governments that are unresponsive to the needs of their citizens in times of peril and fear are governments that don’t last.

But as equally the case with many large-magnitude events, there is more to this horror than government inaction and poor emergency management operations.  We’re a crowded planet, and it’s in the nature of humankind to build, farm, fish, and to persevere in those parts of the world where natural disasters are likely to occur.  For many voluntary and involuntary reasons, humankind farms the flanks of active volcanoes, crowds earthquake fault lines, and builds its “palaces” on sheets of sand.  It’s ironic, yes, and even contrary to the wisdom of human experience – but only when an eruption or earthquake occurs.  Until that time, humankind is willing to weather the occasional risk in order to achieve a more constant return.  This return is almost always economic, and for that reason, its influences and consequences often compliment one another.  The less-enfranchised citizenry of a less-enfranchised country have little choice but to live in danger zones because, quite simply, the land is less expensive, available, and due to nature’s frenetic activity, often fertile.

After the Second World War, policymakers urged the adoption of an economic globalization model as a preventative measure against another devastating war of magnitude.  With its exceptions, this concept appears to have worked – at least for the time being.  Perhaps now is the time to consider adopting this model for a global approach to emergency management and security.  After all, it does seem inevitable that an ongoing need exists.  As the global economy continues to grow (and yes, it will continue to expand), as markets develop and flourish, all the nations of the world will want to protect their respective interests in those areas beset by natural and technological hazards by ensuring enhanced business continuity protocols and practices – both at home and abroad.  Although it’s secondary to the communal suffering of the human community, the disaster in Myanmar is also an economic crisis (albeit, smaller in scale), and the world must always act to save lives through saving systems because if these systems fail, more lives will be lost.  Hopefully, the world’s nations will continue to actively work together in a non-partisan manner to ensure that when a future earthquake hits, or a cyclone makes landfall, or a terrorist strikes, it won’t be said by future generations that we did nothing as human beings to protect and prepare our own.

Professor Longshore

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Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Welcome to Disaster Management Blog

March 20, 2008

I’m Professor Ali Gheith, director of the MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security at Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY), and I cordially welcome you to our Emergency Management blog, Disaster Central. It’s a catchy name, I know, but particularly so because of the vital subject matter it covers.

Right now at Disaster Central, we’re discussing numerous general topics relating to Emergency Management and Homeland Security, such as:

  • Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism
  • Maritime Domain Protection
  • Intelligence and Information-Sharing
  • Emergency Management Planning
  • Airline and Transportation Security
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Public Sector Continuity
  • Exercise Design
  • Human Services
  • Evacuation and Sheltering
  • Emergency Preparedness

Within each of these topics, Disaster Central features themed discussions that draw upon historical, operational, cultural, economic, philosophical, technological, political, and other sources and examples to create an on-line forum for the advancement of knowledge, insights, and wisdom relating to the Emergency Management and Homeland Security disciplines.

Disaster Central also posts topics relating to past emergency management and homeland security events, including historic natural, human-made, and technological disasters. In these posts, participants can discuss the circumstances behind some of history’s catastrophes, both large and small, as well as the often-harsh lessons learned.

Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and on how you can apply for admission to this selective program.

While one of the cardinal rules in politics is never make it personal, and never take it personally, Disaster Central respectfully requests that participants avoid engaging in personal attacks, threats, inflammatory language, and other unprofessional behaviors that can hinder an intelligent and relevant discourse on emergency management and homeland security topics. This includes the use of profanity. Thank you in advance for your professional cooperation, and welcome to Disaster Central, MCNY’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security blog.

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Posted by Disaster Central in Airline Security, Anti-Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, Critical Infrastructure Protection, Emergency Management Planning, Emergency Preparedness, Exercise Design, Homeland Security, Human Services, Intelligence and Information-Sharing, Maritime Domain Protection, Natural Disasters, Public Sector Continuity, Sheltering. Comments Off

Disaster Central is also a resource for information relating to MCNY’s MPA program in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, as well as providing insight and commentary on the topics of Disaster Management, Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

 

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