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

Why More Men Die in Floods

June 25, 2008

In its June 24, 2008, edition, TIME Magazine published an interesting article by Senior Writer Amanda Ripley titled, “Why More Men Die in Floods.”  Disaster Central encourages its readers to read this article as it contains a number of valuable points concerning the relationship between gender and survivability.  The article can be accessed at:  http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1817603,00.html

For some time, we’ve recognized a connection between social/economic class and survivability - now there appears to be further evidence to support a connection between gender and survivability.  Are men less prepared than women?  Or are these statistics due to the fact that many first responders are male, and therefore more likely to die while carrying out their duties?  It has been suggested that many emergency management preparedness programs be directed at females as they most often play an integral role in protecting children during emergency situations – does this lead to an unintended gender imbalance in the preparedness and response matrices?

Disaster Central invites your comments.

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Posted by Disaster Central in Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation. 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.

Financial Incentives

June 2, 2008

With increasing frequency, communities are turning to the tax code to affect changes in (largely undesirable) social behaviors.  Since 2002, for example, New York City has followed a policy of implementing deterrent tax rises in its ongoing efforts to end smoking in the five boroughs.  According to figures released by the New York City Mayor’s office, these deterrent tax increases have reduced smoking by some 30% – although it should be noted that there is some variance in these figures.  At the same time, the deterrent tax increases have added significant funds to the City’s treasury, with a portion of this revenue earmarked for smoking-cessation programs.

Given the success of New York City’s efforts to control social behavior through the selective implementation of the tax code, do you believe a similar model should be applied to enhancing emergency preparedness in New York City?  For businesses and other organizations, failure to implement business continuity, preparedness, response, and recovery protocols would result in the imposition of tax surcharges and increases that could then be applied to improving preparedness, response, and recovery levels in those respective firms.  In another example, those high-rise buildings that have yet to install communications systems and radio-repeaters would be assessed a sky-high (no pun intended) tax surcharge in order to force them to better protect both their tenants and our first responders and public safety personnel during response and recovery periods.  A similar plan could be applied to private homes.  After all, just as smoking represents a public health hazard, so does a lack of emergency preparedness in New York City.

How far are you willing to go to provide yourself, your family, and friends with safe working and living environments?  Do you support this initiative?  Do you believe it would improve safety and preparedness in New York City?  In terms of public health, New York City has indicated that it has no intention of “simply blowing smoke.”  Has the time come to expand this approach to achieving higher levels of emergency preparedness in New York City?  Disaster Central welcomes your thoughts on this.

Professor Longshore

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Posted by Disaster Central in Emergency Preparedness. 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.

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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Posted by Disaster Central in Emergency Preparedness, 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.

Welcome, Commissioner Bruno!

May 15, 2008

The MPA program in Emergency and Disaster Management at Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY) is pleased to welcome Joseph F. Bruno, Commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYC OEM), as the keynote speaker for our first annual Emergency Management and Homeland Security Symposium, to be held June 18, 2008, at MCNY’s campus in lower Manhattan.  In the time that he has served as Commissioner, Mr. Bruno and his team of professionals have worked to effectively educate the people and systems of New York City on how to be better prepared in the face of natural, human, and technological emergencies. Commissioner Bruno’s presentation is part of NYC OEM’s continuing mission to provide New York City with the finest in emergency management.  MCNY is excited by this important educational opportunity.  Thank you, Commissioner!

Please stay tuned to MCNY’s Disaster Central blog for more details (including how to register) on our upcoming symposium.

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Posted by Disaster Central in Emergency Management Planning, Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security. 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.

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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Posted by Disaster Central in 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.

Congratulations, Mr. or Mrs. President!

April 29, 2008

Congratulations, you’ve just been elected the next President of the United States (POTUS). Based upon your present knowledge of the emergency management and homeland security disciplines in the nation, what would your top policy or operational priorities be in terms of these fields? What would your second and third priorities be?

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Posted by Disaster Central in Emergency Management Planning, Homeland Security. 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.

The Titanic Crisis

April 17, 2008

I’d like to thank those of you who were able to attend our April 16 presentation, “The Titanic Crisis”, held at MCNY to commemorate the 96th anniversary of the Titanic disaster.

While it’s true that emergency management and homeland security specialists draw upon the experiential sciences in devising preparedness, response, and recovery protocols, it’s equally true that there’s a metaphysical approach to both fields – an approach that thus far is only (forgive the pun) the tip of the iceberg. As part of the presentation, I posited a “mythical” approach to the Titanic’s symbolic role in shaping many of the concepts emergency managers and homeland security professionals use today. Despite embodying some of the finest and most innovative technology of its day, the Titanic didn’t prove to be unsinkable, or even “virtually unsinkable”, and the ship’s demise was as shocking a technological failure as it was a human event that claimed the lives of over 1,500 men, women, and children. The seeming inevitability of the Titanic’s sinking (due, in large part, to the “incident pit” in which the ship found itself) leads us to wonder if there were factors (some actual and tangible, some symbolic) that influenced the final outcome, but remain specifically unknown to us today. This understanding formed the metaphysical thread that I used to link our interpretation of the Titanic disaster as a technological failure, and perhaps a failure of a larger and more amorphous magnitude. Some may contend that this failure is societal or cultural in nature, while others may apply a more philosophical or even religious patina to the events of April 14-15, 1912. To my mind, the ship’s builders and operators traded the metaphysical good sense of objectives for that technological hubris often mistaken as capability.

It’s well known that technology is good only when designed and applied with wisdom. I use the word “wisdom” guardedly because many aspects of emergency management and homeland security “wisdom” remain undefined and ill-used. Nearly seven years after the events of September 11, 2001, and just five years after the formation of the United States Department of Homeland Security, we’re still in the process of wresting from our experience, our knowledge, and our desires the metaphysical underpinnings of the emergency management and homeland security disciplines. Like the Titanic’s builders and operators, we perhaps limit our concepts and practices to what has been defined by past experience, or suits our more immediate objectives, such as commerce or political power. The Titanic wasn’t built to prove or disprove the wisdom or reality of an “unsinkable ship.” It was built to generate a profit by carrying passengers and cargo across the North Atlantic Ocean. And while the vessel was publicized as being “virtually sinkable”, this was a mere marketing tool, a reassuring nod to the seagoing public that the ship’s creators knew from past experience that crossing the Atlantic was always a dangerous business. Here we see the concept of risk turned into appeal, and that appeal (it was hoped) transformed into increased passenger patronage and profits. I’m reminded of an aeronautical engineer who once remarked that they could build an aircraft that would never crash, but it would never fly, either. Along a similar vein, had the Titanic truly been constructed (as they believed it had) to be unsinkable, it probably wouldn’t have floated – which it did…for a while.

But it’s within this paradox, this often tangential tension between reality and symbolism…between preparedness and fantasy…that the metaphysical aspects of emergency management and homeland security exist. There’s a body of knowledge regarding these two fields that influences our plans and actions, but is of yet unknown to us. It can be said that we’ll know more after the next disaster occurs, and from an experiential viewpoint, the point is a valid one. Of the two fields, emergency management is presently geared more toward recovery than either preparedness or response; and when it does engage the anticipatory approach, it’s in order to determine the parameters of a particular type of recovery. And while homeland security’s mission is characterized by a more “anticipatory” approach than is emergency management, its doctrinal (and conceptual) foundations remain unfinished.

Even nearly a century after its loss, the Titanic continues to provide intellectual fodder for the EM and HLS communities. This source material, paid for that night by the sheer terror experienced by 2,200 people, inspires us to learn its many bitter lessons – one of which is that there’s a lot less to technology (or capabilities) than one might think, and much more to “attitude” or objectives than one may know.

Professor Longshore

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Posted by Disaster Central in Evacuation, Homeland Security, MCNY EDM Program. 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.

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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