Posts from — July 2010

A Call To Duty…Or A Duty To Family?

Decisions Faced By Critical Infrastructure Personnel During Disaster Response Operations

When the inevitable phone call comes, the stark reality of critical infrastructure personnel being called to action in response to a major emergency or catastrophic disaster can shock the system.  Critical infrastructure personnel [in this context] are defined as those public and private sector professionals responsible for making life as we know it here in the United States of America, function on a daily basis.  The ranks of these professionals extend far beyond the typically identified law enforcement, public safety, emergency medical, and NGO personnel. They also include local government, power, telecommunications, Internet, water, utilities, fuel/gasoline, transportation, banking & finance, grocery and home improvement stores among others.  While there are many regional and national retail stores involved in critical infrastructure disaster support operations, here is an illuminating article on Wal-Mart and its stand up role in Hurricane Katrina response operations.

Have you ever wondered where First Responders’ minds are when a major emergency or catastrophic disaster strikes and their families are or could be victimized?  Some insight into this condition can be gained from reading Chapter 4: A Week of Crisis August 29 to September 5 in “The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina Lesson Learned”. While not a complete or definitive view of the under pinning of this blog post, it does begin to help us form a frame of reference on the magnitude of the issue.

We believe that when a major emergency or catastrophic disaster strikes, it is basic human nature for these professionals responding to think of their families; to want to be with them, and to do whatever they can to protect them. So we wonder what goes through the minds of first responders when called to duty in the event of an extreme weather emergency like the epic snow storms in the Mid-Atlantic region this past winter, hurricane, a flood, a tornado, earthquake or chemical spill, or even the seemingly unthinkable….another 9-11.

So we wonder just how torn are they between their call to duty and their duty to family?

Video credit: Rob

In the coming weeks we plan to have a journalist interviewing a variety of critical infrastructure personnel including first responders – those on the front lines in times of crises, whose families may not be protected – as well as their organizations and those responsible for managing them.

We want to know [as you may also] how the people in charge of administration and operations prepare for the emotional turmoil experienced by their key personnel and other responders. Does this potentially have adverse affects on the critical work that they do during emergencies and disasters?

We’ll explore not only the First Responder community, but that of local government and the private sector that we all count on so heavily. Private sector infrastructure professionals from hospitals, banks, fuel, grocery stores, home improvement companies and utilities will be among those interviewed.

Our exploration of this issue also includes doing the math. We want to take a look at communities ranging in size from major metropolitan areas down to rural towns and villages and what first responder resources are available to them locally on a per capita basis in the event of a disaster. Remember “if you can’t show the math, then it’s only an opinion”!

The purpose for this exploration of the facts is to further underscore what we believe to be a very real need for major emergency and catastrophic disaster resiliency. This journalistic undertaking will neither take a Chicken Little “The Sky Is Falling” viewpoint, nor the promotion of an ill advised Ostrich like position of “sticking ones head in the sand”. Hopefully our path of discovery will help locate our collective strengths and illuminate those deficiencies that may exist.

If deficiencies are not identified and addressed before the disaster, there is the very real possibility of a major breakdown during the disaster. We are striving to prevent that by encouraging discussion at local, state, national and even international levels. Here’s a good example of a post Hurricane Katrina GAO report that speaks to the effectiveness of preparedness, response and recovery operations. We must do more!

We believe it to be highly beneficial for critical infrastructure organizations, local governments, and the general public to begin actively thinking, dialoging, planning and preparing to deal with disasters by making sure we really understand the demands our society is making on First Responders and Key Personnel in Critical Infrastructure operations roles. There is no doubt that knowing that your family is safe contributes significantly to operational readiness and increased levels of effectiveness.

We are in the process of setting up interviews in support of this article. If you believe you can make a unique and substantive contribution to this upcoming article, please contact us at We would like to hear from you, gain an understanding of your experiences and learn the perspective of your organization and whether they help you balance a call to duty or duty to family, or not.

July 26, 2010   3 Comments

Monday Matters – National Preparedness Month Coalition: Get on board!

September is National Preparedness Month (NPM). The 7th annual awareness month is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and the Ad Council. NPM is designed to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities.

National Preparedness Month logo

Ashbury International Group Inc., as a proud member of the National Preparedness Month coalition, strongly and vocally supports our nation’s efforts to promote emergency and disaster resiliency throughout the population of this great nation. The corporate mission of our company’s Emergency Preparedness Division is to be a staunch advocate for emergency preparedness in terms of promoting important dialogue, broad based education, emergency preparedness resources, and effective training. We feel that by joining the NPM coalition, we are doing our part as responsible corporate citizens in making our community and nation stronger thru resiliency against every day emergencies and disasters. It really means helping to save lives of American citizens…

Ashbury, thru our ICE PACK™ brand, has initiated emergency preparedness outreach programs with our innovative series of Emergency Preparedness Equipment Technology Briefs conducted at our Ruckersville, VA. facility. These monthly technology briefings are conducted for emergency preparedness and disaster First Responder professionals in NGO’s, public safety, search and rescue, law enforcement, public works, and local government organizations. The goals of these briefings are to provide educational information, familiarization with new technologies and promote important dialogue at all levels between organizations. There is no cost to attend the monthly briefings; however we do respectfully request that an on-site donation of $10 be made to the local Red Cross Central Virginia Chapter. Ashbury provides supplemental matching funds for these Red Cross donations made at each briefing throughout the year!

ICE PACK™ emergency preparedness programs are now also being designed to provide community outreach through collaboration with local government agencies here in Central Virginia. Additionally, our advocacy of public and private sector disaster resiliency continues to grow through our ardent use of leading social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and of course, this ICE PACK™ blog! The ICE PACK™ on-line community continues to grow daily!

This year FEMA’s National Preparedness Month promotion – sponsored by its Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps –focuses on encouraging all Americans to work together to take concrete actions toward emergency preparedness.

We do the same, and hope that you and your organization share in our strong attitude of “Facta Non Verba.” Take action and join the National Preparedness Month coalition and more importantly make a tangible contribution towards preparedness!

July 19, 2010   2 Comments

Monday Matters: Crisis Communications During an Emergency or Disaster

Consider if you will, and give serious thought to what life today would be without email, social media web sites, the Internet, cellular telephones, and even electricity. Our society’s extreme dependence on technology makes us particularly vulnerable to man-made (technological), natural and/or war related/terrorism attack disasters that could completely disrupt our ability to communicate thru any of these heavily used mediums. Electricity is so vital to our day to day lives that most of us fail to realize that no communications technology can run without power of some type! Timely effective communications during an emergency or disaster can well make the difference between life and death!

When looking at crisis communications pre-disaster, during a disaster and post-disaster keep in mind the following when developing, practicing and equipping for your crisis communications plan.

  1. Establish your PACE disaster communications plan for your family, key operations personnel, and if in business; vendors, suppliers and contractors. Establish an out of the area message relay person (e.g. relative, associate, etc.) to coordinate calls, messages and rendezvous with family, friends and co-workers when local telephone and cellular service is unavailable.
  2. Remember, local telephone and cellular communication services may be damaged and overloaded or non-existent, due to the disaster. You may well be able to call out of the area, but may not be able to complete calls within the affected disaster area. One of the back-ups for standard telephone and cellular service is SATCOM (satellite communications for voice, data and video transmission). For those individuals and organizations (especially critical infrastructure such as public safety, law enforcement, hospitals and banking) that need a true 24/7/365 communications capability, SATCOM must be considered. It’s expensive but well worth the investment when you need to communicate. Here is an excellent resource for First Responders from the Satellite Industry Association; First Responders Guide to Satellite Communications (PDF).
  3. Make sure that you know what is going on in your local area by either monitoring a multi-band scanner, local news on radio, or television and have an “active” all hazards radio as a back-up. If you lose power you should not lose your ability to monitor changing disaster conditions. Without one, you’ll be hard pressed to know whether to evacuate, or shelter-in-place when directed to do so. We keep an All Hazards Radio at our receptionist desk in our corporate offices to monitor conditions during the work day, and one at home to keep informed overnight.
  4. Back-up power sources ranging from 12 volt DC-to-AC inverters to dedicated back-up generators should be considered as part of your emergency communications equipping plan. Think of “green” power solutions here as small several thousand watt solar power stations like Sunrnr offer unique advantages.
  5. Do not depend solely on one communications medium (remember primary, alternate, contingency and emergency). For example, the Internet Social Media website Twitter is a very powerful tool that can disseminate local disaster information far and wide using the power of the Internet, but without power, telephony, cable or wireless technology it can be rendered ineffective. Radio and television are important to keep abreast of local conditions. For those in the coastal regions that use those nice little portable battery operated televisions, please make sure they are updated to receive the new All Digital signal transmissions from your local television stations.
  6. Be familiar with local government alert sirens such as tornado warning and flood warning sirens and the like. More importantly, have a practiced plan of what to do when you hear them sound off in your area or one you may be visiting!
  7. Two way radio comprise the backbone of communications used during a disaster response and recovery efforts. Looking at the family, business and corporate level equipment, Family Radio Service (FRS) radios typically provide you with short range communications (typically under 300 feet inside a building to around a 1/2 mile outdoors). For a bit longer range around the neighborhood or for rural area communications consider General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) that can provide several miles of communications range outdoors. Citizens Band (CB) Radios have been around for a long time and provide reliable communication ranges of 1 to 5 miles. Do your research to determine what can work for you in times of crisis. Radio transmission ranges will vary with antennas, under different conditions, terrain and structures. Manufacturers advertise long range capabilities; we suggest you learn your gear and test the range of your equipment before you need it.
  8. You can even coordinate a communications plan with your family, friends and neighbors using FRS/GMRS/CB in conjunction with local Short Wave Radio Operators (HAM) that have a capability to talk literally around the world. Recently, here in Virginia during the heavy snow storms, HAM radio operators assisted in the dispatch of nearby county public safety personnel during the epic storms.

Make sure you have a viable communications plan and reliable equipment to use in the event of a disaster.

July 12, 2010   7 Comments