Shortly after the audacious 2008 Mumbai, India terrorist attack which took 160 lives, a Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief mused that a similarly trained team could paralyze a city like Seattle for a “considerable” time. Mumbai illustrated how a team of well-trained bad actors could exact considerable damage.
The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) biannual gatherings are opportunities for information-sharing and straightforward discussions with government and private sector leaders. State (and territorial) emergency management directors occupy unique roles. Responsible to the governor or a senior official – in Washington State it’s The Adjutant General (TAG) – they not only deal with issues affecting their respective jurisdictions (while balancing the political inclinations of elected officials), but aided by Association staff must be alert to developments on the national front that could impact local and state government.
Educators and senior emergency management officials have pondered what would motivate a person to aspire to a career in emergency management. How do we attract bright young students while providing continuing education and growth opportunities for those already immersed in emergency management roles? This is not just a problem of the moment how can emergency management survive, and thrive, in the long term?
My favorite English professor at Western Washington, Arthur Hicks, taught Shakespeare. He administered daily, graded 10-minute snap exams on some aspect of the previous day’s reading – if you did well, he would write on your paper “so far, good…but” and he would then point out additional insights (channeling Shakespeare, I presume) the student might have incorporated into the exam response. When I asked why he did that, he said there was always something more to learn, something more to uncover – “so far, good” was thus an exhortation to dig deeper, become even more proficient.
As our nation lurches into a worrisome and contentious period in our history, I’ll share some less-than-earth-shaking thoughts I have had recently (if you open your window, you may hear me shouting).
Education = National Security By Jim Mullen Emergency Management Once Removed As a student financial aid director at a struggling private college in Illinois in the early 1970s, I had the responsibility of ensuring that students could finance their college educations without incurring loan obligations that would inhibit their personal and professional futures while assuring that the institution itself survived. Angst over student loan debt is not a new development. During the Cold War, improved access to higher education for all Americans became a national security issue. Soviet Union successes (launching “Sputnik” in 1957, Gagarin’s sub-orbital flight in 1961) persuaded [...]
Emergency Management: Tough to Do, Tougher to Teach by Jim Mullen Emergency Management, Once Removed During the Great Depression, a young Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) interviewed for a teaching position in Texas. During his interview, when asked, “Is the world flat or round” – he replied, “I can teach it either way!” He was hired. It’s not easy for those that teach emergency management in the 21st Century. The integration of the four primary elements of emergency management - mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery already are tough but critical concepts for people immersed in day-to-day issues of government (or life) [...]
“You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows…” (Bob Dylan.et al.) by Jim Mullen Emergency Management, Once Removed In this era of increasingly dangerous weather events, among the most dangerous are those slow-moving storm systems that pause over an area for an extended period before moving on or dissipating. It’s prudent to be alert to the potential for devastation and tragic consequences from such storms. Years ago, emergency managers developed a partnership with the National Weather Service (NWS), encouraging scientists to provide the earliest possible worst-case weather scenarios that might occur to aid us in preparing the public. A different [...]
Studying the Past, Confronting the Present, Shaping the Future by Jim Mullen Emergency Management, Once Removed The epidemic of mass shootings (defined as incidents where four or more persons are injured) in our country are emotionally draining tragedies for which thoughts and prayers are insufficient while rational solutions seem out of reach. Those who train and educate emergency managers and homeland security professionals pursuing certificates, degrees, or advanced education in emergency management must not avoid analyzing and discussing current, controversial public safety issues. But what we may or may not be teaching adults who are exploring the emergency management /homeland [...]