STRENGTH ANALYSIS-Collaboration: European Union Civil Protection for Emergency Management

Relevant EMINT Content from The National Security Policy and Analysis Organization at American Public University

The National Security Policy and Analysis Organization (NSPAO) facilitates critical engagement in national security, international affairs, and intelligence issues by engaging with national security experts and promoting an informed exchange of ideas to develop analytical skills and produce meaningful analyses relevant to the defense community. The CEMIR provides Emergency Management Intelligence (EMINT) analysis to the NSPAO. This is one of those tradecraft pieces.

As part of a standard “SWOT” Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – the aspect of Collaboration is an important set of Strengths that can enhance the Planning, Organization, Equipment, Training, and Exercising (POETE) to reduce or eliminate Threats and Risks for any country’s Emergency Management practitioners: Emergency Managers. Every country must have all-hazards Disaster Readiness (aka resiliency) – along the standard path of Protect/Prevent/Prepare, Respond, Recover and Mitigate – must include partnerships with other countries. Equipment, supplies, tools, and techniques delivered to and from the military and civilian intelligence agencies can assist Emergency Management practitioners at all levels of government. It is crucial that Emergency Managers understand the risks of any threat – and the possibility of adverse impacts to not only the communities they serve but to their own workforce (inclusive of all incident command and control structures) and those of allied partners.


The European Parliament has voted for strengthening the role of the European Union (EU) in crisis management through a legislative revision of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This allows for faster and more effective European solidarity operations in response to large-scale emergencies or disasters that affect several countries at the same time. The EU will have at its disposal additional financial means for civil protection and will strengthen emergency tools such as the rescEU medical reserve of protective equipment.

European Commission, 2021 April 27,  https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_1940

This agreement between European Union (EU) nations can assist Emergency Management practitioners in the EU in all the disaster readiness phases. This intelligence form also applies to the Response Phase Incident Action Planning, which should be delivered to Unified Command for continuous Situational Awareness.

New EU Civil Protection features

During the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, EU nations have experienced the same shortages of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as in other nations, including the United States. Their rescEU program enables the Commission to procure supplies when the national capabilities and capacities cannot or do not have the capacity to do so directly. The rescEU program also provides transportation and logistics support to move these items – and the personnel to support them. This includes medical personnel, medical equipment, and therapeutics. Highlighted details on this program can be found at https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_1940 

From the EU – https://civil-protection-humanitarian-aid.ec.europa.eu/what/civil-protection/eu-civil-protection-mechanism_en

Copernicus: Europe’s consolidated and coordinated disaster mapping system

The Copernicus Emergency Management System (CEMS) is built from satellite imagery and geospatial intelligence and provides free access to organizations before, during, and after incidents and disasters.

For Response, they have Rapid Mapping available within hours or days of the incident.

For Recovery and Mitigation, they have Risk and Recovery Mapping, which also covers Preparedness/Prevention/Protection.

Learn more about Copernicus at this link.

Survey results indicated most Europeans support a unified and collaborative approach to crisis management.

The European Union plays a key role in coordinating national borders of civil protection activities, with over 430 EU Civil Protection Mechanism activations since 2001. This survey looks at European citizens’ attitudes towards the European Union’s activities related to civil protection, including crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, and their awareness of the EU’s coordination role in response to disasters. The survey results support the EU’s role in crisis management, with 84 % of Europeans agreeing that coordinated EU action should be increased to respond more effectively to future disasters and crises. More than 9 in 10 Europeans agree that their country should provide help when a disaster strikes in another EU country that is too big to deal with on their own, a clear sign of support for EU solidarity (European Union, 2021).


Challenges in the United States for collaboration with other countries during disasters

Challenges built into U.S. federal laws currently prevent full collaboration with other nations to support U.S. disasters. While no one would expect military forces from neighboring or allied nations, logistical support such as transporting material from one U.S. port to another is limited by law to U.S. vessels with U.S. crews (see the Jones Act). This became a counter-point by the major oil companies in 2022 during the surge in retail gasoline prices, whereby savings could be up to 10 cents per gallon, according to a report by J.P. Morgan. However, it should be noted that this nationalistic restriction does not apply to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support governmental disaster missions, such as the American Red Cross. As part of a worldwide network of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide, any nation’s Red Cross can ask for assistance from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent to help coordinate assistance from other nations’ societies. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, volunteers from the Canadian and Mexican Red Cross societies came to New Jersey and New York to assist. A software platform called Ushahidi – which originated in Kenya and started out as an election results violence monitoring mapping system – was used by tech volunteers to monitor closed roads, downed trees, shelters, and even posts from stranded individuals in their homes. Accurate and up-to-date crisis mapping is crucial to effective Emergency Management Intelligence.


Kuman, D. K. & Xu, C. (2022, June 17). East Coast gas would only drop a dime if Jones Act lifter, says JPMorgan. Bloomberg News – Financial Post. https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/east-coast-gas-would-only-drop-a-dime-if-jones-act-lifted-says-jpmorgan

CATO Institute (n.d.), Project on Jones Act reform. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.cato.org/project-jones-act-reform

European Commission (2021, April 27), A strengthened EU civil protection mechanism endorsed by European Parliament. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_1940

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (2015). World Disasters Report. https://www.ifrc.org/sites/default/files/World-Disasters-Report-2015_en.pdf

European Commission (n.d.), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/echo/what/civil-protection/mechanism_en

You can view more content from the NSPAO at https://www.nspao-apus.org/

Share the wealth:

STRENGTH ANALYSIS-Collaboration: European Union Civil Protection for Emergency Management Read More »

The not-so empty threat of an EMP: What Emergency Management needs to convey

For a Nuclear Weapon Attack – the blast zone will be catastrophic, but you may be unaware of a significant hazard which can extend quite farther – an electro-magnetic pulse wave.

In July 2022, New York City’s (NYC’s) Office of Emergency Management (OEM) issued a Public Service Announcement (PSA), to help residents prepare for a nuclear attack. The PSA was most likely predicated on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, compounding the constant threat that NYC is under from all types of hazards. In Emergency Management, which is the broader and hopefully wiser grandchild of Civil Defense, it is prudent to remind the public that these things can happen — and happen here, there, or anywhere. While the focus of that PSA was the radiological impacts of a nuclear weapon, what was missing was the probability that there would be an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) wave associated with such an attack. Such an EMP would most likely cripple all the local communications networks, including cellular telephone service and (maybe thankfully?) social media access. Not to mention disabling the electrical grid well beyond anything NYC has ever seen in its history.

Many of the planning checklists in Emergency Management for any type of hazard response include telling the public to “stay tuned in and follow the official instructions,” — but this planning assumes two important elements: that those officials can transmit those instructions and that the public can receive them. What if part of the hazard blocks the delivery and reception of these communications, as an EMP might?

In the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s December 2021 National Preparedness Report, there is a mention of the “less well-understood risks” and the “capabilities needed to manage those risks” with reference to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and its research work into both EMPs and naturally occurring geomagnetic disturbances, such as those generated by solar flares. CISA’s focus appears to be on critical infrastructure and the possibility of a cascading incident expanding “beyond the initial geographic regions adversely impacting millions of households and businesses.”

EMPs are associated with intentional attacks using high-altitude nuclear detonations, specialized conventional munitions, or non-nuclear directed energy devices. Effects vary in scale from highly local to regional to continental, depending upon the specific characteristics of the weapon and the method of attack. High-altitude electromagnetic pulse attacks (or HEMP, really no kidding, that’s the acronym) using nuclear weapons are of most concern because they may permanently damage or disable large sections of the national electric grid and other critical infrastructure control systems.

And the negative impacts from an EMP do not have to be caused by a no-notice attack from an enemy. A government’s “best intentions” could be to fix another problem. Mark Straus reminded us in National Geographic from 2016 that the idea of the “good guys” deploying a nuclear bomb at high altitudes to stop or quell a different disaster — say a hurricane or a tornado — was in the realm of possibilities:

In a speech delivered at the National Press Club on October 11, 1961, Francis W. Riechelderfer, the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau, said he could “imagine the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea.” (Although, comfortingly, Riechelderfer added that the Weather Bureau would not begin acquiring its own nuclear arsenal “until we know what we’re doing.”)

And more recently (2019), the internet was filled with stories of how U.S. President Donald Trump was allegedly inquiring about throwing caution to the wind (not to mention throwing away a bevy of nuclear-weapons treaties the United States was a signed party to) and disrupting the paths of tropical storms by dropping nuclear bombs inside of them.

While the radiological, explosive, and other “direct” impacts of any single detonated nuclear device are certainly foreboding and devastating, they will be — in the short-term — geographically limited in scope. The impacts of the accompanying EMP will be more widespread and probably cascade to systems and networks well outside of the blast radius. An EMP’s impact on electronic circuitry — found today in everything from cell phones to cars to airplanes and nuclear power plants — needs to be researched and communicated to the public. U.S President Trump signed Executive Order 13865, which codified the research into protection and prevention aspects of the nation’s critical infrastructure but did not specifically address the probability of permanent damage to unshielded electronic circuits of its citizenry. Everyone’s circuits, not just those of critical infrastructure or governmental operations. In a 2005 article entitled “Empty Threat?” for The Bulletin, Nick Schwellenbach concisely laid out the potential impacts on electronic circuitry from actual nuclear testing conducted in the post-World War II days, including the Starfish Prime experiments. And this was all done before we had the internet and a massive worldwide reliance on cellular networks. Others (Bunn and Roth) have minimalized the EMP impacts, as compared to all the other really bad stuff that happens with a single terrorist nuclear bomb:

Depending on where and when it was detonated, the blast, fire, initial radiation, and long-term radioactive fallout from such a bomb could leave the heart of a major city a smoldering radioactive ruin, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people and wounding hundreds of thousands more. Vast areas would have to be evacuated and might be uninhabitable for years. Economic, political, and social aftershocks would ripple throughout the world.

Certainly, a ground-level or low-altitude nuclear detonation would have the catastrophic impacts described above. However, EMPs travel in all directions from the blast. Their potential to disrupt and destroy electronic circuitry can also travel above and beyond the blast. Consider airplanes falling out of the skies. Cell towers miles away were permanently destroyed. A high-altitude explosion over the country’s center could impact the entire continental United States’ critical infrastructure with the accompanying EMP. And the EMP will not stop at national borders either.

You will probably know you are in the middle of a ground-level or low-altitude nuclear detonation zone. A few generations have passed since the cold-war days of “duck and cover,” so muscle memory is incomplete in society today. Even the film The Day After is nearly forty years old. The EMP impacts from any high-altitude explosion will be silent and initially disconcerting. Not only will the power go out, but everything electronic that is unshielded will stop working. And those devices may not reboot or operate on batteries. Unlike the 10 minutes or so that one might have to find shelter from the radiological impacts of a nuclear explosion, the effects of the EMP will be almost instantaneous. You will not have time to move electronic devices into shielded storage nor vehicles into underground protected garages. It will be too late to act. From a homeland security perspective, failure to plan for this possibility. is planning to fail.

Individuals and families everywhere should become prepared for this remote possibility of a threat: not just the government and the military. The adverse impacts of the EMP itself (for those outside of the nuclear blast zone and radioactive plume area, of course) are survivable. This does not have to become an extinction-level event, although that is what emergency managers think about and plan: as if it were one level (or more) above what is occurring. Some basic “prepper” supplies will, of course, be required. Still, it is mostly a paradigm shift in one’s planning mindset: away from deterrence and inertia, towards independence from our total reliance on electronic devices, and towards manual equipment and actions to support life safety. It also requires default plans of action by every family member as to what they will do, where they will go, etc., if such an incident were to occur. Remember, this EMP will have no notice, no warning, and everyone will need a different plan when they are at work or home, etc. And when you make your plans, be ready to share them, communicate them, and store them on paper (and update them/reprint them at least yearly or as life events change). Any plans will be no good to you stored on the cloud. If you are a first responder or in a field considered “essential work,” — do you take action to keep your family safe first? Does your manager/supervisor have a different expectation for what you will do today, tomorrow, or even next year?

Yes, the total loss of most of the modern technology of the 21st century will overwhelm most people, but bicycles will still work. So will horses. And so will guns. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued guidance on best practices for Electromagnetic Pulse Shielding, and has promised to “target harden” the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). The best that will do is tell the nation after the fact that an EMP has occurred. And if you do not have a working AM/FM radio, you will not receive those messages. Joshua Good in his 2012 Masters Theses for James Madison University noted that Blackstarting the North American power grid could take months if not years.

When it comes time to act, you can take that paper copy of your plan out of the zip-locked sealed bag and start to go on with your life. And by the way, this type of extinction-level-event planning covers a multitude of smaller, lesser impactful incidents such as hurricanes, winter storms, multi-state wildfires, and earthquakes. And hard to decipher, yet much more frequent Space Weather incidents will be covered, too. Having a default set of actions to take — and communicating them in advance to all concerned — will help everyone with no-notice, no-communications large-scale incidents, such as an EMP. While the uptick in reminders about a possible nuclear attack on major cities in the United States is not “playing Chicken-Little,” waiting for the government to give us all the instructions as to what to do after such a threat should not be our next set of checklist steps for our own safety and security.

Visit the CEMIR website

Share the wealth:

The not-so empty threat of an EMP: What Emergency Management needs to convey Read More »

SLOSH – Sea, Lake and Overland Surges

from the National Hurricane Center and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge/



Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In the past, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall. Hurricane Katrina (2005) is a prime example of the damage and devastation that can be caused by surge. At least 1500 persons lost their lives during Katrina and many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge.

Storm Surge vs. Storm Tide

Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. Storm surge should not be confused with storm tide, which is defined as the water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases.

Storm Surge vs. Storm Tide

Factors Impacting Surge

Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm. The impact on surge of the low pressure associated with intense storms is minimal in comparison to the water being forced toward the shore by the wind.

Wind and Pressure Components of Hurricane Storm Surge

The maximum potential storm surge for a particular location depends on a number of different factors. Storm surge is a very complex phenomenon because it is sensitive to the slightest changes in storm intensity, forward speed, size (radius of maximum winds-RMW), angle of approach to the coast, central pressure (minimal contribution in comparison to the wind), and the shape and characteristics of coastal features such as bays and estuaries.

Other factors which can impact storm surge are the width and slope of the continental shelf. A shallow slope will potentially produce a greater storm surge than a steep shelf. For example, a Category 4 storm hitting the Louisiana coastline, which has a very wide and shallow continental shelf, may produce a 20-foot storm surge, while the same hurricane in a place like Miami Beach, Florida, where the continental shelf drops off very quickly, might see an 8 or 9-foot surge. More information regarding storm surge impacts and their associated generalizations can be found in the FAQ section.

Adding to the destructive power of surge, battering waves may increase damage to buildings directly along the coast. Water weighs approximately 1,700 pounds per cubic yard; extended pounding by frequent waves can demolish any structure not specifically designed to withstand such forces. The two elements work together to increase the impact on land because the surge makes it possible for waves to extend inland.

Although elevated, this house in North Carolina could not withstand the 15 ft (4.5 m) of storm surge that came with Hurricane Floyd (1999)

Additionally, currents created by tides combine with the waves to severely erode beaches and coastal highways. Buildings that survive hurricane winds can be damaged if their foundations are undermined and weakened by erosion.

Beachfront road and boardwalk damaged by Hurricane Jeanne (2004)

In confined harbors, the combination of storm tides, waves, and currents can also severely damage marinas and boats. In estuaries and bayous, salt water intrusion endangers the public health, kills vegetation, and can send animals – such as snakes and alligators – fleeing from flooded areas.

Damaged boats in a marina

Notable Surge Events

  • Ike 2008 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Hurricane Ike made landfall near the north end of Galveston Island as a Category 2 hurricane. Storm surges of 15-20 feet above normal tide levels occurred along the Bolivar Peninsula of Texas and in much of the Galveston Bay area. Property damage from Ike is estimated at $24.9 billion. More…
  • Katrina 2005 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes in the history of the United States. It produced catastrophic damage – estimated at $75 billion in the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast – and is the costliest U. S. hurricane on record. Storm surge flooding of 25 to 28 feet above normal tide levels was associated with Katrina. More…
  • Dennis 2005 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Dennis affected much of Florida, and its effects extended well inland over portions of the southeastern United States with the maximum amount rainfall of 12.80 inches occuring near Camden, Alabama. Storm surge flooding of 7-9 ft produced considerable storm surge-related damage near St. Marks, Florida, well to the east of the landfall location. The damage associated with Dennis in the United States is estimated at $2.23 billion. More…
  • Isabel 2003 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Isabel was the worst hurricane to affect the Chesapeake Bay region since 1933. Storm surge values of more than 8 feet flooded rivers that flowed into the bay across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. Isabel was the most intense hurricane of the 2003 season and directly resulted in 17 deaths and more than $3 billion in damages. More…
  • Opal 1995 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Hurricane Opal made landfall near Pensacola Beach, Florida as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm caused extensive storm surge damage from Pensacola Beach to Mexico Beach (a span of 120 miles) with a maximum storm tide of 24 feet, recorded near Fort Walton Beach. Damage estimates for Opal were near $3 billion. More…
  • Hugo 1989 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Hugo impacted the southeastern United States, including South Carolina cities Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Hugo was responsible for 60 deaths and $7 billion in damages, with the highest storm surge estimated at 19.8 feet at Romain Retreat, South Carolina. More…
  • Camille 1969 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    Camille was a Category 5 hurricane, the most powerful on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with maximum winds of more than 155 mph and storm surge flooding of 24 feet that devastated the Mississippi coast. The final death count for the U.S. is listed at 256. This includes 143 on the Gulf coast and another 113 from the Virginia floods. More…
  • Audrey 1957 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    There were 390 deaths associated with Audrey as the result of a storm surge in excess of 12 feet, which inundated the flat coast of southwestern Louisiana as far as 25 miles inland in some places. More…
  • New England 1938 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    The Long Island Express was a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane that struck Long Island and New England with little warning on September 21. A storm surge of 10 to 12 ft inundated the coasts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, southeastern Massachusetts, and Long Island, NY, especially in Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay. Six hundred people died due to the storm. More…
  • Galveston 1900 (SLOSH Historical Run)

    At least 8,000 people died when hurricane storm tides (the surge plus the astronomical tide) of 8-15 feet inundated most of the island city of Galveston, TX and adjacent areas on the mainland. More…

Surge Vulnerability Facts

  • From 1990-2008, population density increased by 32% in Gulf coastal counties, 17% in Atlantic coastal counties, and 16% in Hawaii (U.S. Census Bureau 2010)
  • Much of the United States’ densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level
  • Over half of the Nation’s economic productivity is located within coastal zones
  • 72% of ports, 27% of major roads, and 9% of rail lines within the Gulf Coast region are at or below 4 ft elevation (CCSP, SAP 4-7)
  • A storm surge of 23 ft has the ability to inundate 67% of interstates, 57% of arterials, almost half of rail miles, 29 airports, and virtually all ports in the Gulf Coast area (CCSP SAP 4-7)
Share the wealth:

SLOSH – Sea, Lake and Overland Surges Read More »

Social Reengineering and Emergency Management

While the concept of social reengineering – influencing people to change their behaviors and patterns of action/inaction – is typically applied in the corporate world (think advertising and marketing), it is also a concept applicable to emergency management.

Emergency Managers want people to better prepare themselves for emergencies and disasters. The fact of the matter is, there are not enough rescuers and resources for all the people who need rescuing – especially if some people can rescue themselves. There is also the “reengineering” part – which is changing existing (or non-existent) behaviors – and in the case of Emergency Management it is usually to reprioritize for life safety above incident stabilization, above property/asset protection. For example, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) and the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) both of 2006, had elements designed to change the way people should evacuate instead of sheltering-in-place because they have pets.

Sometimes it is complex changes in the way government operates which can impact/implement social reengineering, and sometimes it’s simple mantras, such as

See Something, Say Something® – from DHS and the NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Drop, Cover, Hold


Run, Hide, Fight


References/Additional Material:

Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience: Disaster and Social Aspects, 2022.
Rebuilding the Bahamas: How a hurricane blows up social divides“, The Christian Science Monitor, 2019.

Share the wealth:

Social Reengineering and Emergency Management Read More »


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good people to do nothing.

Edmund Burke (paraphrased)

Evil intentions, evil thoughts, evil actions: when it comes to threats and hazards, acts of evil have a special place on our collective lists of bad things. Some of us may think we can focus solely on what we believe are evildoers, and then end up with reduced capabilities and capacity for those natural and human-made hazards which become significant threats, nonetheless. Others will disregard the possibility of evil actions or intent, which has significant downsides as well. Lack of planning for what is considered consequence management possibilities, is a bad path to be on. Why do bad people do bad things (threats which become hazards)? In most cases it boils down to one of four reasons, covered in an acronym called M.I.C.E.  – Money, Ideology, Coercion, and Ego.

None of these cover a possible worst-case scenario, which is evil. People who are evil want to hurt or destroy beyond any reasons we can think of. What we all can do to be ready for something evil – that is to be better prepared before, during, and after any incident – no one is ever fully prepared for every threat and hazard, this is always an area everyone can improve on. Be more ready for that “what if” it was the worst of the worst.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

– William Shakespeare

1599 Antony. Julius Caesar, act 3, sc.2, l.74-86.

And sometimes the solutions to the “good versus evil” problems facing our world, also help against the adverse impacts of plain old accidents or even natural disasters. Let’s take the simple act of walking in the park: protecting the pedestrians from vehicles nearby helps just as much from someone having a medical emergency and not hitting the brakes, as it does from the terrorist hellbent on mowing down everyone they can get.  

Whether you are preparing your family, your community, your state/territory/sovereign tribal nation, or even country: consider the possibility that evil might be the “why” behind any threat or hazard. This should make you alter and update your emergency plans, organizational staffing, equipment to be used, training and exercising of those elements. In Emergency Management we call this collection of elements POETE and use that process to make our problem-solving efforts and capacity-building more effective and efficient. Acts of terrorism may certainly qualify as evil, and the U.S. government spends quite a bit of effort to prevent these acts and protect all of us from their adverse impacts. And the feds have shared their guidance tools for this complete process in their Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 201, Third Edition. That guide utilizes the POETE process quite extensively.

The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.

J. K. Rowling

Every disaster starts and ends locally – even the evil ones. Take the time now to look at your emergency plans, your list of threats and hazards, etc. and consider how they could be impacted by evil.

This is part of the involuntary bargain we make with the world just by being alive. We get to experience the splendor of nature, the beauty of art, the balm of love and the sheer joy of existence, always with the knowledge that illness, injury, natural disaster, or pure evil can end it in an instant for ourselves or someone we love.

Jeff Greenfield 
Share the wealth:

Evil Read More »

Emergency Action Plans – the basics

The rock band “The Clash” have a song entitled “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – which is about a relationship between two people. It’s also a quick summary of Emergency Action Planning – should you shelter-in-place or evacuate?

The emergency management answer to this question is “Depends on what the emergency is” – and its possible the answer may be different over time, distance and shielding from the hazard. That means if you are in a house that’s on fire, it’s best to evacuate no doubt, but if it’s a 30-story office building, it might depend on where the fire is, as to what you do next. And it can get more complicated as time and distance from the hazard changes. If you view all hazards like this, you can make the best decisions for your own life safety and help others, too. The priorities should always be in this order: life safety, incident stabilization, and then property/asset protection. If your house is on fire, the fire department will work to rescue you and your pets first, then make sure the fire does not spread to other homes. You will probably notice they are not concerned with getting water on your big screen tv.   

Here are the basics we see for the public actions of emergency action planning: Sheltering-In-Place, Evacuation, and Active Assailant (which may combine both depending on time, distance and shielding). And our basic emergency action plan template covers all three, from an all-hazards perspective. Everyone should organize, equip, train, and exercise themselves to all three actions, they are responsible for themselves.


Sheltering-In-Place means staying where you are and not evacuating. And the “you” we describe in this post can mean you and your family, you and your co-workers, you and your pets, you and your personal care assistant, etc. You be you – and please take into consideration all the unique aspects of you we may forget to mention specifically. Sheltering-In-Place could mean you moving to a safer room in the building or a safer location in the complex or on the campus – but generally this an easier decision where and when to go, when there is existing Planning, Organization, Equipment, Training, and Exercising associated with this action. We call that a POETE process. Planning means having a plan as to where you would go, knowing what you would need there for an extended stay perhaps, and how you would communicate with others if circumstances of the emergency change (for the better or worse). Organization means knowing who is doing what – who may be needed to help you shelter-in-place and then get you back to “normal”. Equipment, as mentioned before is the stuff you need to shelter-in-place. We call it a “Stay Box”. This can hold everything from food/pet food, medicine, battery-powered cell charger, flashlight, water, change of clothes, sleeping bag, whatever. And this is stuff you need to have everywhere you might shelter-in-place, not just at home. So you will need multiple stay boxes. Training is the process of reviewing the plan, asking questions, taking classes, and attending seminars on personal preparedness (the American Red Cross has these for free, so does FEMA) and asking questions of your leadership at work about emergency preparedness and response. And finally Exercising is the practice, practice, practice that everyone needs to do for emergency action planning. Practice your plan, practice using your equipment, practice with others, and practice some “what ifs” from your training.


Evacuation means leaving where you and not sheltering-in-place. It could mean evacuating the entire building, complex, or campus – or just evacuating to a safer place. For that high-rise building fire, residents on the upper floors may evacuate to a different floor which has more fire protection and/or access to a fire stairwell, for example. Residents with mobility concerns may evacuate to what’s called an Area of Refuge, which is a meeting spot for residents to be further evacuated by the fire department. The building may have a designated Emergency Assembly Point outside, for people to meet together for accountability (where officials help make sure everyone has safely evacuated the building). Here’s the POETE process for Evacuations. It is going to sound somewhat familiar to Sheltering-In-Place. Planning means having a plan as to where you would go now and also the “what-ifs” for if you are able to return or not, knowing what you might need while you wait at the Emergency Assembly Point, and how you would communicate with others if circumstances of the emergency change (for better or worse). Organization means knowing who is doing what – who may be needed to help you evacuate and then get you back to “normal”. Equipment, as mentioned before, is the stuff you need to evacuate. “Need” is the operative word.  We call it a “Go Bag”. This can hold everything from food, medicine, battery-powered cell charger, electric wheelchair charging devices, flashlight, small amount of water, glow stick, whatever. And as with the Stay Box, you need a Go Bag in different places, too. A purse or backpack you carry with you everywhere will do. Training is the process of reviewing the plan, asking questions, taking classes, and attending seminars on personal preparedness (the American Red Cross has these for free, so does FEMA) and asking questions of your leadership at work about emergency preparedness and response. And finally Exercising is the practice, practice, practice that everyone needs to do for emergency action planning. Practice your plan, practice using your equipment, practice with others, and practice some “what ifs” from your training.

Note that the steps and actions for Evacuations should sound familiar to those for Sheltering-In-Place. We designed this to be similar, for muscle-memory and consistency. There is a lot of preparing work involved for both, but it will be worth it. The point is to act on your plan, and not to panic. The last set of emergency response actions we have put into our all-hazards Emergency Action Plan template is associated with an Active Assailant. This one can combine elements of both sheltering-in-place and evacuation, plus one more which is really difficult to plan for: possibly fighting for your life.

Active Assailant

Active Assailant means the threat to your life is right there. Time has run out, and maybe so has distance and shielding. Most people have heard of the Active Shooter threat and maybe even phrases such as “Run, Hide, or Fight” or “Avoid, Deny, Defend”. You see on the news: schools and office buildings going into “lockdown” when there is a nearby threat. This is mis-labeled in our opinion. Those sites where the threat is not (yet) right there are in a “Lockout” alert phase (no one goes in and no one goes out) – they want to put distance and shielding between themselves and the threat. A site can be designed in a “Lockout” phase for other reasons besides an Active Assailant (chemical hazard, infectious disease threat, A lockout is the exact opposite of an evacuation, as far as what the public should thinkg.

A Lockdown now means something more.

We define a “Lockdown” as the combined set of response actions by the public to a direct active assailant. If the threat is coming through the front door and you can escape safely through the back door – then it is an evacuation for you. If you are nearer the front with no immediate clear/safe way out, then you may choose to shelter-in-place hopefully in a Safer(TM) Room, until you can – and should – evacuate. And if the threat is right upon you – you will need to fight for your own life using any means necessary. It is always better to quickly (time) put as much as much space (distance) between you and the threat, as safely as you can (shielding).

We believe the active assailant threat/hazard is very complex and can include other threats besides a shooter. The actions of first responders are turned upside down for active assailant attacks: fire and emergency medical services are held back until the “scene is safe” and police are reprioritized to “neutralize the threat” above saving the lives of people who have been injured. Here’s the POETE: Plan your actions towards the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” model – you need to incorporate your sheltering-in-place and evacuation planning wherever you are, plus plan to switch actions if necessary. There is no order to “Avoid, Deny, Defend” – nor is there a limit to how many different actions you can take. Focus on life safety – yours. When it comes to Organization, you are pretty much on your own. If you can safely help others, please do so. Please also follow the instructions of first responders to the letter. When you are evacuating from an active assailant incident, the police may not know if you are a threat or an evacuee. The Equipment is not much more than what you already have with a go bag and a stay box. When you are barricading yourself in a safer room, you need to consider how to keep the door closed and possibly how you might have to break a window to escape, or to signal for help. You may also need a bleeding control kit to help with injuries. There is a ton of Training on active assailant for the public, out there. Find some yourself or ask your organization’s leadership to host a class or two. Same for Exercises. We recommend a stair-stepped approach – start with a “Hide” table-top exercise where you discuss what everyone should do for the sheltering-in-place actions, then do a Hide game (internally, where you do not involve any calls to 9-1-1 or any outside responders), then do a Hide functional exercise where you do invite the first responders to help evaluate your exercise (and also gain knowledge of your site and the physical layout, security features, etc.). Any and all Active Assailant exercises of any kind must be scheduled in advance, as well as announced to your staff and visitors, and will include after-action discussions to make sure folks feel more comfortable and confident after each type of exercise. For many, just practicing this exercise in any way, will be extremely stressful. Failing to coordinate with local officials, keeping your own team in the loop, etc. will have significant risks itself. We can help your organization assess their emergency action plans and design an exercise series around active assailant threats.

And by the way, people should think of wildfires and hurricanes as active assailants, too. You may start out sheltering-in-place, but then the circumstances change – your time, distance and shielding from the threat become compromised – and its time to evacuate. Or be rescued if the first responders can get to you. In active assailant threats, you are first-and-foremost responsible for your own life-safety. Do what you have to do to survive – you will have little control over the incident stabilization aspects of this type of threat – and put the life safety of yourself and your family above your property protection or anything else. Stuff and buildings can always be replaced. People cannot.

These are the basics of Emergency Action Plans – and you can download a template at our website, which you can use for your home, your job, even your vacation plans elsewhere. And please let us know any questions or thoughts you may have on all of this – we welcome feedback from our clients and are always looking to improve what we offer. Should you stay or should you go, when there is an emergency? Hopefully now you have a better understanding of how simple the answer is, and also how complex it can be, too.

Michael Prasad, MA, CEM®

Senior Research Analyst

Barton Dunant – Emergency Management Training and Consulting.


Share the wealth:

Emergency Action Plans – the basics Read More »

The 6,000 mile screwdriver

This is a term from the U.S. military – first noted by Anderson in Stars & Stripes in 2004 and then further explored by Miller in 2012 for his senior service college fellowship at the U.S. Army War College. The term is a description of micro-management from afar and by politicians – in these cases, from the White House directly to the line command of a military operation.

In Emergency Management, the equivalent could also be the White House (or a state’s/territory’s governor’s office) reaching down to a DR’s Command and Control (possibly through FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC), the State Emergency Operations Center, or now by video link from anywhere), instead of only receiving updates and intelligence via the External Relations function. This is not like MAC Groups or Unified Command, where there are Emergency Management-qualified people in an offsite advisory role, helping those who are in charge. With politicians, there may be a question of their prioritization of Life Safety over Incident Stabilization over Property/Asset Protection.

FEMA itself has this challenge when it comes to supporting the states/territories/tribal nations. Each FEMA Region has a Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) and also imbeds FEMA Incident Management Teams with the local jurisdiction to be closer to the incident site(s). There are times when the NRCC can act like a 6,000 mile screwdriver, to the RRCC and their support provided locally.

Share the wealth:

The 6,000 mile screwdriver Read More »

After Action Reports

The After-Action Report/Improvement Plan (AAR/IP) is a document that organizations (including FEMA) use to assess their ability to meet both real-world incidents and exercise objectives and capabilities. The AAR/IP generally has two components:

  • After-Action Report (AAR)Captures observations of an exercise and makes recommendations for post-exercise improvements.
  • Improvement Plan (IP)Identifies specific corrective actions and assigns them to responsible parties.

The AAR/IP also aligns incident command (or exercise) objectives with preparedness doctrine and related frameworks and guidance. It includes information required for preparedness reporting and trend analysis.

Some of the After Action Reports (AARs) on major incidents or GO/NGO councils/committees, we have found on the web. Do you know of any others available as OSINT (Open Source Intelligence – items available – TLP: Green- to the public, not classified or sensitive)? Please add in the comments. If any of these links are broken, please let us know via an e-mail to [email protected].

Report name/Location
2007Los Angeles Police Department Report to the Board of Police Commissioners – “An Examination of May Day 2007” – from MacArthur Park
2009The Lessons of Mumbai
2010Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Disaster
2015Attacks on Paris, France
2016After-Action Review of the Orlando Fire Department Response to the Attack at Pulse Nightclub
2017Las Vegas MCI – October 1st Route 91 Concert Shooting
Commemorating Disorder in After Action Reports: Rhetorics of Organizational Trauma after the Las Vegas Shooting
2017Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia
2019‘Sharpiegate’ – Allegations of Scientific Misconduct During Hurricane Dorian
2020The Joint Federal/Provincial Commission into the April 2020 Nova Scotia Mass Casualty – Final Report – Turning the Tide Together – by the Mass Casualty Commission
2020An After-Action Review of City Agencies’ Responses to Activities Directly Following George Floyd’s Death on May 25, 2020. Conducted on behalf of the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota
2020Independent Review of New Jersey’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
2020Nashville, TN – 2020 Christmas Day Bombing: Communications Dependencies Case Study
2021City of Austin-Travis County 2021 Winter Storm Uri After-Action Reports
2021Fredrick, MD – Joshua Laird – LODD – After-Action Report and Improvement Plan (AAR/IP)
2022Uvalde, TX – 2022 Robb Elementary School Shooting: Interim Report. Conducted by the Texas House of Representatives, Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting
2022Review of the University of Arizona’s Safety and Security Environment – from the killing of a professor on campus, by a former student
2022Buffalo, NY – Lessons Learned from the Buffalo Blizzard: Recommendations for Strengthening Preparedness and Recovery Efforts, 2022 Buffalo Blizzard After-Action Report/Improvement Plan – An Independent Alternative Report by the Center for Emergency Management Intelligence Research
2023Roadmap for Wildfire Resilience: Solutions for a Paradigm Shift by The Nature Conservancy and the Aspen Institute
2023The Impacts of Extreme Weather Events on People with Disabilities by the National Council on Disability
2023Rail Safety Report from the 2023 East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment by the Ohio Senate Select Committee on Rail Safety
2023Lahaina Fire Comprehensive Timeline Report by the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes
2023County of Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety After-Action Report Maui Wildfires by the Western Fire Chiefs Association
2023Maui Police Department Preliminary After-Action Report on the Maui Wildfires
Table of After-Action Reports (AARs) – if any of these links are broken, please let us know.

There are also pracademic perspectives on some of the AARs we have noted above. We have provided links to those as well. If you know of others – please let us know!

After Action Reporting is a formal process conducted after both real-world incidents and exercises. It involves an independent review of the actions and gaps (strengths and opportunities) of those groups responding, based on their plans. Barton Dunant can help your organization with independent After Action Reporting – drop us a line to learn more.

Share the wealth:

After Action Reports Read More »

US-DHS has free exercises for schools

Active Shooter Template


FEMA’s Sample School Emergency Operations Plan (for Training Purposes)

Federal Emergency Management Agency

This sample school EOP was developed in accordance with the “Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.” This document has been developed for training purposes only.

Share the wealth:

US-DHS has free exercises for schools Read More »