Global Climate Change is not just an Environmental Issue

No matter what the cause may be, there is no doubt that global climate change is occurring. Across the globe, and across this nation, we are seeing changes in long term predictable patterns in weather, ocean chemistry, steering currents and sea ice.  As these changes occur, we are seeing impacts on emergency management, the economy, public health and homeland security. Global Climate Change or GCC is not just an environmental issue, it is an issue that touches almost every aspect of our communities.

According to a report issued in 2015 by a Bi-partisan group of policy leaders, including former Presidential Cabinet members from the Reagan and Bush administration, the economic and public health impacts will be staggering. In Texas alone, the number of days the overnight low temperature remains above 85 degrees will more than double over the next few decades, from 46 to 106 days per year.  The report estimates more than 4,500 additional heat-related deaths per year with nearly half that increase coming in the next five to 15 years. This increase alone is far more than the average number of traffic deaths each year. Additionally, with drops in worker productivity due to increases in heat and humidity, as well as impacts on agricultural production, the economic toll will be staggering. GCC is far more than an environmental issue

For years, one of my greatest concerns has been the impact on emergency management.  I am not only talking about weather impacts such as more intense storms such as was seen with Hurricane Harvey. I am talking about all of those cascading impacts that many people might overlook. As many communities have based their emergency management planning assumptions on these predictable patterns, change then causes these planning assumptions to lose validity. Drought impacts fire risk, the public water supply, crop productivity, etc.  Drought also can cause agricultural weaknesses that pestilence and disease can then take root.  I believe there may be a link between GCC and the rapid spread of the Asian Longhorned Beetle, an insect attacking US Forestland. This in turn increases fire risk as standing timber dies and dries in place. Everything is interrelated, and when changes occur in one part, it requires adjustment in other areas. These adjustments must be reflected in our Emergency Management Plans and the planning assumptions we base them from.

 

 

Emergency Managers Unleashed: Leadership is the Key

by Richard Hildreth, CEM, MEP, Emergency Management Program Coordinator,

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

IAEM Bulletin  March 2022

 

I have no doubt that my serving eight years as mayor of a small city in the Pacific North[1]west provided me with a somewhat unique perspective on emergency management. Part of that perspective is understanding the critical importance of support for emergency management by policy leaders, but not to the point where they are micromanaging or interfering. In my current job, I am blessed with that type of support, and I feel that it has not only allowed me to think out of the box but experiment with whole ways to build emergency management capacity. So, what is an emergency manager unleashed? To me it is an EM professional who is given a compass point, but then granted the autonomy to decide how best to get there. I know when I was first hired on at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we had many resources that were critical in a disaster but no unified plan to organize them. I had a handful of people that had ICS training, and fewer still who would qualify as type 3 or greater command or general staff positions. But instead of being directed by my leadership to just write a plan and develop training, I was told that what was most important was developing the capacity for TPWD to respond to and recover from disasters. Instead of being put in a position where I had to focus on specific task that must be checked off in order, I was given an end goal of this is how we want the agency to be and given the support to make it happen. I believe that now after three years, what we have accomplished speaks for itself. Over the past three years we now have a strong comprehensive emergency plan. We have a robust training and exercise plan that encompasses both emergency management and continuity planning. We not only have personnel taking ICS 100 and 200, but many taking ICS 300/400 as well as position specific training. Across the thirteen divisions and 3500 employees at TPWD there is a growing sense of how critical our agency is as a resource for all of Texas. Most of all, through creative partnerships with outside agencies and stakeholders we are kicking off a program to develop CERT programs in many of the rural communities where we have State Parks. Additionally, the plan is to help those communities develop their own Citizen Corps Council to provide future trainings and make these teams sustainable. This not only is a benefit to these parks, but it builds response capacity in those communities as well. With these teams, park superintendents will have trained community members to assist during times of emergency in their parks. The communities, often with limited resources available to begin with develop additional capacity to help in all aspects of emergencies. Additionally, TPWD has developed a hybrid ICS organizational structure for large disasters. This structure will combine field located Incident Command with a HQ based EOC in a Unified Command type structure. As Texas is one of the most diverse states in the nation both geologically and in climate, this has already proven to be far more flexible and effective. As Hurricane Harvey so powerfully demonstrated, the impacts of a singular event might be wind related in one area and catastrophic flooding in another. Having localized management of impacts combined with overarching resource management is critical. But the real credit for where TPWD is today, is not mine, but belongs to agency leadership. Instead of working to meet a specific goal, I have been allowed to surpass any expectations or goals they first had. In his book “Principle Centered Leadership¹,” Steven Covey proposed the idea of a leader or manager giving the overall direction and end goal to their subordinates and allowing them to find the best route for them to accomplish the task. Dr. Covey used leadership to provide the compass point to illustrate this direction and then give autonomy to the subordinate to chart the course. Knowingly or unknowingly, that is the way my leadership works. Yes, part of my success may be because of my drive and internal motivation, but I give the credit to my leadership. They were the ones who gave me that compass point for direction and allowed me to do what I thought was needed to get the job done. They were the ones who trusted and allowed me to serve the Citizens of Texas as an emergency manager unleashed.

 

Resources

 

¹Covey, Steven R. Principle Centered Leadership,  Fireside Press 1992

 

 

Emergency Management’s Past, Present, and Future

By Richard Hildreth, CEM, Emergency Management Program Coordinator,

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

IAEM Bulletin - August 2021

No one can deny that the world of emergency management has changed dramatically in just this past 20 years. The field has grown, become more organized, and has become a true profession, and not just other duties as assigned. Multiple universities across this nation now have graduate level programs in emergency and disaster management, homeland security, or public safety and crisis management. The people now working in this profession are better trained, better equipped and often receive greater professional respect than those who were here before us. We owe a debt of gratitude for those who filled these positions prior to 2001, because it is their dedication and professionalism that made all of these changes possible. I first became aware of emergency management shortly before Sep. 11, 2001, when I completed CERT Basic Training. I was a commercial electrician and running for a position on the Pacific City Council in Washington State. In 2003, I ran against, and beat, the incumbent mayor, partially because he had a narrow vision of the government's responsibility to prepare for disasters. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I asked my staff what would have happened if a similar storm and chain of events would have hit us. This is what began my interest in emergency management planning. Little did I know that in 2009, a series of sub-tropical weather systems known as a Pineapple Express would hit my city with hurricane force winds and require the Army Corps of Engineers to release water from a dam to prevent failure. The flood that resulted from that event, and how my city responded, cemented my desire to become an emergency management professional. I was blessed to have some great professionals serve as mentors to me. These were the people who introduced me to IAEM and showed me what true professionalism was in this field. Many of these people were instrumental in pushing for the changes we now take for granted such as the development of professional standards, education programs, and even the AEM® and CEM® certifications. Although many have now retired, or now only work on a consulting basis, they have always been available to answer questions, talk, or give me inspiration when dealing with some of the difficult issues we face. I was blessed to have been mentored by those early emergency management professionals that had the foresight to lead IAEM and this field of study forward and make it the profession it is today. I believe that it is these leaders that have inspired me to write this article. We have seen a lot of changes during the past 20 years, but I do not think we are done yet. Just like the changes that were forced upon us out of necessity, tomorrow’s events will inspire even greater change. Even over this past 18 months, the advancement in virtual meetings and EOC’s that was required for COVID response, is just the beginning of how technology will be used in the future. We now have a greater understanding of how global pandemics can cripple our nation, but we found ways to deal with disasters that occurred during the same time. I believe it is because of the leadership and vision of those emergency management professionals before us who ingrained in our hearts and minds that the job must still be done. They were the ones who taught us that nothing is impossible, we just need to find the right tool to accomplish it. As we look forward to the next twenty years, what type of profession do we want to see? Do we want a profession that, like we have seen in the past, is willing to take on difficulty and turn it into a challenge to be overcome? I know that is what my hope is. But this is going to require something from each and every one of us to make it a reality. Like the generation of professionals before us, we need to be the mentors to the next generation of emergency management professionals. We need to step up, train, and more importantly inspire those now just entering this field of serving communities before, during, and after a disaster tears it apart. We need to lead by example at maintaining professionalism and high standards, but we also need to be willing to listen to new ideas and ways to get the job done. We need to share our experience and wisdom with them, but not do so in a manner that discourages them from contributing. We need to, in short, be the type of emergency management professionals that took us under their wing and helped us grow. I believe if we all adopt that attitude, we will see amazing accomplishments over the next 20 years.

 

 

 

Looking Beyond the Politics to Reexamine our Priorities for the Future

By Richard Hildreth, MA, AEM, MEP, Emergency Management Program Coordinator, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas

 As published in the 08/01/2019 IAEM Bulletin

 

Emergency management professionals face political issues every day. Issues such as climate change, land use and making investments in resources we hope to never use are just some small examples. Each of these issues can be politically polarizing, and it is difficult to not allow them to skew our thought processes.  But if we are to do our jobs right, we must focus on what lies beyond the politics. The dictionary definition for a political issue is one that involves government or politics, is often divisive beyond reason, and is often supported by confirmation bias.

Global Climate Change

For issues such as Global Climate Change (GCC), the debate seems to focus on whether it is part of a natural cycle or the result of man's impact on the environment. As an emergency management professional, I believe our focus needs to be on what planning assumptions are no longer valid and how these climatic changes will impact our jurisdictions. As we are seeing ocean currents shift, how will this impact the frequency of severe

weather? Will these shifts require us to reexamine our priorities? This is what is meant by looking past the politics.

Land Use Planning

Land use planning is also one of those areas that typically we are not involved in, but which can dramatically impact our abilities. We can easily recognize the concerns of building in the flood plain, but what about changes in density and reductions in pervious surfaces? In areas that are experiencing extreme growth, how involved are emergency management professionals in voicing concerns that impact a community's capacity to respond or recover. In some of our Gulf Coast communities, even those with contra-flow and six lane highways, evacuations are complicated, time consuming, and resource intense. This is not just an issue of infrastructure not keeping up with growth. This is a problem with emergency management issues not being voiced or not being heard. You cannot simply evacuate millions of people on a six-lane road. When should that fact have been considered, during the onset of a storm or before thousands of homes are built in a coastal community?

Be the Voice of Reason

Too often, decisions are driven by politics and not by reason. Emergency management professionals need to be that voice of reason. As emergency management professionals, we are often encouraging businesses, citizens and our governments and agencies to make strategic investments in training, resources, and capacity. We promote our LE brothers and sisters to respond to CBRNE and WMD events. We implement and invest in CERT programs in our communities. We work to assist our local businesses to consider what they might need if disasters strike.

We ask our governments to invest in new tools and equipment that we hope will be used rarely, if ever. We know that investments made now to prepare us for or mitigate disaster impacts save us four to six times during and following an event.

Inspire Others

As emergency management professionals, we need to inspire others to look past politics. We know that the next disaster is not a matter of if, but when. We also know that what we do today can have a dramatic impact tomorrow. This is the heart of how we need to approach these issues. We also have seen what can happen when we don't step forward with our concerns. We often do not have a choice when it comes to playing politics.

At least those of us in government or competitive business recognize that it is impossible to completely ignore the political side of issues. But we can rise above those politics. We can recognize the fact that climate change might be part of a natural cycle, might be caused by the internal combustion engine, or might be a result of bovine flatulence. For us, that cause does not matter, because we are concerned with the outcomes. We can recognize that growth drives revenues to a city, but we need to make sure that infrastructure is being planned to support that growth. We need to make sure that our leaders recognize that emergency management touches all parts of a community, and during all phases. Even in times of tight budgeting and increasing cost, we need to make sure that everyone can look past the politics and make decisions based on reason and common sense. Unfortunately, those traits are sometimes contrary to what is seen in politics.

 

 

Global Climate Change is not just an Environmental Issue

No matter what the cause may be, there is no doubt that global climate change is occurring. Across the globe, and across this nation, we are seeing changes in long term predictable patterns in weather, ocean chemistry, steering currents and sea ice.  As these changes occur, we are seeing impacts on emergency management, the economy, public health and homeland security. Global Climate Change or GCC is not just an environmental issue, it is an issue that touches almost every aspect of our communities.

According to a report issued in 2015 by a Bi-partisan group of policy leaders, including former Presidential Cabinet members from the Reagan and Bush administration, the economic and public health impacts will be staggering. In Texas alone, the number of days the overnight low temperature remains above 85 degrees will more than double over the next few decades, from 46 to 106 days per year.  The report estimates more than 4,500 additional heat-related deaths per year with nearly half that increase coming in the next five to 15 years. This increase alone is far more than the average number of traffic deaths each year. Additionally, with drops in worker productivity due to increases in heat and humidity, as well as impacts on agricultural production, the economic toll will be staggering. GCC is far more than an environmental issue

For years, one of my greatest concerns has been the impact on emergency management.  I am not only talking about weather impacts such as more intense storms such as was seen with Hurricane Harvey. I am talking about all of those cascading impacts that many people might overlook. As many communities have based their emergency management planning assumptions on these predictable patterns, change then causes these planning assumptions to lose validity. Drought impacts fire risk, the public water supply, crop productivity, etc.  Drought also can cause agricultural weaknesses that pestilence and disease can then take root.  I believe there may be a link between GCC and the rapid spread of the Asian Longhorned Beetle, an insect attacking US Forestland. This in turn increases fire risk as standing timber dies and dries in place. Everything is interrelated, and when changes occur in one part, it requires adjustment in other areas. These adjustments must be reflected in our Emergency Management Plans and the planning assumptions we base them from.