Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 10, 2012

Prior knowledge as a cause of blindness

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on November 10, 2012

The fuel situation has improved markedly in New Jersey… as I expected, predicted in prior posts, and just about when I projected.  The fuel situation has not improved — and probably gotten worse — in New York City and Long Island.  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Below is an excerpt from today’s New York Times.  It blames the difference between NJ and NY mostly on a delay in gas rationing.   This is part of the story.  I don’t think it is the main part.  Rather, I perceive — I am no longer in the region and not able to check-in-person — the key problem is a set of broken connections between the big Linden terminals with smaller terminals beyond the East River.

If this is confirmed as the problem I will have committed the same error that Karl Rove demonstrated in election projections: Mistaking a prior paradigm for current reality.   I mistook my (modest) familiarity with the fuel distribution network in the Washington DC region as functionally analogous to the NYC metro market.  I was looking for one or two really big nodes to restore.  Given the layered density and geographic challenges of the NYC metro fuel market it absolutely makes sense there would be much more inter-mediation in the marketspace.   Not looking for it was a serious mistake.

Please read the final paragraph in the excerpt.  This is why preparedness and mitigation is so very important.  What can be worked out in advance is much more difficult in the midst of a crisis.

The center of the problem was Linden, N.J., oil industry executives said, the heart of the metropolitan supply chain and a place where New York officials have no jurisdiction. It is where the Colonial pipeline ends, bringing petroleum products up from the Gulf of Mexico, and where the Buckeye pipeline begins taking petroleum products to Long Island and other areas.

Six- to eight-foot waves surged through the area, crashing into a Phillips 66 refinery and into a cluster of terminals on or close to the Arthur Kill waterway that receives refined products from the Colonial pipeline and local refineries for shipment throughout the region.

In addition, while the main pipelines have recovered power, 20 or so terminals in and around Linden will take more time to build to normal operations. Eight to 14 are in various stages of repair and limited operations, while 6 are still out of commission. Docks were flooded and damaged, along with equipment that lifts refined product to the barges from pipelines and tanks. The surge blew out control-room windows and lifted and damaged marine docks and lifting equipment essential for putting the products on the barges.

“Hurricane Sandy gave us a major shot to our distribution network,” said James Benton, the director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council, a trade organization. He said the northeaster was a blow, as well, since “it delayed damage assessments for the larger facilities and recoveries for some of the smaller facilities.”

The extent of the damage to the gas-distribution network was not fully understood by state and city officials, said Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops.

A New York State energy office created amid gas shortages in the 1970s was dissolved in the 1990s. And, Mr. Bombardier said, there was little if any coordination or monitoring of the entire distribution network before the hurricane. “There’s more damage than anybody knew,” he said. “There was no plan or diagram of how this industry worked or who you can call to find out what’s happening. ”

The full NYT story is available at “Behind New York Gas Shortage, Missed Opportunities and Miscalculations“.   I contributed my share.

–+–

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15 UPDATE:

Good overview in today’s NYT: Gas Crisis Abates

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 9, 2012

NDRF: Weekend Reading

Filed under: Catastrophes,State and Local HLS,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on November 9, 2012

While not exactly scintillating, a very timely read might be the National Disaster Recovery Framework (September 2011).

From the document’s Executive Summary:

Experience with recent disaster recovery efforts highlights the need for additional guidance, structure and support to improve how we as a Nation address recovery challenges. This experience prompts us to better understand the obstacles to disaster recovery and the challenges faced by communities that seek disaster assistance.The National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF)is a guide to promote effective recovery, particularly for those incidents that are large scale or catastrophic.The NDRF provides guidance that enables effective recovery support to disaster-impacted States, Tribes and local jurisdictions. It provides a flexible structure that enables disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. It also focuses on how best to restore, redevelop and revitalize the health,social, economic, natural and environmental fabric of the community and build a more resilient Nation. The NDRF defines:

• Core recovery principles

• Roles and responsibilities of recoverycoordinators and other stakeholders

• A coordinating structure that facilitates communication and collaboration among all stakeholders

• Guidance for pre- and post-disaster recovery planning

• The overall process by which communities can capitalize on opportunities to rebuild stronger, smarter and safer

These elements improve recovery support and expedite recovery of disaster-impacted individuals, families, businesses and communities. While the NDRF speaks to all who are impacted or otherwise involved in disaster recovery, it concentrates on support to individuals and communities.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

“The villain in this case is Hurricane Sandy”

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on November 9, 2012

In the twelve days since Sandy rolled up the Jersey shore and her winds tore across New York harbor people have died, families have lost their homes, and whole neighborhoods have been destroyed.  The vulnerabilities of systems on which modern life depends — especially power, communications, and fuel — have been dramatically exposed.

Mistakes have been made in responding to the crisis.  There has been delay, confusion, and bad judgment.  I have seen some of these problems up close and personal.  I have made my own contributions.  I have read of many more errors.  Several examples have been sent to me by readers.

I have also seen — and heard reports of  – kindness, courage, and generosity.   I have seen planning assumptions and preparedness exercises confirmed.  I have seen professionals giving fully of their energy and intelligence to serve those in need.   One night in New Jersey a huge caravan of  enormous utility trucks passed me heading north.    It occurred to me that the Interstate and Defense Highway System has never been needed to move tanks against an enemy, but it’s sure helpful to move mutual aid… and food, pharma, and much more.

At the very end of the caravan was a Red Cross ambulance with Texas plates.  As traffic slowed, I read a sign on its side explaining it was a gift from the people of Kuwait to a community in Texas (Killeen maybe, I don’t remember).  That’s really long-distance mutual aid.

Thursday afternoon Governors Christie (NJ) and Cuomo  (NY) each gave separate media briefings.   One of my mistakes was yesterday’s post worrying that the true cost of Sandy was not yet being recognized.  Cuomo’s remarks suggest there is a full realization of what the winds have wrought and the implications for recovery.

Governor Christie mostly provided an update on various public services and thanked those who have been involved in the response.   Chris Christie is certainly not shy to call someone an idiot or worse when he thinks it is deserved.  Especially in that context, I was struck yesterday by his defense of those who were doing their best to respond.  Even while 400,000 New Jersey residents remain without power (150,000 new or repeat outages from the nor’easter), the Governor commended the utility companies and especially their crews, who “worked right through the snowstorm. They are doing a good job.”

When a reporter asked a question inviting the Governor to pound-the-utilities, he responded instead,  “The villain in this case is Sandy.” (Governor Cuomo did not need to be invited to pound away.)

The storm is exposing systemic vulnerabilities and bad judgment that could reasonably be blamed on two or three generations of private and public officials and many survivors and victims of the storm.    I suggest it is helpful to look for lessons-learned and unhelpful to seek who to blame.

On a really great day about 80 percent of my plans make some progress.  On most days, without much interference, I only hit sixty-to-seventy percent of my targets.  Under stress, complication, and confusion the percentage further declines.   A quarter-century ago I had some venture capital experience; about two-thirds of investments were expected to fail.

Failure is not a villain.  Failure can be a really good friend.  Friendship is much more likely when — instead of punishing failure — we embrace it, ask it questions, and listen to it teach us.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 8, 2012

Sandy’s hurt, harm, and expense still emerging and likely to grow quickly

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on November 8, 2012

Yesterday FEMA said that at least 95,000 residents of New York and New Jersey are eligible for some form of emergency housing assistance.  This is an increase from an earlier estimate of 34,000.  Some details on the Disaster Assistance Housing Program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

In response to those needs, and at the request of New York and New Jersey, FEMA has activated its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program, which allows eligible survivors who are in shelters and cannot return to their homes due to storm-related damages to stay in participating hotels or motels until more suitable housing accommodations are available. FEMA’s contracted vendor, Corporate Lodging Consultants, is maintaining a list of participating hotels and motels, and working to bring on more hotels to ensure that the needs of all survivors are being met. Hotel and motel owners who wish to become a participating hotel can sign up at https://ela.corplodging.com/

HUD is coordinating with FEMA, and affected States, to identify housing providers who may have available housing units, including public housing agencies and multi-family owners.  HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs give State and communities the flexibility to redirect millions of dollars to address critical needs, including housing and services for disaster survivors. HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program enables those who have lost their homes to finance the purchase or refinance of a house along with its repair through a single mortgage. It also allows homeowners who have damaged houses to finance the rehabilitation of their existing single-family home.

There has been discussion of using FEMA trailers in Staten Island, Breezy Point, Seaside Heights and other less dense neighborhoods.  But last week FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said trailers were unlikely to be used.

“Given the rental market and the availability of hotels and motels,” FEMA expects to be able to put all displaced residents of the storm-hit East Coast in existing housing, Fugate said in a conference call with reporters. Some 9,000 people are currently in temporary housing, he added. “That number is fluctuating, but in some areas it’s going up as people go home and discover their homes are flooded and they can’t stay there,” Fugate said. “So we’re working directly to provide people with assistance to get into hotels and motels, and then assess who’s going to need longer-term assistance.”

In New York by Executive Order of the Mayor (November 5)  ”Owners, residents, employees of businesses, and other members of the public (other than authorized government personnel and essential emergency personnel) may re-occupy buildings in Zone A only upon determination by the Department of Buildings that the occupation is permitted.”  Zone A is the most flood-prone area of New York and was designated for mandatory evacuation as Sandy approached.  Roughly 375,000 people reside in Zone A.

Many displaced survivors and evacuees are currently staying with family or friends, but when it becomes clear that original housing will not be available in a timely way, many more will avail themselves of Transitional Sheltering Assistance.   FEMA pays participating hotels and motels the “government rate” established for the city. Hotel stays for Hurricane Katrina survivors reached a peak of roughly 85,000 participants about eight weeks after landfall.  This would be around Christmas for Sandy.

Both quality-of-life and financial incentives exist to move as many as possible as quickly as possible from hotels and motels into rental housing.   As was the case after Katrina, this could be difficult post-Sandy.  ”We don’t have a lot of empty housing in the city, so it’s hard to find it when we need it,” Mayor Bloomberg has said.

For example, the exact number of long-term displaced on Staten Island has not yet been established.  But it is estimated to be a few thousand and potentially many more.  Checking the FEMA  Housing Portal on Wednesday there were 112 rental units available on Staten Island.  The housing portal almost certainly does not encompass the entire market, but it is unlikely that most of those who have been displaced can be relocated proximate to their previous neighborhoods. This has implications for employment, educational continuity, healthcare, family support and much more.

Replacement housing is going to be expensive, messy, and the problem is going to persist well into the New Year.

From: Wave of Death Hit New York Enclave, Wall Street Journal, November 5

This may just be blogger-bluster and I don’t want to suggest it is more than that, but it seems more and more likely we are — I am, many in New York, Trenton, and Washington DC  are  –  not yet acknowledging the huge long-term financial implications of Sandy.  This is especially dangerous if we inappropriately frame the problem during its genesis.  This is the moment when our judgments, whatever they may be, will have the greatest influence.

1836 deaths are blamed on Katrina. No matter how many more victims are found Sandy’s death toll will remain at less than ten percent that number.  Despite several serious problems, the evacuation for and response to Sandy was handled with much more competence and effectiveness than for Katrina.

But the “good news” of preparedness and response — and an election — has obscured profound issues of recovery that are just unfolding. The pre-Katrina population of New Orleans was 484,674.  The population of Staten Island a bit more than 468,000. The population of coastal New Jersey, the Rockaways, and other areas affected by Sandy is much higher than that directly impacted by Katrina.  Building inspectors are just beginning to access areas that have been without electricity.   Certainly the scale of damage at Breezy Point or Midland Beach or Seaside Heights, New Jersey is analogous to the Lower Ninth Ward or Lakeview or Long Beach, Mississippi.

In my experience media often over-play disaster coverage.   In this case, I wonder if even the hyper-competitive NYC media are missing a major story muffled (temporarily) by a combination of competence, complexity, and presidential politics. (The Thursday NYT has reduced front-page coverage to a lower-right corner photo of snow falling on ruins.)  I am not suggesting shouts and hand-wringing or more TV interviews with survivors about their feelings, but  reports on electricity, fuel, other supply chains, port restoration, housing, and analysis of implications would be helpful.  I expect — hope — some future Sunday Times will have a major analytical feature.  But the sudden reduction in regular reporting in the hometown paper seems way strange.  The Post and Daily News may be giving marginally more attention to the Nor’easter, but otherwise not much different.  Weirdly the New York Observer is, at least proportionally, focusing more on Sandy’s implications than her big brash brothers.  (See a collection of the NYO’s “recovery” focus.)

There are social, economic, and geographic differences that may make recovery from Sandy less fraught than that from Katrina.   Nearly 300,000 homes were destroyed by Katrina and the levee failures.  The final accounting for Sandy will not get anywhere close. But there are also issues of population density, infrastructure vulnerability, economic priority, and political power that could make Sandy a disaster that keeps on giving… and expecting to receive.

As I write this another Nor’easter is descending on the the Tri-State.   Record snowfall of between 4 and more than 7 inches with strong winds is reported. Winter officially begins on December 21.  Snow and ice was not a problem in post-Katrina recovery.

THURSDAY EVENING UPDATE

Several developments on replacement housing just today.  The following details are from an Associated Press report filed at 6:40PM ET.

  • The federal government is moving manufactured housing into areas in New York and New Jersey that were hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday.
  • In New York and New Jersey, FEMA has determined that more than 101,000 people are eligible for temporary housing at hotels or motels in the region but it’s unclear exactly how many people are taking advantage of that option.
  • More than 56,000 people have also been ruled eligible for FEMA’s individual and households program, which provides money for renting a new place or housing repairs.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 7, 2012

Second inaugurals: With malice toward none, with charity for all

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on November 7, 2012

The nation has been more deeply divided than today. But the election nearly completed confirms considerable depth and breadth of division.

When Lincoln gave his second inaugural address the nation was still engaged in a great civil war. Appomattox was yet a month away and what a long month it would be.

The resolution of our political — cultural and economic — conflict is much farther from resolution.  We should hope, pray, and work to avoid assassination, martial law, and a century-long, still simmering struggle of citizenship bestowed but betrayed.  Can we do better than our great-grandfathers?

President Lincoln gave his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865.   On April 14, Good Friday, he was shot.  Regarding the Second Inaugural and prospects for the war’s conclusion, Garry Wills has written, “The problems were endless, and the very norms for discussing them were still to be agreed on.”  This was the context  Lincoln was attempting to shape with his words:

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes… Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

I hope you hear echoes relevant to our present division.  Garry Wills — writing over a decade ago — helps to cross times’ chasm:

The Second Inaugural was meant, with great daring, to spell out a principle of not acting on principle. In the nation’s murky situation all principles — except this one of forgoing principle — were compromised…

The problem with compromise on this scale is that it seems morally neutral, open even to injustices if they work. Answering that objection was the task Lincoln set himself in the Second Inaugural. Everything said there was meant to prove that pragmatism was, in this situation, not only moral but pious. Men could not pretend to have God’s adjudicating powers. People had acted for mixed motives on all sides of the civil conflict just past. The perfectly calibrated punishment or reward for each leader, each soldier, each state, could not be incorporated into a single political disposition of the problems…

Abstract principle can lead to the attitude Fiat iustitia, ruat coelum — “Justice be done, though it bring down the cosmos.” Lincoln had learned to have a modest view of his ability to know what ultimate justice was, and to hesitate before bringing down the whole nation in its pursuit.

Lincoln offered his second inaugural to a nation convulsed by questions of freedom or slavery, union or disunion, progress or poverty. Many might characterize our current situation in similarly Manichean terms.   Most did not know what to do with the speech.  Even a friendly newspaper, The New York Herald, reported:

It was not strictly an inaugural address…. It was more like a valedictory…. Negroes ejaculated “bress de Lord” in a low murmur at the end of almost every sentence. Beyond this there was no cheering of any consequence. Even the soldiers did not hurrah much.

We can never know what Lincoln might have actually done. Six weeks later he was dead.  We do not have the benefit of his practical example.   He was a shrewd politician who, had he  lived, might be less personally revered but whose leadership could have bequeathed a nation more just than what emerged without him.

We are left with the awful aftermath of Lincoln’s absence and his words.

As I consider the election results and the terrible troubles with which the nation must grapple, I am struck by Lincoln’s humility regarding political purpose or specific policies and his absolute conviction regarding how we must struggle to shape purpose and policy: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…”

Read those words again.  Recognize the internal paradox, practical process, and proclamation of ultimate purpose.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 6, 2012

Please vote: “The wrong side absolutely must not win”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on November 6, 2012

This was written by columnist A. Barton Hinkle, and appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on August 19, 2012

The past several weeks have made one thing crystal-clear: Our country faces unmitigated disaster if the Other Side wins.

No reasonably intelligent person can deny this. All you have to do is look at the way the Other Side has been running its campaign. Instead of focusing on the big issues that are important to the American People, it has fired a relentlessly negative barrage of distortions, misrepresentations and flat-out lies.

Just look at the Other Side’s latest commercial, which take a perfectly reasonable statement by the candidate for My Side completely out of context to make it seem as if he is saying something nefarious. This just shows you how desperate the Other Side is and how willing it is to mislead the American People.

The Other Side also has been hammering away at My Side to release certain documents that have nothing to do with anything, and making all sorts of outrageous accusations about what might be in them. Meanwhile, the Other Side has stonewalled perfectly reasonable requests to release its own documents that would expose some very embarrassing details if anybody ever found out what was in them. This just shows you what a bunch of hypocrites they are.

Naturally, the media won’t report any of this. Major newspapers and cable networks jump all over anything they think will make My Side Look bad. Yet they completely ignore critically important and incredibly relevant information that would be devastating to The Other Side if it could ever be verified.

I will admit the candidates for My Side do make occasional blunders. These usually happen at the end of exhausting 19-hour days and are perfectly understandable. Our leaders are only human, after all. Nevertheless, the Other Side inevitably makes a big fat deal out of these trivial gaffes, while completely ignoring its own candidates’ incredibly thoughtless and stupid remarks — remarks that reveal the Other Side’s true nature, which is genuinely frightening.

My Side has produced a visionary program that will get the economy moving, put the American People back to work, strengthen national security, return fiscal integrity to Washington, and restore our standing in the international community. What does the Other Side have to offer? Nothing but the same old disproven, discredited policies that got us into our current mess in the first place.

Don’t take my word for it, though. I recently read about an analysis by an independent, nonpartisan organization that supports My Side. It proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that everything I have been saying about the Other Side was true all along. Of course, the Other Side refuses to acknowledge any of this. It is too busy cranking out so-called studies by so-called experts who are actually nothing but partisan hacks. This just shows you that the Other Side lives in its own little echo chamber and refuses to listen to anyone who has not already drunk its Kool-Aid.

Let’s face it: The Other Side is held hostage by a radical, failed ideology. I have been doing some research on the Internet, and I have learned this ideology was developed by a very obscure but nonetheless profoundly influential writer with a strange-sounding name who enjoyed brief celebrity several decades ago. If you look carefully, you can trace nearly all the Other Side’s policies for the past half-century back to the writings of this one person.

To be sure, the Other Side also has been influenced by its powerful supporters. These include a reclusive billionaire who has funded a number of organizations far outside the political mainstream; several politicians who have said outrageous things over the years; and an alarmingly large number of completely clueless ordinary Americans who are being used as tools and don’t even know it.

These people are really pathetic, too. The other day I saw a YouTube video in which My Side sent an investigator and a cameraman to a rally being held by the Other Side, where the investigator proceeded to ask some real zingers. It was hilarious! First off, the people at the rally wore T-shirts with all kinds of lame messages that they actually thought were really clever. Plus, many of the people who were interviewed were overweight, sweaty, flushed and generally not very attractive. But what was really funny was how stupid they were. There is no way anyone could watch that video and not come away convinced the people on My Side are smarter, and that My Side is therefore right about everything.

Besides, it’s clear that the people on the Other Side are driven by mindless anger — unlike My Side, which is filled with passionate idealism and righteous indignation. That indignation, I hasten to add, is entirely justified. I have read several articles in publications that support My Side that expose what a truly dangerous group the Other Side is, and how thoroughly committed it is to imposing its radical, failed agenda on the rest of us.

That is why I believe 2012 is, without a doubt, the defining election of our lifetime. The difference between My Side and the Other Side could not be greater. That is why it absolutely must win on November 6.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 5, 2012

Post-Sandy: A quick first person report

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on November 5, 2012

Late Sunday afternoon I drove from Perth-Amboy, New Jersey to New London, Connecticut.  It was an interesting trip.  On a roughly five mile stretch of primary road in New Jersey I saw at least 16 gas stations.  Two were open for business.  I think one other was “open” but not pumping gas.  Most had orange cones or tape showing they were closed.

Significantly, there was electricity.  One of the non-operating stations had an idled generator sitting out front.  This suggests the stations had exhausted their gasoline supplies and had not been (could not be) resupplied.  This was despite being within about 20 miles of the largest concentration of gasoline supply on the East Coast.

I took the picture above at a Connecticut service area just off I-95 a bit west of Bridgeport.  The line was about twice as long as the picture shows.  I would have had to hike into the Interstate lanes to actually get the whole queue (and you would not have been able to see the pump-canopy).  I had 3/4s of a tank left which easily got me to New London.   By New Haven there seemed to be plenty of gas.

When the picture was taken it had been  six days since Sandy roared ashore.  Despite the pictures — and a couple more days to catch-up — I think the fuel situation is close-to-being fixed.  Replacement housing will be even harder to “fix”.  Much, much more difficult.  Wickedly hard.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 4, 2012

Supply and Demand in Disasters

Above: Truck rack for loading product to tanker truck

The fuel crisis in New York City, Westchester County, Long Island, northern New Jersey, and nearby is important.  Obviously it is important to the residents of these areas.  Less obviously, it is important to those of us who are involved in homeland security policy and strategy.

I have continued to aggregate fuel-related stories to the Friday post below.

In Sandy’s wake supply has not met demand.  Not unreasonably, policy makers and strategists have viewed this as a lack of supply.  Significant steps have been taken to increase supply.   Senator Schumer pushed the US Coast Guard to reopen the ports of New York and New Jersey to fuel deliveries.  Secretary Napolitano waived the Jones Act which allows foreign shipping to deliver fuel into the ports.  President Obama ordered the military to deliver fuel into the hardest hit areas.

All of these steps have increased supply to the mid-Atlantic and served to suppress price increases.   Many far removed from the New York metro area are benefiting from gasoline price reductions related to these steps to increase supply.  It has been a vigorous response.

It is not, however, targeted at the present problem.  Supply itself was never the problem. There are two fundamental problems:

The fuel distribution terminals have been damaged and have not had electricity. South and east of Newark Airport and just west and north of Staten Island is a handful of places where pipelines and tankers deliver gasoline (Google Map).  All of these venues lost power.  None of these venues were on the utility’s priority restoration lists.  The utility — and most policy-makers and strategists — did not know the role nor even the existence of these places.   This is where tanker trucks pull into truck racks and gasoline is pumped from storage tanks and blended into tanker trucks which then proceed to various gas stations.   There has been no electricity to operate the truck racks and that’s a fundamental problem.  There are other problems with debris removal, personnel,  damage to the storage tanks, and communications as to which gas stations have power, but these problems have not been the most serious impediments.

Two-thirds (or more) of gas stations have not had electricity to run their pumps and otherwise transact business. Many gas stations  have plenty of gasoline, but do not have electricity to pump that gas.   Why, you might ask, do gas stations not have back-up generators to pump their gas?  This is required in Florida and, maybe (?), Louisiana.  It has been successfully resisted in most other jurisdictions partly because  it would further diminish the number of independent operators and enhance the market dominance of chains.   Most gas stations would lose money on gasoline sales alone and make their (very small) profits on selling salty and sugary snacks, soda pop, beer, and cigarettes.  The capital and personnel requirements for purchasing and safely maintaining a generator for conducting sustainable commerce — not just pumping gas — are significant especially for the smaller independent operator.

There are a range of policy and strategy options to address these fundamental problems.  In the next two weeks is the right time for New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and others to actively and inclusively consider these options.

It is also my impression — but I don’t have sufficient evidence to prove — that from Tuesday morning to Thursday afternoon/evening, these fundamentals were not being communicated to Governors Christie and Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and other senior policy makers and strategists.  As a result, considerable energy, time, and effort were being expended on measures that were peripheral to the current problem and may have distracted from resolving the truck rack problem identified above.  This, too, is an issue worth considering while memories are fresh and more accurate after-action outcomes can be specified.

To be explicit:  There is absolutely no evidence of anyone being negligent or passive (quite the contrary).  There is evidence that a crisis, as usual, has exposed aspects of reality that now deserve sustained and thoughtful attention.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

The new normal: watching gas, coffee and intense storms

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on November 4, 2012

Watchline is a weekly information sharing newsletter produced by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). It primarily covers homeland security topics related to emergency response. The Watchline reaches more than 100 agencies from all levels of government and more than 1000 direct subscribers outside the FDNY. Here’s a copy of  Watchline’s “Hurrican Sandy Special Edition.” (You can see an easier to read version here.)

 

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 3, 2012

The Holy Trinity: Water, food, and pharma

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector — by Philip J. Palin on November 3, 2012

WATER: Twelve Jersey shore communities have boil/bleach orders.  New York public health officials have released Do-Not-Drink orders for three water systems (including Breezy Point) and boil/bleach instructions for another 23 systems.  Despite the wide-spread and persistent power failures, most municipal water systems have been able to maintain their operational integrity.  There have been water problems in lower Manhattan because it has often not been possible to pump water into high-rise residential buildings.  But… water systems survived Sandy in pretty good shape.

FOOD: The Staten Island Borough President criticized the Red Cross for a slow response when emergency food distribution did not begin until late in the 72 hours immediate response window.  Meanwhile the Newark Star-Ledger reports that “FEMA agents blanket NJ” and added “Working with the American Red Cross, the agency has distributed millions of gallons of water and millions of meals. It has also provided generators and water pumps.” There have also been several reports of neighborhoods responding spontaneously and generously to food shortages.   Pick-up sites for emergency food and water have been established.

Despite wide-spread power outages, communications failures, and transportation hurdles the grocery supply chain is recovering quickly.  Following is a detailed report by Alaric DeArment with Drug Store News:

  • Ahold USA, which operates 772 supermarkets under the Giant Food Stores, Martin’s Food Markets, Giant Food and Stop & Shop banners throughout the Northeast and Virginia, closed four stores, all in Stop & Shop’s New York-metro division, division spokeswoman Arlene Putterman told Drug Store News. One of the stores was in Long Island, N.Y., another was in Brooklyn and two were in New Jersey; the division has 184 stores total. Putterman said the stores would open periodically, starting the week of Nov. 5. Suzi Robinson, spokeswoman for Stop & Shop’s New England division, said the company had “deep experience” handing natural disasters and that all of the division’s 219 stores stayed open.
  • Supervalu closed all of the 117 Acme stores in the path of the storm on Monday, the day the storm made landfall, but had reopened all but four of them. “We want to make sure that anything we do really helps the communities that we serve,” Supervalu spokesman Mike Siemienas told DSN. “Our top priority right now is making sure that all of our stores that we can get up and running for the community are. And then we’ll work to see what community needs we may be able to assist with.”
  • Sears Holdings, which operates the Sears and Kmart chains, had 187 stores closed at the height of the storm, but as of Nov. 1, that number was down to 40, while 20 were operating on generators or had generators en route, a representative of the company told DSN. The company announced that it would give out $350 million in rewards to Shop Your Way cardholders living in affected areas, amounting to $20 per cardholder. The company was also shipping extra supplies like flashlights, batteries, generators and sump pumps to stores.
  • ShopRite had 27 stores that remained closed at press time, but all its warehouses and distribution centers were fully operational and delivering products to stores “as quickly as possible to ensure our customers’ needs are met during this difficult time,” according to the company.
  • Target had reopened all of the stores affected by press time and also announced a donation of $500,000 in money and goods for storm-relief efforts, including $425,000 to the American Red Cross, $50,000 to the Salvation Army and $25,000 in gift cards.
  • Walmart had four stores that remained closed as of Nov. 2, but had pledged $1.5 million in relief efforts. The company said it was “working closely” with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Feeding America and also donating truckloads of water, food and other basic items and providing charging stations at Sam’s Club stores for members of the public without electricity to charge cell phones and other devices.

PHARMACEUTICALS: Grocery stores have become major distribution points for pharma and in many markets drug stores are among the top five sources for groceries, so the reports above and below involve both pharma and food.

  • CVS/pharmacy closed “up to 800” stores ahead of the storm due to mandatory evacuation orders, and 60 remained closed at press time due to evacuations or power outages, spokesman Mike DeAngelis told DSN, and 90 were operating on generators. At the same time, 100 were operating without power, meaning they were operating in an “off-line mode” without generators. About 15 stores in New York and New Jersey experienced either a total inventory loss due to water damage or couldn’t be reached for a damage assessment, but the company has donated more than $100,000 to the American Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund to provide support to affected communities and is distributing $50,000 worth of snacks and bottled water in New Jersey.
  • Rite Aid closed 790 stores at the height of the storm, and 188 remained closed or were operating without power as of Oct. 31. In addition, eight stores sustained “substantial damage,” and the company expected that number to increase as field leaders gained access to more locations, but the company was re-opening stores “as quickly as possible.” The Rite Aid Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts.
  • Walgreens closed 750 stores ahead of the hurricane, and as of Nov. 2, about 130 remained closed in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The company began stocking extra items like nonperishable foods, water, batteries and flashlights, as well as arranging special transportation and lodging for employees who depend on public transit and preparing 160 portable generators for rapid deployment to stores as needed and dry ice for medicines requiring refrigeration. The company also donated $250,000 to the American Red Cross for storm-relief efforts and three semitrailers full of bottled water to a Red Cross center in New Jersey.

Elsewhere I have argued that the difference between a catastrophic and a non-catastrophic event is often a matter of supply chain resilience.   There are places where delivery of emergency supplies by Red Cross or others is absolutely necessary.  But no emergency supply system can effectively provide for a multi-million person metro area.  The persistence and adaptability of key supply chains, especially water, food, and pharmaceuticals, are foundational to effective response and recovery.

PLEASE SEE FRIDAY MORNING POST  BELOW(THREE MUSKETEERS) FOR UPDATES ON THE REGIONAL FUEL SITUATION

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 2, 2012

Nassau police turn chaos into self-organized simplicity

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on November 2, 2012

The cynefin framework has a number of suggestions about how to transform chaos into simplicity.

One example cynefin adherents frequently cite is the “Magic Roundabout” in Swindon.

The problem in Swindon (UK) was “a motorist’s nightmare which routinely failed to handle the volume of traffic which converged on it from five directions.” The fix was to “combine two roundabouts in one – the first the conventional, clockwise variety and the second, which revolved inside the first, sending traffic anti-clockwise,” like this:

Swindon magic roundabout traffic circle

I don’t know whether anyone on the Nassau County Police Department (in New York) is familiar with the cynefin framework, but it was the first thing I thought of when a colleague sent me the picture below.

As one Hurricane Sandy consequence, the intersection had no working traffic signal lights.  Instead of using police officers to direct (i.e., “order”) traffic,  Nassau police officers improvised a traffic circle, encouraging drivers to self organize.  Their solution changed a chaotic intersection into a (comparatively) simple one.

Theory and practice meet again, even if passing in the dark

Nassau traffic circle

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

Power, Communications, and Fuel: What happens when the Three Musketeers disappear?

Filed under: Catastrophes,Port and Maritime Security,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on November 2, 2012

Some quick aggregation and analysis on three critical nodes.  For this summary I have focused on the current situation in the Greater New York City area.  This is not a region in which I specialize, I would welcome reader corrections.

By “current” I mean Thursday evening, November 1.  This is the oft-referenced 72 hour mark since Sandy came ashore.

Power: 43 percent of New Jersey electric customers (1.7 million),  over 1.5 million New Yorkers and close to 350,000 citizens of Connecticut are still in the dark.  Several utilities report they expect to reach the 90 percent restoration point within the next ten days (November 9-12).  See more details from the US Department of Energy. I have not found any reports of Sandy causing long-term impact on power generation.   (There was a Sandy-related safety alert at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Station, but this operation had already shut down for scheduled maintenance before the superstorm hit.)  According to the regional grid coordinator,  even at the height of the storm there was “enough generation available in the region to cover the loss of those generating stations that are out of service because of the storm. “Transmission capacity, especially in New Jersey, was affected. There were 22 230-kilovolt transmission lines out of service because of flooding in substations in northern New Jersey.   The storm compromised 41 transmission facilities in the multi state region most directly impacted by Sandy. But the storm’s biggest impact, as usual, was on the distribution system.  In Westchester County alone over 600 roads remain closed because of downed power lines.  Flooding has seriously impacted buried lines and substations in New York City and other coastal communities. According to reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We had massive damage to our infrastructure,” said Chris Eck, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light Co… The New Jersey utilities lost numerous substations to floods, in addition to losing power lines and pole-top transformers. The substations, which serve large areas of customers, must be drained, dried and cleaned before they can be reenergized. Ralph A. LaRossa, PSE&G’s president, said Thursday that cleanup crews were engaged in “hand-to-hand combat” with filth in substations, using toothbrushes and rags to remove dirt.”

Communications: The Federal Communications Commission reports that one in four cell phone towers were out of service at the height of the storm.  Verizon declared a “service emergency.” Thursday’s Wall Street Journal reported:

Eleven years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Verizon Communications Inc. is once again scrambling to repair severe damage to a key switching facility inside its historic headquarters building in lower Manhattan. The massive facility for interconnecting key communications lines sustained heavy damage after planes struck the Twin Towers more than a decade ago. This time the enemy was water shoved ashore by Hurricane Sandy. The building is one of the worst hit of a number of facilities that carriers were rushing to fix Wednesday… Verizon employees said Monday night’s storm surge was so powerful that it breached the protective plugs that surround cables coming into the building. As a result, water flooded the critical basement “cable vault” that takes in communications cables and directs them to switching gear upstairs, which wasn’t damaged.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and smaller wireless carriers were also reporting tower outages and system instability across Metro New York and northern New Jersey.   Wireless providers are not required to report on system status, but most expert observers seemed to agree roughly twenty-percent of the network is still non-operational across the most affected areas.  The power outage is complicating and delaying restoration efforts.

Above: Flooded lobby of Verizon data center at 140 West Street

Fuel: Roughly 25-30 percent of regional fuel refining is offline.  The Colonial Pipeline is expected to resume deliveries to the New York metro market on November 2. This major source of Gulf Coast petroleum product has been shut-down since October 29.  Late November 1 the Ports of New York and New Jersey were reopened to maritime fuel deliveries.  But availability of supply is not — yet — the fundamental problem. Several  gasoline terminals are not able to receive or transfer product because of damage caused by the storm surge.  Roughly 75 percent of the New York metro’s gasoline supply is distributed from terminals in the Linden, New Jersey area. One company executive estimated the terminals at his site could take four to six weeks to repair.  In any case, many gasoline terminals do not have  electricity to pump product.  Utilities anticipate this issue may be resolved over the weekend.  Because of power outages many gasoline service stations cannot pump what they have in their storage tanks.  Mike O’Leary, vice president of Raceway Petroleum Inc., based in Piscataway N.J., said only three of its 50 stations “were able to open with power restored” to run gas pumps cash registers and credit-card transaction devices.  In Paterson, N.J., the state’s third-largest city, the Police Department was trying to negotiate emergency contracts for gas, and short of that, said it would beginning siphoning it from other city vehicles to keep police cruisers running. The EPA has issued emergency waivers through November 20 related to Reformulated Gasoline Requirements in order to maximize gasoline availability in the states impacted by Sandy.

Supply is not the problem. Identifying demand is not the problem.  The network for delivering supply to demand has mostly — though not entirely — survived.

In all three cases the distribution system has been disrupted.  In particular, transfer capability is a serious challenge for each sector. For example, fuel needs to be transferred from refineries, pipelines and barges and eventually into trucks.   The Linden terminals play this function.  The Verizon “cable vault” is analogous to the fuel terminals, as are electrical substations.

Our three heroes share a similar weakness.  Is there a D’Artagnan to rescue them?

LATE FRIDAY UPDATE:

I’ve been offline, but (mostly) good news today in terms of gasoline distribution in the NYC metro area:

According to Dow Jones:

NuStar Energy  said the truck-rack facility at its petroleum-products terminal in Linden, N.J., will be back in service by the end of day Friday.  NuStar crews were able to bring a generator from one of its Gulf Coast facilities and procured another regionally to power up the truck-rack bays in Linden. The rest of NuStar’s 4.5-million-barrel capacity storage-and-distribution terminal in Linden remains shuttered until commercial power can be restored and damage assessments completed.

According to Reuters:

In an effort to reduce the impact of crippled fuel flows in the Northeast, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a temporary blanket waiver of the Jones Act on Friday. The move allows foreign oil tankers from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports to provide additional fuel resources, a service usually restricted to domestic vessels. About half of the region’s gasoline and diesel comes from the Gulf Coast via the Colonial Pipeline or via tanker from overseas.

Despite some continued disruptions to supply, other critical terminals and refineries continued to reopen on Friday.

Colonial Pipeline, the 825,000 bpd conduit that ships fuel from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, said it had restarted a large section of Line 3, its Northeast mainline that runs from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Linden, New Jersey, on Thursday. It also resumed deliveries at its key Linden junction to a connected Buckeye terminal.

“While Colonial’s pipelines and facilities were spared significant damage, many of the terminals in the Linden area will require days if not weeks to fully recover,” it said.

Kinder Morgan said on Thursday it would resume shipping from its New York and New Jersey terminals in the next day or two, after the company brought in generators to power pumps and other equipment. The terminals in Carteret and Perth Amboy in New Jersey and in Staten Island, New York, will begin to receive and move refined fuels in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that all its New York borough terminals were still down. Its Shell-branded network was 84 percent open in Connecticut, 47 percent open in New Jersey, 62 percent open in New York and 83 percent open in Pennsylvania.

Motiva Enterprises said on Wednesday it reopened more of the fuel terminals it shut because of Hurricane Sandy, but four terminals in Sewaren and Newark, New Jersey, and Brooklyn and Long Island, New York, have no restart date.

Magellan Midstream Partners, one of the largest U.S. pipeline and storage terminal companies, said it now has limited operational capacity to receive inbound vessels and barges at its New Haven terminal.

Buckeye Partners said its main New York Harbor area terminal in Linden, New Jersey, was reconnected to its power supply and fully operational by noon on Friday. The company expects its two other New York area terminals in Inwood and Long Island City to return to service by November 2 midnight. The company is supplying jet fuel to the three airports in the New York City area.

EARLY SATURDAY UPDATE

According to the Energy Information Administration:

Based on today’s (November 2) emergency survey of gasoline availability, EIA estimates that two-thirds of gasoline stations in the New York metropolitan area do not have gasoline available for sale. This number includes stations that reported no gasoline available and those EIA could not reach after numerous attempts, and consequently assume that the station was closed. Of the stations sampled, one-third had gasoline available for sale, 3% were not selling gasoline because they had no power, 10% had power but no gasoline supplies, and 53% percent did not respond to attempts to contact them.

According to the Associated Press:

The Obama administration is ordering the purchase of up to 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel for distribution in areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy to supplement private sector efforts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that President Barack Obama has directed the Defense Logistics Agency to handle the purchase of the fuel. It will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities impacted by the storm.

According to the Office of New Jersey Governor Christie:

Governor Chris Christie took action to prevent a fuel shortage and ease the problem of extended wait times and lines at gas stations by signing Executive Order 108, declaring a limited state of energy emergency with regard to the supply of motor fuel and implementing odd-even rationing for gasoline purchases in 12 New Jersey counties.  Odd-even fuel sales will take effect in the following counties at noon on November 3, 2012: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren.

According to Bloomberg Business:

Tankers able to deliver almost 215,000 metric tons of gasoline are waiting outside New York Harbor to unload their cargoes after the worst Atlantic Coast storm in history shut terminals and halted refineries. Six vessels within a 100-mile radius of the port of New York have been waiting since at least Oct. 28, according to IHS Inc. vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg News today. The tankers, also able to carry cargoes including diesel, are probably being delayed because of the storm and would normally load or unload within two days, according to Truls Dahl, a shipbroker at Astrup Fearnley A/S in Oslo.

According to a Fox Business interview with Sal Risalvato of the New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Automotive Association:

The problem with consumer access to gasoline in the greater New York area is not the result of insufficient supply.  Rather it is a lack of electricity at  the fuel distribution centers in the Elizabeth (NJ) and Newark (NJ) seaports.  According to Mr. Risalvato the electric utilities did not have these gasoline transfer hubs on their priority restoration lists until late on November 1.   Since Friday morning there has been a sustained effort to restore power to these facilities and some generator power has been put in place.  Mr. Risalvato also explain that even once electricity is restored, these facilities will not be operating at full capacity due to damage caused by storm surge.

Late Saturday afternoon Reuters provided a helpful update and overview of the situation with the fuel supply chain.

Early Saturday evening the AP filed  a report that begins to set out the key interdependencies at play.

Reuters is reporting:

The 16-million-barrel International-Matex Tank Terminals oil terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey has partially re-opened following power losses due to superstorm Sandy, its operator said on Saturday. The fuel terminal, the biggest in the New York Harbor, is still “coming back online,” said terminal manager Richard Fisette. As of Saturday, around half of the facilities at the site were back to normal operation and the major regional fuel repository was awaiting nominations, or orders to ship out fuel, from its customers, Fisette said. A pipeline serving the facility is operational and damage assessments at the site have not indicated fuel leakage from tanks or pipelines there, Fisette added. (The terminal operator has an especially informative website on the Bayonne facility available at: http://www.imtt.com/index.php?page=bayonne)

According to the Energy Information Administration as of Saturday:

Based on today’s emergency survey of gasoline availability, EIA estimates that 38% of gas stations in the New York Metropolitan area do not have gasoline available for sale. This is a sharp decrease from 67% yesterday.

SUNDAY UPDATE

Reuters has a good overview. Some of their reporting on the underlying supply situation disagrees with my own analysis.  Reuters is probably correct, the NYC region is not my expertise and fuel is on the very edge of anything that might be called expertise.  Still, it’s worth double checking.

Hess, a major gasoline retailer in the NYC metro area, released details of the supply status at all of its points-of-sale, encouraging consumers to select locations with at least 7000 gallons in stock.   This is a fascinating step:  Please see http://hessexpress.com/FuelInformation

Late Sunday the Reuters leads with a new update (otherwise not much changed from above):

The New York Harbor energy network was returning to normal on Sunday with mainline power restored nearly a week after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the eastern seaboard. Yet damage to infrastructure near Linden, New Jersey, a major northeast fuel hub, kept a major refinery and some terminals shut, lending longer life to gasoline shortages that have persisted in the region. Another looming concern was that heating oil supplies were dwindling with temperatures expected to dip to freezing in New York by Monday.

In my judgment that’s just about right.  In terms of gasoline, it will take a few days for deliveries to replenish retail locations — and increased assurance to diminish hoarding — but the strategic shift has been achieved with the restoration of power to the fuel distribution centers and the gasoline stations.  I don’t know anything about heating oil.

This concludes the thread.  If there are major new developments I will generate a new post.

Well, I lied. One more link: On Monday CNBC ran a report on the key role of the fuel terminals and raised some implications: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000127323&play=1

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

Portrait of a family

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Technology for HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on November 2, 2012

One of the many stories emerging from the Sandy experience. This one comes from a friend back east.

I had a very interesting technology experience over the past 24 hours. I know we have heard and discussed this many times but it was surreal to actually observe it in real-time.

Monday Afternoon

- Hurricane winds and rain begin.

- I monitor the storm on cable news and weather channel.

- My wife uses the internet.

- My 17 and 12 year olds monitor by texting with friends.

- My 15 year old monitors through Facebook.

Tuesday Early Morning

- Power is out, house telephone is out and cable and internet are out. Generator gets water and some lights going but not cable and internet because of downed wires.

- I find out from my smart phone that a message was left on the house phone voicemail service (I get house phone messages emailed to my smart phone) that school begins two hours late.

- My son’s I-touch does not connect to the internet because the internet service around town is out. He exclaims that he has been cut off from the outside world.

- The cell phone batteries begin to die and texting ceases.

- While the rest of the family’s electronics either don’t work or have run out of batteries including dimming flashlights, I am good. I have my combination radio, flashlight and phone charger that operates by hand crank and solar – no batteries (thank you annual NPR fund drive gift). I have plenty of light and can listen to news about the damage and closings and can charge my smart phone.

Tuesday Late Morning

- Power is still out.

- Kids are at school which has power.

- My wife drives to work only to discover the college where she works is closed. Because of the outages, the college was unable to update their website with closing information and something happened to the automated texting service.

- My wife returns home and announces that she can’t do anything at the house because the internet is down. I remind her that just 13 years ago, we did not even have internet service at our house and that she would have killed back then for a day off to get caught up on life. Apparently, life ceases to exist now without the internet.

- I go to main street to the local coffee shop in search of internet. On one side of the shop are the old–timers who are sharing stories of what streets, homes and stores are damaged or closed. Every newcomer through the front door gets a personal briefing. In the back of the shop are younger folks trying desperately to share the single electric outlet to charge a table full of smart phones, tablets and laptops. They are frantic and stressed that they can’t get on Facebook or text. Meanwhile, the old-timers are laughing and sharing information word of mouth and organizing groups to go to help friends around town. The coffee shop becomes the town’s information center.

- I came into the coffee shop feeling kind of depressed and lethargic. I left 4 hours later feeling energetic and with a sense of camaraderie with the rest of the community. Friends had either seen me at the coffee shop or heard I was there and I received text messages offering up houses with power for me to work at.

Tuesday Night

- Power is still out.

- The kids announce that they can’ do any homework or prepare for next day debates or quizzes because they do not have internet access.

- We head out to McDonalds with two laptops thinking we can have a quick dinner and use their wireless to do homework. As we eat, two customers with laptops in hand are running around the restaurant with the manager trying to get the wireless to work. No luck, the whole internet service to the area is down.

- We head back home. It is raining again and we can’t run the generator in the rain. So my sons construct a lean-to out of tarps, ladders, bungee cords and other miscellaneous things found in the garage. They now have a direct interest in the generator which for the past year I could not get them to take time to learn about. We talk about how it works. We head into the basement and continue the conversation at the fuse box as we switch over circuits from the electric grid to the generator. I have them do all the work. When the house lights up and toilets are flushing, both boys are feeling pretty proud of themselves.

- We sit at the kitchen table and my 15 year old is panicking because he can’t get on the internet to prepare for his school debate. So I ask, what is the topic? He says, “We have to defend whether modern day text books should refer to the abolitionist John Brown as a freedom fighter or terrorist.” This led to a great debate amongst the family around the kitchen table. What is a freedom fighter? What is a terrorist? Was Osama Ben Laden a freedom fighter during the 1980s? At what point did his actions make him a terrorist? After 45 minutes, my son had all the talking points he needed and the rest of the family had fun helping.

- I did not have as much luck helping my other son with his calculus homework.

- I announce that at 10pm I am going to shut the generator off for the night and will restart it at 6:30am. Everyone was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. They were done with their work and in bed by 10pm. At 10:15pm, the power came back on. Everyone got out of bed retreated to their own separate spaces and fired up computers and I-touches. The internet was streaming from every room and no one went to bed until 11:30pm and of course, I couldn’t get anyone out of bed at 6:30am the next morning because they were tired.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

November 1, 2012

Preparedness: Preconditions for a vigorous response and reasonable recovery

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on November 1, 2012

Above: Governor Christie, President Obama, Administrator Fugate

For many years the emergency manager’s mantra has included, “Emergency management will never win an election, but it can certainly result in losing one.”  This is usually recited by the EM priesthood within ear-shot of mayors or governors.   (In the Vedic traditions a mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is capable of causing transformation.)

The truism, even the Truth, at the heart of the traditional mantra is that the effectiveness and more broadly the vigor of a disaster response — good, bad, or whatever — is usually personified in the leader of the time.  Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush emerged from 9/11 as heroes to many.  Ray Nagin and George W. Bush never recovered from Katrina.

It will be interesting how post-Sandy — combined with post-9/11 and post-Katrina — may amend the mantra.

At least in the short-term, vigor has usually seemed more important than effectiveness.  Effective or not, the response to 9/11 was energetic, active, forceful, intense.   It was the perception of inactivity in the immediate aftermath of Katrina that indicted those then at the helm.  The photo of President Bush doing a flyover of New Orleans in Air Force One took its totemic meaning from a preexisting sense of passive detachment.  He did a flyover of Ground Zero too.  That’s not what we remember.

In the context of a major disaster a leader is vicariously vigorous  (or not).  The leader is acclaimed or blamed largely for the vigor or non-vigor of others.  Giuliani was undoubtedly vigorous, but his was also a dramatic personification of heroism demonstrated by thousands of others.  Some have argued President Bush was very engaged in Katrina operations and unfairly tarred by the less-than-vigorous performance of others.   Others offer the President suffered the karma caused by his neglect (or worse) of FEMA.

Partly due to the mysterious alchemy of perceived vigor, one of the results of Sandy may be increased attention to preparedness.  The “big ones” — that seem to be unfolding with increasing frequency — are beyond the capacity of the most robust response.  As evidence, consider Breezy Point or the Battery Brooklyn Tunnel.   Serious and sustained attention to mitigation is becoming a precondition for any response that hopes to appear vigorous, even more so if effectiveness is a goal.

–+–

Ommm… Mitigation is preparedness for response.

Ommm… Mitigation accelerates recovery.

Ommm… Mitigation is the path to enlightenment (and re-election).  OMMMMM…

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

Let thy servant depart in peace

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on November 1, 2012

In many Christian communities today is known as All Saints’ Day or All Hallows.  It is set aside for commemorating the departed.  This evening there was to be — may still be — a  Choral Evensong for All Saints’ at Trinity Church Wall Street.

There is still no electricity and some of the church’s facilities have been flooded.  There is good cause to cancel.  I hope, though, they will proceed.  The death toll from the great storm is now over seventy and will probably increase.  Trinity is an especially appropriate place and this is the right time to commemorate those who died in recent days.

Scheduled to be performed is Charles Villiers Stanford’s Nunc dimittis in B flat. (Select link to hear it sung by the choir of Winchester Cathedral.)  Here are the lyrics:

Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared  before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

October 31, 2012

Sandy Google Crisis Response Map

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on October 31, 2012

A new Google Crisis Response Map has been posted for Sandy here: http://google.org/crisismap/2012-sandy

According to Google:

On the map, you’ll find the following emergency preparedness information:

There is also a New York City specific map:

We’ve also launched a map specific to New York City, featuring evacuation zone information from NYC Open Data, open shelters, weather information and live webcams.

A big hat tip to Eric Holdeman of the Disaster Zone blog for bringing this to my attention and providing a bit of extrapolation:

What you might not know is that there is only a small team of Google employees dedicated to having a system in place for a disaster response like what they did/are doing for Hurricane Sandy.  The rest of the work is being “crowd sourced” from the field and from their fellow Google employees who donate time to work on the response adding their skills to the mix.

This is the future of work and disaster response.  Teams of individuals coming together for a common cause and combining their individual talents to produce a meaningful product that is not directed by government or a higher echelon of business management.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn
« Previous PageNext Page »