Our team at ISC was honored to have Dr. Paul O'Malley, superintendent of schools for Butler School District 53 in Illinois, join us for a webinar to discuss how schools can look back on the past school year and ahead to the future as public and private schools systems continue to recover from the pandemic.
During this unprecedented pandemic, Dr. O'Malley continues to be instrumental in implementing proactive and innovative mitigation strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in his schools. During this webinar, Dr. O'Malley talked about the challenge of balancing the need to offer a first-class educational experience while ensuring the safety and well-being of students, staff, and the community at large.
20 Important Actions for Community Disaster Recovery Success
Phase 1 - Before the Storm
1. Prepare disaster-specific cost codes to document expenditures.
2. Create administrative cost procedures to ensure FEMA reimbursement.
3. Establish pre-disaster contracts for debris removal and monitoring.
4 Establish governance procedures to make important disaster recovery decisions
Phase 2 - Landfall
1. Gather all your policies such as insurance, pay policy, contractor and vendor contracts, and procurement policy and upload into the FEMA Grants portal.
2. Document donated/volunteered resources to offset local share.
3. Ensure all emergency contracts are properly procured per C.F.R. §§ 200.317 – 200.326.
4. Thoroughly track debris removal activities to expedite funding.
Phase 3 - Assessing Damages
1. Activate disaster recovery operations immediately.
2. Thoroughly document all disaster related damages.
3. Systematically organize your disaster documentation.
4. Make use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or Drones) to assess and document damages.
Phase 4 - Managing Disaster Assistance Funding & Community Recovery
1. Understand the pros and cons of FEMA’s Grant Portal.
2. Utilize disaster grant management software to track and manage disaster assistance funds. Looking for ideas? Check out the Disaster Grant Management Tool
3. Engage the whole community and unite community stakeholders throughout the disaster recovery process.
4. Identify a Champion to lead the community’s disaster recovery efforts.
Phase 5 - Disaster Recovery Closeout
1. Ensure that all supporting and backup documentation for disaster assistance grant funding is well organized.
2. Use a cloud-based knowledge/content management system to store all supporting and backup documentation in an electronic format. Looking for ideas? Check out the Odysseus Enterprise System
3. Promote and celebrate the community’s disaster recovery progress.
4.Sustain community resiliency for future generations by memorializing the event
ISC is working with communities to ensure the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine Hesitancy is a significant factor contributing to low uptake in COVID-19 vaccinations and ISC aims to ensure that everyone can get vaccinated.
Vaccine Hesitancy is a behavior “Influenced by a lack of trust in the medical community, concerns about vaccine safety, efficacy, necessity or convenience and other issues related to vaccination” (Nabet, Gable, Eder, & Feemster, 2017).
These concerns are widely shared within Black and Latinx communities, and their problems are historical in nature. The impacts of past medical experience and overall treatment of Black and Latinx communities have led to the vaccine hesitancy seen today.
ISC is working to ensure that Black and Latinx communities are provided with the information they need to understand the importance of vaccinating against COVID-19.
Our efforts include vaccine education, equitable distribution, vaccination events targeting specific communities, and partnerships with organizations that promote equitable healthcare access. However, we cannot do it alone.
Healthcare workers will be important partners in this effort. Doctors, primary care physicians, nurses, and others in the healthcare industry are trusted advisors to patients. Healthcare professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and combating vaccine hesitancy.
Healthcare providers should:
To get back to “normal,” we all need to ensure that everyone has access to the COVID-19 vaccine. ISC is working to make this a reality and will continue to work diligently for healthcare distribution and ensuring access to the vaccine within all communities.
Find out more about ISC’s vaccine and pandemic experience.
With every summer comes the threat of hurricanes and, as a result, the necessity to evacuate large coastal populations out of harm’s way. Implementing an evacuation order is a complex operation that requires significant planning, analysis, and coordination to execute the order in an efficient and effective method. Communities cannot underestimate the importance of conducting a hurricane evacuation study and the value of evacuation clearance time modeling to help facilitate good decision-making and operational effectiveness.
Recent new advancements in technology will not only improve decision-making, but also serve as an invaluable tool to operationally visualize evacuation behavior patterns and improve evacuation operations.
A Hurricane Evacuation Study typically consists of major components, each utilized to inform decision making within evacuation scenarios. These five components are as follows:
Hazards Analysis: Utilized to determine the probable worst-case effects from the various intensities and approaching direction of hurricanes that could strike the region.
Vulnerability Analysis: Utilized to identify the areas, populations, and facilities that are potentially vulnerable to storm surge, flooding, and tremendous wind damage under a variety of hurricane threats.
Behavioral Analysis: Forming assumptions that must be made regarding the manner in which the population in and around the vulnerable area will react to the threat, including the percentage that will evacuate, response times to evacuation orders, probable destinations, the number of vehicles that will be used (including the number that may be motor homes or towing boats/campers), the evacuation response of tourists, movement of evacuees from other jurisdictions into the area of study, and the percentage of evacuees who would require public assistance for emergency transportation.
Shelter Analysis: Utilized to estimate the number of evacuees that will seek public shelter and the number of shelter spaces available and to provide information for use in determining the Evacuation Clearance Times in the transportation analysis.
Transportation Analysis: Utilized to calculate the clearance times needed to conduct a safe and timely evacuation for a range of hurricane threats. Other purposes are to define the evacuation roadway network and to evaluate traffic control measures/highway improvements for improved traffic flow.
In conducting a transportation analysis, a primary means of planning and preparing for evacuations involves the use of computer modeling to calculate evacuation clearance times. These traffic models have been used for a variety of emergency/evacuation/reentry scenarios by changing the appropriate network and traffic flow parameters. Evacuation Clearance Time is the estimated time necessary to safely evacuate people, from the time an evacuation order is given until the time when either the last evacuee leaves the evacuation zone (given various factors such as the type of hazard or threat, level of notice of the incident, population characteristics of the area at the time, and public behavior) or the remaining population is forced to shelter-in-place due to conclusion of operations as the hazard begins to impact the area. Clearance times are used by emergency management staff to determine the window of opportunity available to initiate an evacuation order, and ensure that evacuees have enough time to reach safety before the threat or hazard arrives.
Integrated Solutions Consulting is currently deploying new evacuation simulation modeling technologies to assist communities in not only estimating evacuation clearance times, but also simulate complex vehicle interactions on a macro and micro level, help to identify system bottlenecks, understand evacuation behaviors, and aid in evaluating traffic management strategies based on various operational and behavioral conditions and assumptions
There are a number of evacuation simulation modeling software tools available in the marketplace, all with varying capabilities and functionalities. Integrated Solutions Consulting’s evacuation modeling experts have composed a list of recommendations for what factors should be included in an ideal model. While no model may be able to achieve every one of the recommendations listed, jurisdictions should work to ensure that as many of the factors as possible are incorporated into their planning efforts for the most accurate forecast outcomes.
Emergency management's lack of scientific knowledge base and application of imperial research, coupled with the profession's rapid growth, everlasting change, and escalating need, has resulted in an influx of grand theoretical policies that are developed in a sanitized political environment. There are increasing political and economic pressures to reduce disaster losses, but there are still political, economic, and cultural obstacles to build the knowledge capacity required to develop a proactive and effective national emergency management system. This pressure on the emergency management community has resulted in a band-aid approach to emergency management policymaking. Policies and programs are instituted in the aftermath of a disaster, with little investment in building the evidence-based knowledge needed to deal with the next disaster, the changing dynamics of our society, or with the over-arching pre-disaster issues. As a result, emergency management has been plagued with inefficiencies and the inability for it to mature into respected profession.
Many scholars and practitioners in the field of emergency management have recognized that the scope and challenges of local emergency management is increasing; however, the debate continues inside and outside of the profession on just what are the roles and responsibilities of the emergency manager and how best to advance the profession. Poor policymaking coupled with the broadening role of the emergency manager creates conflict between the old and new. This requires change in how we define the profession and identify the skillsets needed for tomorrow’s emergency manager. Emergency management practitioners and scholars must see themselves as a united front, providing a shared foundation to advance the profession.
Without the practitioner, there would be no scholar. Without the scholar, the emergency management practitioner would have little influence and persuasion. Research aimed to advance the profession could not be conducted without the practitioner. Without research, the profession will continue to wander aimlessly from disaster to disaster and catastrophe to catastrophe. The emergency management community must value the contributions of higher education. Higher education must value the perspective of emergency management and their ability to excel in a many diverse fields yet be scholars in their own discipline. We must also appreciate the contributions other disciplinary research in such fields as public health, public policy, public administration, law, business management, economics, environmental science, and other closely related disciplines.
Without a cultural revolution of the profession, as well as a new strategic approach that connects emergency management to the broader issues and community concerns, our discipline will remain in a position of limited or constrained effectiveness.
We are proud to initiate the discussion, contribute to building this evidence-based knowledge, and helping to ignite the discipline.
Immediately after his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed several executive orders to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes assigning a COVID-19 Response Coordinator, ensuring equitable pandemic response and recovery, and increasing the reimbursement and other assistance provided to each state. Specifically, the President’s Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States indicates that FEMA will fund 100 percent of the cost of activities associated with all mission assignments for the use of the National Guard and emergency protective measures. This executive order also addresses expediting the reimbursement of emergency work projects.
Under Category B of FEMA’s Public Assistance program, and in accordance with section 502 of the Stafford Act, eligible emergency protective measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and for the safe opening and operation of eligible schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other eligible applicants may be reimbursable. This assistance may include funding for the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment, disinfecting services, and supplies.
To ensure reimbursement under these federal grant programs, there is a significant amount of documentation of costs and numerous tasks to complete. All eligible costs must be substantiated and supported by documentation, such as 214s, labor and equipment summaries, invoices, and a timeline of events. We can anticipate that previous guidance provided by FEMA will be amended to address the ongoing pandemic and therefore it is prudent that all eligible applicants accurately document costs incurred due to COVID-19 and the appropriate funding that is being captured to reimburse for these costs. If previous grants were submitted to FEMA and denied, applicants are strongly encouraged to reevaluate those claims for potential reversal of decisions and submit an appeal.
Due to the complexity of federal disaster reimbursement and the burden on entities dealing with the response to COVID-19, eligible entities can contract with experienced vendors to assist with the PA reimbursement process. These costs are eligible for reimbursement. More information is expected to be released this week, so we will update this post as necessary.
Our team at ISC has been involved in the pandemic response in several large metropolitan areas since March 2020. Currently, we’re assisting in mass vaccination plans and cost recovery services. If you’re interested in how our team might be able to help your organization, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
A great number of schools across the United States have gone fully or partially remote this year in an attempt to avoid the spread of COVID-19. According to the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, as of November 22, 2020, about 13 million of about 28 million students in the United States were still attending classes at least partially in-person.
Positive COVID-19 cases among children remain low. However, with cases on the rise in many communities across the country, some districts are faced with a lack of the necessary adult staff required to keep in-person learning possible.
A national poll of parents, released by the National Parents Union, 38% of parents feel that their children are learning less than they would during a normal school year and nearly 40% believe their children aren’t getting enough time to interact with other students.
While schools are doing their best to ensure remote learning environments remain effective and accessible for students and staff, it is still not an ideal learning environment and school officials, teachers, parents, and students are looking forward to the time they can return to a more regular schedule.
Two districts in Illinois (a state where only about 29% of schools are providing in-person learning only) have managed to stay open all fall and have no plans to switch to remote learning.
Butler School District 53 and Gower School District 62 in Oak Brook, Illinois, are determined to remain open for in-person learning – safely – for the 2020-2021 school year. According to Dr. Paul O’Malley, Superintendent of Schools for District 53 and Dr. Victor Simon Superintendent of Schools for District 62, cite strong parental involvement, a determination to stay open, and preparing for worst-case scenario from the very beginning has led to their success.
Dr. O’Malley and Dr. Simon partnered together from the beginning of the pandemic to create a process from top to bottom. They got ahead of the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and were proactive about putting the safety measures into place that they’d need to keep their schools open.
The districts spent the summer planning for a return to in-person learning. The plan addressed five main issues:
“We’ve been beating the drum on testing since July,” says Simon. “We really did try to get other districts to join us in an effort to bring on-site testing to their schools, but it seemed like the general response from was more of a ‘yeah, but’ instead of a ‘yeah, how.’ Concerns ranged from size of district to funding, but this is about getting started and moving forward to be part of the solution. Being able to identify and isolate COVID-19 infections quickly has helped us control any potential spread, reduce time on contact tracing, and prevents a dependency on getting results elsewhere.”
Both districts also locked down all water fountains, enhanced sanitation measures, and hired extra substitute teachers to step in, along with additional bus drivers and other staff whose sole focus is sanitizing surfaces throughout the day. Students are required to wear masks at all times and are socially distanced within classrooms and in common areas. District 53 piloted UV lighting throughout the school for sanitation and District 62 purchased standalone, commercial-grade air purifiers for each room and upgraded filters in the HVAC system.
“We built our plan for worst-case scenario,” says O’Malley. “We started off with the strictest elements of everything.”
They’ve had continued success throughout the fall, in spite of rising COVID-19 numbers in the state of Illinois due to consistent enforcement and cooperation from staff, parents, students, and the community. In fact, the school didn’t have its first positive case until right before Thanksgiving.
The districts also brought Integrated Solutions Consulting (ISC) in to help with logistics, facilitate discussions with teachers, parents, staff, and the community about the plan.
“ISC is helping us monitor progress and ensure that we have independent corroboration that we’re taking all necessary measures to keep our schools open. We also want to make sure that our employees have room to say what improvements they see room for,” says O’Malley.
Since August 2020, Team ISC has helped put the following safety measures into place.
“ISC has been fortunate to work with such open and progressive leadership on this initiative,” says George DeTella, Managing Director, Public Health, ISC. “Leadership is critical during these times, and decisive decision-making and continued enforcement of necessary mitigation standards have been key to success.”
Some students chose remote learning at the beginning of the year and the districts do have a plan should they need to implement an “adaptive pause” and switch to remote learning district-wide and have a succession plan in the event administrators and even the superintendent were to get ill or need to quarantine.
For other districts looking to implement similar measures, O’Malley recommends starting small. “Create a plan that is scalable and flexible. Compartmentalize the different elements and look for wins. You’re not going to be able to do it all at once.”
Simon agrees. “If you focus on what you can’t yet do, you’ll get stuck.” He also encourages districts interested in learning more about the Districts’ safety measures and how they can implement them in their own district to visit the Return to School page, listen to an Illinois Association of School Administrators podcast featuring the districts’ plan, and watch this video.
Both superintendents are encouraged by the success Districts 53 and 62 have had and are hopeful for the rest of the school year. “We should all be taking advantage of the fact that schools can actually be one of the safest places because it’s a controlled environment.”
From October 8-10, the Great Chicago Fire burned through the city of Chicago. In the end, the fire killed 300 people, destroyed about 3.3 miles of the city, and burned 17,500 buildings.
While the exact cause of the fire was never exactly determined, it is believed to have started in a barn belonging to a family by the name of O’Leary. It rapidly spread to surrounding buildings and spreading rapidly. It was aided by a drought and the fact that most buildings in the city at the time were constructed of wood. The most common belief is that Mrs. O’Leary’s cows knocked over a lantern, igniting Great Chicago Fire.
But what if it wasn’t Mrs. O’Leary’s cow at all?
There is evidence that the Great Chicago Fire was actually caused by a meteorite shower, not Mrs. O'Leary's cow. A fragment of Biela's Comet is believed to have broken off, resulting in the reported spontaneous ignitions, lack of smoke, and "fire balloons" falling from the sky reported that night. This theory would also explain the fires that occurred north of Chicago in Peshtigo, Wisconsin at the same time. The Peshtigo Fire resulted in 2,000 deaths and 4 million acres of farm and prairies burned.
A meteorite is a small particle of matter that originates in the solar system and reaches the surface of the earth without being completely vaporized. Meteor showers result in between 50,000 and 100,000 tons of space dust and meteorites falling on the planet every year.
So what does this have to do with modern emergency management and disaster recovery?
As emergency managers, we must continuously debunk these historical myths so we’re informed and can take a proactive approach for all hazards. While not common, celestial disasters have occurred in the past. In order to mitigate, we just need to know where to look for them. And some of our country’s top agencies are dedicating resources to help do just that.
In 2015, FEMA and NASA came together to form the Planetary Impact Emergency Response Working Group (PIERWG) in order to “"develop guidance to prepare for any potential impact of our planet by a large natural object."
NASA also established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) to manage its ongoing mission of planetary defense. According to NASA’s website, the PDCO:
Understanding these historic events will help us be prepared for future disasters.
As communities begin to rebuild after the devastating wildfires this year, we’re reflecting back on the various projects our team has worked on where we were able to help clients prepare for, respond to, and recover from wildfires. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to support numerous communities across the West Coast and beyond manage their wildfire threat, which is increasing every year. There are many reasons why the risk of wildfire is on the rise, but there is mounting empirical evidence and a growing number of experts in the scientific community that have pointed to global warming as one of the many reasons. There are many perspectives to this position and this post is not intended to voice partisan views on the subject. However, we do want to take the opportunity to highlight how science–specifically applied research methods–can help elevate our understanding of our community’s risk and vulnerability to wildfires.
In October 2017, San Diego County recognized the 10-year anniversary of the October 2007 wildfires which burned over 370,000 acres, destroyed 2,590 structures, and resulted in 10 deaths. During this time of remembrance and reflection, the County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services (OES) also sought to identify if and how residents had changed their hazard risk behaviors and preparedness habits since the 2007 wildfires. The OES had completed a preparedness study in 2007, and they wanted to identify any changes that had occurred since 2007. With the anniversary date looming only two months away, San Diego OES hired ISC to create and distribute a social scientific study to investigate evidence-based metrics of community preparedness.
The survey was distributed to a representative sample of San Diego County residents over age 18 and in multiple languages and formats. The 2017 survey also addressed errors to sampling, coverage, measurement, and nonresponses that existed in the 2007 study, in order to increase the precision and accuracy of the findings. We ensured that the data results would be reliable within a 95% confidence level.
The study provided valuable insights into respondent behavior including but not limited to:
In October 2017, ISC delivered a detailed report to San Diego OES that provided descriptive insights into the preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation behaviors of their residents. Furthermore, ISC’s data analysis of the scientific data offered San Diego OES with valuable insight on how to improve their various disaster preparedness programs and enhance the community’s steady-state of readiness.
San Diego OES launched a public information campaign as a result of the 2017 study that sought to educate residents about the dangers of wildfires and how they can better prepare.
This was not ISC’s only community disaster preparedness study. Learn more about other clients we’ve completed disaster preparedness studies for and how it can help your community’s ability to respond, recover, and build a resilient community. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ISC Trains Palm Beach County’s Community Emergency Response Team for the Upcoming COVID-Hurricane Season
The Integrated Solutions Consulting (ISC) Training and Exercise Group recently supported a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Drill for the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management (PBC DEM).
Palm Beach County’s Division of Emergency Management is a leader in Florida and across the nation for CERT training and program management. Their CERT teams and individually trained CERT members are spread across the County ready to assist during disasters and pre-planned events.
The ISC team designed, developed, and delivered a training exercise for 25 CERT members representing CERT teams across Palm Beach County. The training was designed to provide CERT members with updated information and tools that represent real-work skills they can use in the event of an emergency. The drill covered the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) along with hands-only CPR to provide lifesaving skills, Stop the Bleed training for trauma wound care, scene safety, and securing a vehicle after an accident.
Adding to the event’s complexity was providing realistic training in a COVID-19 environment. To mitigate the concerns for COVID-19, the drill was moved to a large outdoor venue, allowing a large amount of social distancing while training. Participants were checked for body temperatures and face masks and hand sanitizer were provided and used between all training scenarios. To further mitigate any concerns over COVID-19, the ISC training team had six staff instructors that are also paramedics in the event a participant had a medical emergency.
During the post-drill review, CERT members complimented the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management and the training team for providing realistic training that was outside the normal topics that they typically receive.
Mr. Bill Johnson, the Director for the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management, had this to say after the drill. “These are challenging times for emergency management and for the residents of Palm Beach County. During these difficult times the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management continues to excel in providing world-class training opportunities for our CERT volunteers. One example of this is our partnering with Integrated Solutions Consulting training team that developed and provided an outstanding CERT drill in a safe and productive environment. Training and drills like this keep our CERT response partners prepared for the next emergency. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also maintain a level of vigilance for the elevated threat of this year’s hurricane season.
ISC is honored to continue a long and professional relationship with PBC DEM as a provider of emergency management training, exercises, planning support and post disaster assistance. Learn more about ISC's education, training, and exercise development and our other comprehensive services.
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