Anthony Alexiou The Life of a Contractor

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This week we talk to Anthony (Tony) Alexiou about the field of contract Emergency Management. As things change over the years we are seeing more and more roles for the Contract Emergency Manager. Tony and I discuss his time as an emergency management consultant, overseeing UASI funds, and how he sees the fit of the EM in the system.

EM Weekly Episode 102 Tony Alexiou

The fear is that a contractor is not as invested in a jurisdiction as an actual employee would be being a contractor. Now I, I don’t agree with that. You know, and granted I do contract work because I get paid to do it. That’s great, but you know, if you do this kind of work, it takes, it takes a person with a certain mindset. You know what I mean? It’s one thing to say you’re an emergency manager, but actually do this thing and live this and be able to spend days upon days at an EOC or do whatever it takes a mindset whether or not you’re a contractor or a government employee, you’re going to have the same mindset at the end of the day.

Tony Alexiou

Todd DeVoe:      Hi and welcome to the EM Weekly show and this is your host, Todd De Voe speaking, and today we are talking to Tony Alexiou from the Triage Group about consulting the UASI and more. Tony has a vast range of experience and on that I will let Tony tell you his story.

Todd DeVoe:      Before we get into the interview, I want to invite you to the second of the EM Weekly’s webinars for 2019 and our webinars series. It is much different than the others that you may have attended, you know, we do not sell anything and they are sponsored by the Emergency Management Leaders Conference, (the EMLC) and by our long time sponsor, Titan HST. This is going to be happening on Thursday, March 28th at 1:00 PM Eastern and 10:00 AM Pacific. And we are bringing some of the biggest names in emergency management technology to talk about what’s up and coming in our landscape. Join us for the Emerging Technologies for Emergency Management Webinar on March 28th. You can see the link in the show notes below.

Todd DeVoe:      Speaking about the EMLC, there is still time to get your discounted tickets to the conference you have until February 28th to take advantage of getting the $100 off. Yep! That’s one whole C note you keep in your pocket and if you’re a student you get $200 off the price of the admission for the entire thing. So join EM Weekly in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29th and 30th at the Arizona Grand Hotel.

Todd DeVoe:      Now onto the interview.

Todd DeVoe:      So Tony, welcome to EM Weekly.

Tony Alexiou:     I really appreciate the opportunity and I am actually a listener of your podcast and I am pretty excited to on it.

Todd DeVoe:      Oh they, I appreciate that. So, Tony tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in what you do.

Tony Alexiou:     Emergency management, that is funny. it kind of that field that people just kind of fall into it seems in most cases. In You know one, ends up in fifth grade saying I want to be an emergency manager no one had that moment. There was a movie Volcano back in the mid-nineties with Tommy Lee Jones. You must have seen that, I’m sure maybe, maybe not. I don’t remember. It was a classic, I think it was a volcano blowing up in Los Angeles. Lava flows underground or something? Yeah, yeah. And you see the Tommy Lee Jones character and you know, the emergency manager, every resource, at his fingertips. Everyone was looking what he said. He saves the day, you know, classic American movie, big, happy ending, Tommy Lee Jones the hero. I walk out of there, think to myself, I want to be an emergency manager. I want to be Tommy Lee Jones. So I ended up in the field. I learned very quickly that it was a movie and that is not how it actually works, but it was still fine. I remember walking into my first job, where’s, where’s the command center? Where’s this? Where’s that? People looking at me as like, yeah, no, we don’t have the funding for such things.

Tony Alexiou:     It is what it is. I’m sure you’ve heard the same stories to as much as you been at it. Yeah. My first, my first Gig was a company called All Hands consulting and uh, it was a partnership between a guy named Steve Davis here in the D.C. Area. His partner up in Seattle both, truly good guys. Um, Steve was the business side of the house and Rick was, was definitely the hardcore emergency manager. He was at the Mount St. he was Emergency Manager when Mount St Helens blew up in 1980. Uh, he trained under emergency manager, Lacy Suiter in Tennessee, which ended up being the head of FEMA for a while. Uh, so have a pretty good pedigree and uh, and I was fresh out of school and then they picked me up in D.C. And it was company about five peoples, like a small, small company and the reason of getting this job, but at the times when they call it UASI the urban area security intuitive in 2004 .

Tony Alexiou:     Okay. I had no idea what the hell that was. Yeah. When they’re talking to you about the UASI. I’m like, oh, quick Google search and you realize it’s a funding program and this and that and you know, homeland security, cash and what happens. So we get the job of being UASI administrators in the city of Miami, which for the Miami UASI, which actually covered a four county area from Key West of the Palm Beaches. So we’re sitting around the conference table, like I said, we’re like a four or five percent company and they kind of look around the and it landed on me. And Steve said, You said you know what, you’re the only single guy on staff. The cheapest guy relocate. They’re going to Miami. Okay. Worst place to go to than Miami, I suppose, pack up my car. And then down I went to Miami, we opened up a, our initial office was in, we rented a room and I can’t remember what the hotel, what hotel was that in coconut grove.

Tony Alexiou:     Uh, and we began working and there was a, you know, initially it was trying to get the grants sit up and trying to get money moving and stuff like that. But we came to realize very quickly that the city of Miami’s the time, a lot of help in emergency management, a lot of planning work, training work, a lot exercise work and you know, the bosses come down every week, every, you know, once every couple of weeks or a few days. And as time goes on, as time went on, we were down there for a good five, six years. The, the, the project expanded. That’s where I got my real first taste of emergency management. Not just the response aspects of it, but um, you know, just the, the, the, sometimes the lack of resources, the resistance from elected officials. You see sometimes the resistance from other people within a jurisdiction to look at emergency management and say, well, why do we have here? We have police, we have fire. Something you’ve never really thought about that would actually come. That definitely wasn’t Volcano Tommy Lee Jones never had to fight for money from the city government. I guarantee you,

Tony Alexiou:     you know, I was kind of what it was a, it ended up being my second school in emergency management. The amount of stuff I learned, especially with working with Stephen Riggs was, was amazing because he had this knack because we’re a small company by the time I’m like, maybe like 25, 26 years old… Somewhere in that neighborhood and you know, you come out of school, you have this idea of what you’re going to do, how things are going to work and you get a reality check real quick.

Tony Alexiou:     Steve was pretty, was pretty standard with this, like, no, no, no. You got, you know, you’ve got, forget the textbook and you got to do a certain way. Rick, his whole thing was like, you know what, you’re going to be an emergency manager, you’ve got to figure it out by yourself, you’ve got to skin your knees. So you know what you want to sit on the EOC and you want to, you know, open up every shelter you have and use all the resources in the first hour up to you, go for it, see what happens and, you know, so he would let me do stuff like that in a mock situation for us and would obviously go sideways, you know, within, you know, an hour, the, you know, the place would be leveled which shouldn’t have done it properly. Uh, so I learned a lot on how to do it. Um, and also it was also the period of time where we just did, was. I remember there was a series of hurricanes that hit south Florida among them. Katrina, Wilma, Rita was that year, the year it was this period of time when Katrina, I think it was like 2005 or six,

Tony Alexiou:     Between 2004-2006 was a huge period of hurricanes. It was just a lot of hurricanes running through there, so it was a, yeah, when we were, we were force multiplier in the Miami EOC. I was the acting planning chef for a while and I was the deputy emergency manager because it just, they just didn’t have the staff at the time. It would jump in and it was trial by fire, you know, and it’s one thing for an emergency manager in the classroom from up north hurricanes for something I would see on tv. You see a storm rolled in and you know, you don’t really know what’s, what’s good with you expect. The first couple were small ones was category one, category two. I was like, okay, a couple of trees down, a couple of routes, damage. We did this. Okay. Um, you know, activations would be for a day or two.

Tony Alexiou:     It wasn’t anything huge. I remember the year of Katrina 2005, And it was Katrina and Wilma the two hurricanes that were, that were huge. Katrina was not very big in Miami. But I do remember we’re sitting in the EOC, which Miami police headquarters about 2:00 in the morning. And I moved when I was typing up a sit rep and I’m watching it on the radar, this, this barely a category one hurricane is just off the coast of Biscayne Bay and I never heard the sound in my life and the thing right over the EOC and it was, it was a tropical storm or tropical storm turning into a category one, but it was like the building that we were, we were, we were one floor underground and honestly I thought it sounded like a train rolling over your head and look at the rate. I’m like, that was literally Katrina.

Tony Alexiou:     Like, okay, so we survived this. Okay. And of course, you know, a day later we say got the Gulf coast and tracks of it going out in New Orleans, but it hadn’t blown it up yet. We’re looking at this thing. I’m like, that’s fine, you’ll be good news. The next day we woke up like a category five. Like, holy crap, you know what happened there? And we all know what happened in New Orleans, but a week later. But the one that affected me the most was hurricane Wilma, which is a 06′ maybe a year later, and it was a …it came in off the Gulf coast and made landfill in Naples, Florida as a category three, but it went right over the everglades so it didn’t have plenty of moisture. And uh, my wife and I met down South Florida was, was born and raised in Boca Raton. So hurricane veteran, apparently knew everything there was to know about hurricanes. We’re living in a small apartment north of Miami, and our parents were up in Boca Raton and they had one of these know hurricane hardened houses It was the place to be for such a thing

Tony Alexiou:     And we’re looking at this thing. I’m like, look, I’ve got to work tonight. I’m going to be. I’m not going to do. You probably should go to your parents’ house. The apartment that we’re living in now. No, I’ll be fine. I’ve been through this. What you. Okay, what do I get a call about 1:30 in the morning as the hurricanes, but bearing down on the west side of Miami. So like, don’t jump in the car and go to my parents. I am Like, no, no, no, no, no, the middle of a hurricane, now you’ve got to ride it out. So she was fine at the end of the day, but it was a, I remember getting out of the EOC the next day and then the trees, the damage we saw was amazing, you know, the north side of the county. But then was what was the actual seeing of recovery process action which had never seen before.

Tony Alexiou:     I’m really truthfully, outside of, outside of a textbook or even, you know, even if the ICS class whatever the case may be, you know, we had no electricity in the area for, for 10 days. So it was. No, no, the water system has been overwhelmed. There was no potable water for a couple of days, so they’ve got things up and running and then trucks were coming in. A lineup for foods lineup for gasoline and it just streets were impassable for days, you know, FEMA becoming in. And it was, it was, it was a solid 10 days of this and you know, just seeing that it was like, alright, you know what I’m not Tommy Lee Jones, I’m thinking this two or three, four years earlier, I am not Tommy Lee Jones here, but this is actually pretty cool stuff. Cool. Just actually seeing it kind of returned to normal and the part we were playing as emergency managers, bringing this back to normal and the, the interplay between resources in the region and this and that, which is it’s…Miami UASI is a fairly compact area. Thankfully a lot of population that’s in strip along the coast of, you know, the keys were pretty sparsely populated, but once from south of Miami, north of Fort Lauderdale is a pretty solid chunk of population. And then the, the preparation that the counties and the cities themselves has as small as organized as some of them are. Resource poor as they were was, was amazing to me.

Tony Alexiou:     How they pulled it all together. It was a lot of fun. It was good guys. Our customers with the city of Miami were great people and I’m still in touch with them and a lot of fun, but I learned a lot.

Todd DeVoe:      Let’s talk a little bit about the UASI and that process. I was part of the UASI up here in Orange County and we have a thing called the urban area working group, which kind of oversaw the spending of the money, so I kind of want to double back on us for a little bit. So you’re sitting on the UASI as a contractor and you’re overseeing the funds that are coming in from the federal government through this UASI program and in the early days that you UASI. You’re right. It was a lot of fun. We bought a lot of cool, cool. That was more money than God and then as the, as now it’s get a little bit tighter and the search for the money money’s a little bit tighter. But one of the things that I think that, well we could have done better back then is really figured out a really good funding source for emergency management outside of buying all the cool toys, you know? And, and why didn’t we do that

Tony Alexiou:     because I think we’re just excited about having the money, to be honest with you, in Miami’s area already, if I recall correctly, I believe at its peak was at $25,000,000 a year. Uh, and that could be wrong. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but $25,000,000 out at my brain peak UASI. That’s a good chunk of change when it comes with a, you know, you always spend on certain things and certain, you know, certain ways, you know, everything we can, you know, you can only have so many exercises and so many training sessions. We’re going to the point where we were trading, you know, people living on the street on ICS.

Tony Alexiou:     It was, it was, you know, we had in Miami had planned known to man at that point. And so in its heyday it was, you know, what do we need to know about these places in Kansas where the population of 200 people, they have an armored personnel carrier. You have to spend the money because if he didn’t use the money, you next year wouldn’t want to get less money. And you didn’t want that, so it was, it was the idea of spending, you know, why it didn’t get directed into more emergency management per se. More stuff. No, South Florida, Miami Dade County got a new EOC on that, Broward County, have they had some, some emergency management funds coming in , but 90 percent of the money for emergency management was practical stuff. It was planning, it was training, it was exercise. It wasn’t spend on facility hardening and stuff like that. Uh, which was the roots of police and fire department generally took, you know, getting more equipment, getting more, stuff like that.

Tony Alexiou:     I always had an answer for it. I don’t know why it didn’t go the direction of it. Quite frankly. I think like with every other jurisdiction to police and fire, you have the loudest voice in emergency management tends to be the smallest group, which is unfortunate because you probably have not to diminish with police and fire do however during the emergency, it’s a very important job. An emergency manager. I’ve been the coordinating point for everything. The difference is that we do the coordinating point during an emergency and the argument is a police and fire do it every day. Now, I don’t know if I totally buy that argument entirely, but it is what it is. You know, funding is kind of a moot point anyway.

Todd DeVoe:      And it kind of goes back to the other part of it that we’re talking about to, you know, educating elected officials on exactly what the emergency manager is and what their role in a disaster really is public education on what emergency management is. Because you know, when you say you’re a firefighter, you got a uniform and a big red truck, you drive around and you see a police officer, you got a uniform in a cruiser that you’re cruising around in. When you say an emergency manager, you’re like, oh, well what’s that? And it takes, it takes a little bit.

Tony Alexiou:     One thing I’ll hand Miami was that what could, because it was, it was a hurricane prone zone in Orange County, California with earthquakes, not as much. Don’t get as many earthquakes as south Florida sees hurricanes at least that period of time. Uh, the public and understanding what emergency manager was and what role they play, they may have mistaken them for firefighters. It goes within the city of Miami. emergency management actually was a component of the fire department. It was they are co-located. They weren’t independent. Uh, so I worked to their advantage, I suppose ultimately a Broward County, Florida, however, they were completely independent the emergency management office. Um, but once again it’s public education program, which

Tony Alexiou:     it gets good, bad, you know, as great to say, but the number of hurricanes helped their cause truth and getting awareness out, you know what I mean? When, when given hurricane season in 2005 as we’re getting with one hurricane, you’ve got two more spitting off the coast of Africa. People are going to pay attention, you know what I mean? It’s kind of what it is now. Converse in a place like the national capital region right now and the Washington D.C. are Emergency management is not quite as high profile. That gets overshadowed by a lot of different things. You because also the federal apparatus, which is huge here, you know what I mean? Which overshadows anything any local jurisdiction does. Um, when a place like Miami, EM had a decent role, compared to other places I’ve seen actually pretty big.

Todd DeVoe:      I think one of the things that I always see with emergency managers… I have talked about this in some other episodes as well, but regarding where do they sit at the table really drives who knows who they are. You know, I think that’s kind of a little bit of the battle.

Tony Alexiou:     I’ll give the national capital region and you know, my, my second sub after Miami was up here and I ended up with Montgomery County emergency management. Montgomery County immediately northwestern Washington D.C.. They have the council of governments here as is very was…. regionalism was big now in the UASI in south Florida, was known it was a four county one state area. The difference here in the national capital region, the UASI was a three series of the you seven counties across three states. So you had three essays you had. No, we have everything pretty much. You know what I mean? Yeah. Three, three state governments had to work within. So, regionalism was paramount, and the council of governments here created what’s had created within the council, but then the UAWG equivalent here is called the ca group of county executive officers. Under they were, there were the top tier of the UASI that the one up here, but within that the number of sub groups, it wasn’t going to lose a police committee of a fire committee. There was an emergency managers committee which was actually quite know I have a decent amount of power mostly because it was the emergency managers that that were in the national capital region

Tony Alexiou:     and I was an exception to this rule where they were. They had been there for years and I worked the way through police services, fire services. They were a known quantity. So based on their own reputation, they were carrying Emergency Management within them within the national capital region to the forefront, to a solid seat that table where they actually did have a voice on funding. Yeah. She did have a voice on how money was going to be allocated and because you’re not dealing with the UASI like in the Miami area, it’s not two counties battling it out. It’s Virginia battling with Maryland ,

Tony Alexiou:     It’s, it’s a different dynamic up here in that regard. And I’m sure in New York City they have the same thing because he watched the main UASI as I recalled it cuts it down a little bit. It used to encompass like New Jersey, New York and of Connecticut as I recall. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what it wasn’t nearly

Todd DeVoe:      New York has to do with the, uh, with the port authority. So being part of that, which is really touches us through the tristate area for sure.

Tony Alexiou:     UASI ask that again. I didn’t take. That was great. And since the Great Recession Came Rolling through rolling through those governments changed what have you, what it is,

Tony Alexiou:     You know, it’s been pretty, pretty stable to. Has Been Pretty… Funding has been pretty stable, but it’s no longer become, you know, when you, when the UASI numbers rolled out in, 04’r, to, 09′ people were excited because they’re like, well, it’s a real money coming in and that’s what it was. And a lot of smaller jurisdictions that was your life, but life blood for emergency management. That’s not the case anymore. And no one is relying on this money anymore. It’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s an extra thing that’s there, but it’s not the end all and be all anymore because also you’ve only buy so many ATCs

Todd DeVoe:      Some of the jurisdictions, you know, there was some, I don’t want to call it abuse but maybe misuse of what the funding was for. I won’t say who it is. You could probably do a google search and find out pretty quickly. But there was a certain fire department back east that bought popcorn machines for all of their fire department for other stations. And they said it was for public outreach and that’s not really good.

Tony Alexiou:     I do remember hearing about that actually. I don’t actually remember who it was to be honest with you. I do remember hearing about that way back when. There was one in the Midwest where they were spending UASI money on a museum or something like that. You know what I mean? Thankfully this stuff gets caught in, the money gets straightened out and you know, whatever the consequences are there doled out. Yeah, it’s a shame that there are cases like that in every, in every industry, you are always going to have people trying to pull a fast one

Todd DeVoe:      and you’re right. Like I said, I don’t think it was. I don’t want to say it was, it wasn’t illegal. I just think that they were just misusing what it really meant for in the idea of what public outreach money was for, but that’s neither here nor there and you’re right, but it’s just what you saw though was the UASIs that we’re not being good stewards of their money were the ones that when they looked at chopping the UASI and those are the ones that went first and then the ones that are sticking around, like the Orange County one for instance. We’ve always been good stewards of the UASI money here spend and what you’re supposed to do in the group. The good investment justification forms know those things to the tea pretty much and that’s why we are rewarded with still being a UASI area today.

Tony Alexiou:     Absolutely. That’s a big role in it. The size of the jurisdiction is a big role too. You know, during the heyday Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, pitched a fit that they were, their needs were different than Miami and they should have their own use and they hired a lobbyist. They had, I don’t remember the congressman was a congress and a, I want to say it was 2007 or 08′ were they split the UASI. And that was to Miami’s chagrin because while they didn’t split the money, some money that went to Fort Lauderdale

Tony Alexiou:     and then 2009 rolls around and you know UASI starts to dry up, places like Fort Lauderdale are the first ones to get.. One of the first ones to get cut. Because it’s like, okay, you know, and there was for a little while there they had like, I don’t even know how many cities like Omaha, Nebraska. It was a, you know, and everybody, it was originally, it was 10 cities, New York, DC, Houston, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and Atlanta I think if I was not mistaking. Those are the originals. And then from there as more money became available and stuff expanded, but you know, realistically, you know, New York City and the DC area as a far more target. Which areas and you know, Fargo, North Dakota, we need that. At least not. Not for what UASI was meant for.

Todd DeVoe:      It’s funny too because like, like looking at the ways different UASIs do things like the Los Angeles, UASI is run completely different from the way we run it in Orange County with regionalization and the collaboration that’s there and I found that really kind of funny when you talk to people in L.A. County and they go, oh yeah, well L.A. Doesn’t really play too well because they don’t share their money, but they don’t a different. Just a different mindset I think.

Tony Alexiou:     Yeah, it is and it’s just a Big City mindset. I’ve heard the same thing for New York City, you know, wherever the emergency manager was appointed in time apparently, and I don’t know this for a fact, second third hand story was whenever the region complained about it and he’s like, you know what? We’re New York. It was kind of what it is. What are you going to do? It was a very New York attitude is what it was. Yeah,

Tony Alexiou:     it was a. It was fun times. still it’s still, it’s still a factor, but it’s not. It’s not the factor than it used to be about 10 years ago, you know

Todd DeVoe:      One of the conversations that I was having with some people over dinner at the IAEM conference over there in Grand Rapids, and somebody made a bold statement and I really think it’s a bold statement, but started chewing on it for a little bit. I started thinking maybe this might be true, and they’re saying that emergency management, this is their statement, I won’t say who it is again, because I do not want to oust them. They said that emergency management is going to move away from being, um, city owned employees or municipal owned employees to contractors for the most part. Do you think that’s a true statement?

Tony Alexiou:     I think to some degree it might be, uh, it’s easier to hire contract to hire new staff, you know, and we’d have, we had that situation. I was Montgomery County, and I love Montgomery County, great guys. They’re uh, the director, there is a very close friend of mine. Government is government is what it is. And there’s a process for hiring somebody for finding the funding and the, uh, the job descriptions and this and that. It’s a process. What you have to hire somebody full time with benefits and everything, hiring a contractor is much simpler. You have the money aside, you put an RFP out of the contract, were to use a junior planner, a for a year and you can wrap it up within a month usually, whereas a three month or four month process and hiring new people in emergency management, as a full employee in a government agency is a much more involved process.

Tony Alexiou:     That being said, now I’ve spoken to you about the competition about this as well, where it’s the fear is that a contract is not as invested. No jurisdiction as an actual employee would be a contractor. Now I, I don’t agree with that. You know, and granted I do contract work because I get paid to do it. That’s great, but if you do this kind of work, it takes. It takes a person with a certain mindset. You know what I mean is it’s one thing to say you’re an emergency manager, but actually do this thing. You live this and be able to spend days upon days and the EOC or do whatever it takes a mindset whether or not you’re a contractor or a government employee, you’re going to have the same mindset at the end of the day. Good or bad. I guess the future we’ll say at the end of the day, be honest with you, but I do believe that it’s much closer to a hybrid model. I think. I don’t think it’s going to be ever be a point where it’s privatized. Emergency Management. I, I can’t do that happening ever, but I see contract is being playing a much larger role. Uh, if for nothing else just cost savings.

Tony Alexiou:     or for, you know, to be hired for a 10 person office for example, and supplementing as need be for larger exercise of we’re a big plan for, you know, and it dissipated rough fire season, for example, or whatever the case may be. You know what I mean? Because it’s also easier to when the work is ending to let those people go versus the staff members, especially in government, they’re there.

Todd DeVoe:      I can see that ramping up easily for what’s going on up in northern California specifically and when 64 percent of your city is burnt to the ground and you need to bring people in and the people who live there are affected by that, that fire as well I can really see the usefulness of bringing in seasoned contractors to, uh, to manage that as people are getting back on their feet. That makes sense.

Tony Alexiou:     Absolutely. Quite frankly, in a place like northern California right now, you just need the extra people. You need the help. I don’t care how big your jurisdiction is and how many people you have working for you as full time staff. At some point you just need the help. Some point, someone who’s used to sleep a few hours, you know what I mean? It’s like it needs someone to take over that position and the extra body. So something that’s huge. Yeah, absolutely. You know, when the hurricanes were rolling through Miami and my content and get, we’ll bring people in, people in from other, other projects we had across the country to help out needed the bodies, that is one advantage of a contractor, get them in, get them out, they’re not there after the emergency is over, where’s there really isn’t anything to do.

Todd DeVoe:      So that makes sense because realistically if you do have a contract with a company and then something goes sideways, you can ramp up additional staffing fairly quickly compared to begging for Mutual Aid people to come up to, to help out.

Tony Alexiou:     Absolutely. At Montgomery I was a big proponent of, EMAC. And it was great and the region was fantastic. Not just the national capital region but Montgomery. We tapped into the state of Maryland and Baltimore region. It was, it was, it was always resources available if we needed them. Um, but I’ve always had a cadre of contractors kind of in my back pocket for that reason alone. If I had a disaster in Montgomery, chances are that they have the same disaster in Baltimore or something or they’re affected by it. So they probably can’t give me 20 bodies. I need give me two or three or they might, you know, if I’m asking, advisors might like, well, you know what, I can’t give you any, can you give me 4 of yours? Then it is the battle of resources that may not. I reached into my back pocket to let a couple of contractors and I’m good to go for that. That was good to go for the particular period of time, you know, like during…. We had a, it was a straight line wind events. Montgomery County is called a derecho. I had never heard that word before until it happened to us here.

Tony Alexiou:     And that was just like a hurricane. It was something unreal. I can’t, I don’t even know what, you know. The funny thing is we’re watching the radar. There’s a storm coming in. The storm came in from the west. The radar was going over West Virginia and the storm just kind of disappeared. Like, oh, okay, well it’s good news. And I’m like, okay, whatever. Maybe it’s breaking up or something like that. Uh, the weather service was like, no, I don’t think so. But we don’t see our radar either anymore. So we’ll see how it turns out. It gives us about an hour half later within the storm was so strong that it knocked out the weather monitoring just in West Virginia.

Tony Alexiou:     Yeah, it was just like it was, it was, is obliterated. And I remember I was actually home, I was reading my, in my oldest I was reading or bedtime story, 8:00 or so, and have nowhere the windows you start rallying. So we got the power goes out. The director gave me a call. I was like, yeah, we’ve got to go. I’m like, well obviously, so I’ll see you there at the EOC. And that was a two week of that, you know, power outages and the county were like 98 percent and we’re going to stay that way for a little while because it wasn’t just power lines went down, there was severe damage at the county. Um, at the time we had a nine personnel EM department. Now granted we were pulling in people from transportation department, other departments in the county to help out. But uh, that was one of my big contract.

Tony Alexiou:     I just need the people, you know what I mean? After the fourth day sitting in the EOC, you haven’t been living crappy sandwiches. They haven’t showered like that I just need like 5 hours…`was one of those events and even debris removal situation afterwards, the windshield service, all that kind of stuff. It was a massive effort and it was just, it was required. We went it. Baltimore wasn’t going to help us. So at that point they had the same storm, they were as bad a shape are we were in. Same thing with DC. Everyone was hurting there. then it was a battle to get Contractors at that point in time. It was like, you know, what would you have the best relationship with, they are going to get the people. .

Todd DeVoe:      So tell me a little bit about your, uh, your company and what you do right now.

Tony Alexiou:     The Triage Group. We’ve been, I’ve been with them about two years or so. It’s a familiar technology group and they brought me on to build out their homeland security emergency management practice, which I actually am having a lot of fun doing it because we’re not just looking at emergency management in the traditional sense as well.

Tony Alexiou:     We do a client that we do some planning, training, exercise, all that kind of stuff. We take our technology roots and put it within emergency management where we can, um, yeah, one of our clients wants us to help them develop an APP that can map people out of their other buildings or facilities during an emergency, uh, being an active shooter, if they had a fire be whatever the case may be. We’re still a way away from, from listing as it is been fully developed? But it’s, it’s, it’s stuff like that, what we’re doing and we’re realizing and I realized actually while working here the importance of things like artificial intelligence and emergency manager, technology is a whole and how it’s not being utilized as right as it could be. You know, an emergency manager has been at this for a while and this was generation above us for example.

Tony Alexiou:     That’s where they, that’s where they’ve grown up with, you know, they, they, they still believe in the old school white board, you know, brute force stuff, which works as well, which works very well as it is, you know, work with Rick over and all hands. His whole thing was, you know, he didn’t believe in computers just like I have my stubby pencil and I’m going to figure everything out there, and he did because that’s what his generation did. That was great and it worked out well. However, we have all these tools at our fingertips these days, you know, where we can we can take that’s just so much as putting out an emergency alert, but sitting of Geo fencing, for example, to capture people that are coming in and out of your alert area that may already work new system. We’re capturing, you know, cell phone signals or GPS signals, we can get an alert out to people that are even just driving through your county if there’s an emergency that matter. Um, artificial intelligence and detection stuff and in algorithms where, you know, we’re, we’re an issue is where a person shouldn’t walk towards the be able to walk away or using beacons to guide people away from the emergency away from a hot zone. Okay. Uh, that’s kind of stuff that we’re doing right now, which I find fascinating. And I said, I’m having some traditional stuff which is still very much enjoy it. Um, the technology stuff. It’s to me, it’s just I’m learning something new every day. It is phenomenal. And it’s a very underutilized in our field.

Todd DeVoe:      Well, I think it’s going to grow, number one, the new EM coming up behind us they grew up on technology

Tony Alexiou:     that’s going to be a whole different game with these guys. It,

Todd DeVoe:      we’re moving into self-driving cars, moving into self-driving tractor trailers, we are moving in to this stuff here. And, and I’m interested enough, Mary Jo Flynn, who is from Sacramento County, EM, she, um, she does a whole thing about technology and emergency management. Uh, she’s a really techie person, but she also goes in the fact that we have to plan for, you know, these things because when there’s a large scale fire, um, sometimes the, the GPS issues get all jacked up. They’re pushing people into where the fires are and if we don’t understand that and know how to get in front of it where we could actually have people driving with their GPS and it says, oh, the quickest reps this way and they’re going into the danger zone instead of out of the danger zone. And so we really need to get in front of that.

Tony Alexiou:     Absolutely. I absolutely agree. And I’ve seen, you know, I’m sure you’ve seen the videos to YouTube, you know, people in Oakland, California trying to escape from the urban driving through these, you know, these fields of fire blazing next to them and stuff like that. You know what I mean? It’s like, it’s amazing. And the fact that we can see that these days too, which you know, five years ago, unless you were in there, you had no concept what was actually going on to try to find that technology. We’re not only by, you know, not only where GPS can say, okay, the best the least traffic this way, but to realize that is the least traffic because the road is on fire.

Tony Alexiou:     That’s, that’s, that’s suddenly, that’s step we need to take. I think we’re quite there, but we’re closer than we think it is. I’m like within the next five years we’re going to see a big revolution in technology and emergency management. I believe. And even you mentioned self-driving cars, you know, something as simple as a windshield survey. Post disaster. No, I mean to be able to send cool cooler, a Google car, you know, into a, into debris zone, you know, I don’t have to worry about someone getting. The car’s not going to step in a live power lines. It’s not going to get trampled by a falling trees. So, I cannot go to drown or fallen off a cliff or something like that as a person. You know what I mean? Worst case, I lose a car. I don’t lose a live person. I don’t expose a live person to the dangers that I don’t need to expose them to. I can get the same information, you know? And if I, you know, for remote control of the camera on the roof, I could probably get a 365, three 360 view than I would if it. I sent somebody out there looking for themselves.

Todd DeVoe:      Think about drones as well.

Tony Alexiou:     Well, exactly. It’s weird I don’t think about using drones in the national capital region, there’s restrictions on airspace around here. So drones aren’t that prevalent around here for that reason. Um, but yes, the, the application outside of the national capital region is huge.

Todd DeVoe:      Take a look at some of the footage that they’ve given us already from the uh, from the fires up in northern California and in Malibu. You know, when they, when they throw the drones over there and getting again if you’re using it. And when I talk about using drones, I’m not talking about having, you know, laypersons use the drones. I’m talking about piloting drones that the emergency managers or somebody in that field using. They’re using these drones and again you’re putting, you know, you are not putting a pilot at risk for crashing. If we lose a drone with a syndrome and we can, we can replace that and it’s easier to replace equipment that has replaced people, you know, so we’re not losing humans into that area but we’re still getting that intelligence and probably, like you said, probably even better than having eyes on because we’re getting a 360 degree view of this thing at the time. And we can even stop it as and zoom in on things. So that’s, I think it’s important and I think that as emergency managers, we need to embrace the new technology that’s coming up.

Tony Alexiou:     Absolutely. A) for its efficiency and B) for its safety factors. Truthfully. I would rather have a planner in the EOC doing what they need to do there rather than having to drive through potential what could be potential fire zone. So you know what I mean, like taking northern California, you know, an area where the fire has just been put out. It could be…under the debris it could be fire still going, I’m ready to get going again no matter what. You know what I mean? You have somebody there doing a windshield survey and the fire erupts again, that is a bad scene, you know, granted it wouldn’t be sending in a trained pilot into that situation. You know what I mean? No matter how trained you are, things happened. I’d rather lose a car if, if it came down to it.

Todd DeVoe:      So if somebody is trying to get a hold of you guys to learn more about what you do, how can they find you?

Tony Alexiou:     Well was all kinds of ways. First and foremost, our website, www,triagegroup.com . What did email me directly? Tonya@triagegroup.com. We’re also on Facebook, Facebook/group. We’re also on LinkedIn and on twitter and we also put out a biweekly newsletter. I’m not what we do is over the course of every two weeks and try to find articles on not use emergency manager, but we also do with transportation and healthcare, a cutting edge stuff that we’ve seen the research that’s happening, discussion that’s going on and we try to get as many people as possible to kind of extend the conversation and show new ways of thinking. Consultant should be asked to do a for that from our, from our Facebook page or twitter account as well. Now, aside from that, we do as much outreach as we can. We’re doing stuff like podcasts and then being on panels and stuff like that. Firstly, I’m starting, I’m writing an emergency management field, operations guide. Slowly putting it together and my lack of spare time, but I figured it probably could. You might be finished by the time I am 60 at the rate I’m going right now, but I’ve always kind of wanted. When I was. When I was in the government side of the business and I never really had there is FOGs for fire, there’s FOGs for police. There’s a role for all for all of emergency services, but I haven’t found a decent one for emergency management. That kind of covers the gambit. I’ve been one Page. I want a one book, just a quick reference guide. So then just one of those things. This is a side project that now between work and all kinds of stuff, it kind of gets done. So at the rate I’m going right now about 60 I will be finished, but I’ll let you know what it’s actually done. We understand that for sure.

Tony Alexiou:     What it is, what it is. We’re also starting a teaming up with a buddy of mine named Spencer Hopkins, the Emergency Manager for uh, Bibb county down in Macon, Georgia. A starting her own podcast, the beginning of the year called inside the EOC, which could have you on at some point to actually get to that point.

Todd DeVoe:      Sure.

Tony Alexiou:     it’s a. So we’re doing a lot of cool stuff right now and uh, you know, I’d love nothing more than to talk with other colleagues and trade ideas and how we can all work together to make emergency management better, more efficient, better for the people that we serve and safer for the practitioners.

Todd DeVoe:      Alright. Here’s the hardest question of the day. What book or publication do you recommend to somebody in emergency management?

Speaker 1:           Funnily enough, it’s not emergency management book. I’m also doing work on a lot of stuff like that. And I came across this book called the rise and grind, Damon and escaped me. The guy from shark tank, FUBU. The book is, it’s actually a sales book technically, but there’s so many applications to emergency managers in that book that the parallel was amazing. And I do recommend to emergency managers, not so much for the sales side of it, but it just reminds them that we have to, we have to succeed with sometimes nothing. We have to be MacGyver’s in ours. We have to adapt at a moment’s notice,

Tony Alexiou:     have a like, you know, and even if you think we’ve got it all figured out, we need to have three or four audible, sitting in our back pocket just in case and even that point be ready to improvise and that’s Damon’s point in this book overall in terms of how to create sales and have it create opportunities, but it’s the applications and emergency management I think are exactly the same when it comes down to it, you know, and, and, and no matter how rich a jurisdiction you worked for, at some point it’s going to be a resource you, and you cannot have or you don’t have a and you have to make, do well. You have to figure out a way around it. And that’s really what it comes down to with emergency management. You know, we’re the MacGyver’s of the group. We’ve got to figure it out no matter what. And that’s, I would recommend that book for that reason alone. It’s an emergency managers, very interesting book to hearing his story and everything like that. But that’s here nor there.

Todd DeVoe:      He does have a good story that’s for sure.

Tony Alexiou:     Yeah, he does have a good story. Pretty much started. Yeah, we started with nothing and kind of worked his way out, but it’s a very American dream kind of story, but it’s, you know, it just, it’s, it’s an opportunity to just illustrates the man that took advantage of opportunities and when he didn’t have the opportunity he made them, you know, and that’s what emergency managers have to do it. Same thing as well. You don’t have, you know, the resources, you create a workaround and that’s what it is. That’s what we do.

Todd DeVoe:      So is there anything before we let you go that you’d like to say directly to the emergency manager out there?

Tony Alexiou:     You know, it’s a tough job is a thankless job because when there’s no emergency you have a council member or a senior leader or something like that saying, well we haven’t had a hurricane or an earthquake or a fire or something in a few months. Why are you here?

Tony Alexiou:     I say you got to stick it out. It is courage and strength then explained that the planning process and the preparation process is just as important, if not more important than the response. In the off times if you’re not practicing. You’re not refining your response efforts when you do need that. It’s not going to work the way you want it. It’s actually going to go backwards at the end of the day as he same elected official that we’ll be hearing from the people. Why did the emergency managers do, but if it needs to do or why does that go well? And for them to say, well, you know what, we didn’t fund them because there was nothing going on. It’s not going to cut it either for that. So show them as well.

Tony Alexiou:     No, but for us, for us in our field, it’s a tough job. It’s many times a thankless job, but it’s an important one. And you know, it’s the job that after we do it at the end of the day, no matter what happens in the EOC or the response, you know, we can all their head down to our pillows and we can sleep well because, you know, we’ve done the best that we can. I see the people that help the people in our jurisdiction, and save life and property. That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. Life especially much more than property. But that’s part of the game as well.

Todd DeVoe:      Tony, thank you so much for being here today and I’d love to have you on again sometime.

Tony Alexiou:     Yeah, I’d appreciate that very much. I greatly thank you very much for the chance to, uh, share my thoughts and my stories with you and your audience.

Links

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-triage-group-llc/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TriageGroup?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thetriagegroup/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/173039226847154/the-triage-group/

Website: https://www.triagegroup.com/

Email: tonya@triagegroup.com

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