Hi, and welcome to EM Weekly. This is Todd DeVoe, your host, with a special guest, Steve Detwiler from… well, right now, he’s working in Miami in Emergency Management. So Steve, why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself, and what you do, and your background?
[INTERVIEWEE] Well, like you said, I work in Miami right now… I work for the Miami Dade County Office of Emergency Management. I’m… the technical title I have is Community Recovery Planner. Basically, I’m responsible for the recovery program that includes working with the State and the Federal government when we have a federal disaster declaration, and public systems, and individual systems. I also get involved in the maintenance of the recovery plan, and the 12 recovery function that we have, as well as the post-disaster development plan, and also, I work with our regulatory and economic resources department on the maintenance and update of the companies’ Master Plan, which is more or less our urban planning for the county. I’m also responsible for the public part of the partnership for Miami Dade County, that includes working with several partners, before, during and after a disaster. And it mainly involves sending out information, looking for partners, knowing what’s going on, training them to be better prepared for disasters, and also maintaining ESF18, which is our business and industry heat within an emergency operation. I’m also responsible… I share that role with my counterpart, the infrastructure branch director, or EOC activation. So, I’m responsible for… basically, our infrastructure related agencies, such as waste management, regulatory and economic resources, a part of the stations department, the ESF18, the department of public transportation… basically, the agencies that make sure that we have our overall infrastructure intact, so we recover as quickly as we can. Also, our water and waste water agency, which is the water and sewer department in Miami Dade County.
[TODD] You have a lot of hats on! So, a couple of conversations that we’ve had in the past, and I kind of want to get into that, and then I want to dive in a little bit more about the public-private partnership, and how that helps out with recovery. But I want to start off with, what do you think the future of emergency management is, and specifically, with some of the education programs and what not. Kind of give your background with the IAEM a little bit, International Association of Emergency Managers, some of the work you’ve done with them and the education process.
[INTERVIEWEE] Well, in terms of the future of emergency management, it’s probably going to go more towards normal planning. I lot more resiliency planning, that’s probably going to be the biggest issue that we deal with in the 21st century. Climate change, whether you believe it or not, it’s going to happen. Miami County is especially vulnerable to climate change in terms of sea level rise, temperature increases… we’re already very… in terms of South Florida, we’re very proactive. We take it very seriously, we’ve had… soon we’re going to start with either elevating the whole city, or elevating parts of the city, or… you know, they’re taking Miami Beach, trying to pump out dusty water, in terms of storms, or in terms of high tide that comes into the city. We’re already experiencing some of that now. So, it’s really going to be more tied to the… the profession is still going to continue to respond to recoveries of disasters, but it really needs to start shifting, I think you’ll start seeing that shift, and say: ok, what could happen in disaster risk reduction, and put more effort into recovery, and also, more importantly, in mitigation. We need partners in international level. Their work for mitigation and disaster risk reduction or resiliency planning… it kind of goes very far in the line in terms of those… we talk about that a lot. The EM’s will say: oh, you’re talking about mitigation! But it’s in terms of building our infrastructure, building up a system… a common example would be a 100 states city initiative, with the Rockefeller Foundation, they’ve been… it’s not really… not precisely an EM program, but the Rockefeller Foundation program is more designed to increase the resiliency of the city overall; that includes being prepared for crime increases, food shortages, water shortages, growing as a city and being able to do adequate urban planning to accommodate new populations coming into the city. So, it’s kind of a whole community approach, to not only disasters, but also the regular growth. I think you’ll start seeing the profession headed that direction. We’ll still be very busy, because there are always going to be parts of the country that are behind other parts, you know. Florida, as you can imagine, has always been very proactive in terms of emergency management. It’s kind of interesting, in terms of climate change for us, that usually the cities and the counties are very proactive about it. We take it very seriously, because most of us are coastal counties, especially our major population centers, Miami, Jacksonville… Orlando is the exception. But most of the cities take it very seriously, because we’re going to be the first ones to feel it. Well, we are feeling now. But in terms of the state, they’re less proactive about that; it’s more in terms of a topic exam, as opposed to necessity. But that’s probably where you’ll see a lot more… in terms of trainings, in terms of profession, kind of more of an emphasis on that. I am from the International Association of Emergency Managers, I’ve been involved with EM since, I think, 1999. Don’t quote me on that date, but I started out… we didn’t have many members back then. It was just… you joined the association, I was very active in the association for a lot of years. I started as a chair for the biological community for a couple of years, I served as a chair for the actions and functional meetings for another year, as well as co-chair. And I’ve always been very active in the association, I served on the governor’s service committee. So, when we were dealing with a lot of issues post-Katrina, I was very active in the committee, in terms of helping out. We were at the committee, we were putting together testimonies for Congress, for the Katrina, in terms of what happened afterwards, and what were some of the best vehicles in providing testimonial when they were first coming out in the national recovery frame water guard, national response framework, and we were providing a lot of that. I was also on… when IAEM was first created, I put together a special committee, to not only look at the documents, but also provide extra fees, and comments back to the association. Basically, it’s more about the association. Me, as well as another emergency managers at the committee, we were basically the experts relatively to the association, and we kept on coming back, and family would also provide comments for FEMA. So, FEMA would come down to say: what’s the local emergency management perspective? And then, we would be responsible for commenting on the document, comment back to FEMA. When we had been doing… I’m kind of taking a step back in terms of the committee, cause I’ve been doing it for so long. More dealing with the IAEM Dispatch, which is the new Newsletter, so every Tuesday I get an e-mail and I provide articles for their postings on that, as the editor of the Emergency Management Weekly Report, which is what I’ve been spending a lot more of my time on, than I have in previous years. Only because it’s… it can take up a lot of my time. And in terms of education, one of the things I’ve seen in the profession on the last… probably 10 years, is more of an emphasis on education. When I first came in the profession, most of the jobs that were out there just required a high school diploma.
[INTERVIEWEE] Only a couple required a college education. I had college education, I came into it, and then over the last 10 years I’ve seen a transition where everybody was required a college education. And a number of schools… when I started the profession, there was probably less than a handful of colleges that actually offered an EM degree, and that of course, boomed over the last 10 years, and now there’s hundreds of programs out there, all over the world, offering Bachelor’s degree, Associate degrees, Masters degrees, and then of course, PhD. I’m working on my Masters right now, only because I started to see more of a transition. A lot of jobs are coming out now, are starting to ask for… either preferred or required, a Master’s degree. So, I’m starting to keep up with the changes in the profession myself, so…
[TODD] You know, I find interesting… excuse me. What I find interesting is… I obviously… most people know, but I’ll clarify again. I did teach at a community college, a coast side community college in Orange County, although we are an online program, so we are national. We do have students from the military as well. But I have seen like, this really big jump in the Masters programs, and we have a few of the associates programs, but there’s really that middle ground of a Bachelor’s degree, that still needs to be short up. And I don’t have any answers to why that is, and we’ve had long conversations about that, there’s only few programs out there. There’s some decent programs out there; but there’s not a lot of Bachelor’s degrees, so I always found that kind of interesting in the education side. So, as far as the education… what do you think that the students coming now with a degree in Emergency Management, Homeland Security, or sometimes a combo degree… but what are they lacking when they come out of school and they get into the field?
[INTERVIEWEE] Probably, the biggest thing is experience. Speaking of someone who once was the supervisor… I’m not one anymore, too much stress for me, but it’s probably the experience. They come in, they have a good degree, and then some of them do take the extra initiative and the hustle. They go out and they intern, or you know, like I find a little work here and there in other agencies… but a lot of kids, they’re coming in… they were interns for other offices, and they have no experience whatsoever. And I think it goes back… no offense to the schools, but I think it goes back to the schools. I mean, they’re kind of focused on getting a degree, which is important, and I know it’s very time consuming, there’s a lot of stuff that goes in there, and they don’t really… I don’t think they give as much thought as giving the students an opportunity to get experience as well. I’ve been through that too, when I went to school. The interesting thing with my school, when I got my Bachelor’s degree, is when I told them what I wanted to do for a living, they didn’t know what that was. So, there’s a… educational piece of that, I had to kind of tell them… this is what it was, and they really still didn’t understand it. And most people don’t, I mean… a funny story is… I asked my little cousin what I do, and he goes: oh, you’re the safety guy, right? No… and that’s very common, it took my family years to figure out what I do, you know? And really, when they saw me on television, we were doing a show, and they were like: Steve is on TV! And they kind of got an idea of what I do and why I’m so busy. They were like: why aren’t you answering us? And I’m like: cause I’m working!
[TODD] Right. Yeah, I’ve been with my wife for 20 years, and I think sometimes she doesn’t know what I do, so… it’s funny.
[INTERVIEWEE] The biggest thing with the colleges is… I mean, there’s probably some opportunities, you know? Some colleges have EM offices that they care of preparedness for the candidate, and I’m starting lot more of that… that’s kind of the growing sectors, most of the colleges started realizing: we need an emergency manager on campus we can’t just have the… it’s a whole other discipline that we need to do that, and a lot of these campus are really taking it very seriously. But you know, because of that, there’s also… some of these schools actually do have a degree program in EM, and they have all these students. Like, grab them, get them involved in the program, maybe make them temporary student points, give them a job! I mean, internship helps give them an idea of what’s going on, but when you go out into the real world, it’s not going to… it’s only a little bit, and they’re really looking for that real experience, real world experience. So, when we’re interning, sometimes we get a chance to really try and experience, and deepen, and we really get a chance to really learn a lot. But sometimes you’re not so lucky, so, they really want that kind of real world experience, and I think the colleges really need to figure out a way to do that, to kind of step up and say: ok, we need to make sure our students are more prepared for the real world. And some of the students, they take it seriously, they know what the stakes are, they step up. They volunteer for a cause, they volunteer at the fire department. I mean, I volunteered at the fire department when I was in college. It didn’t really… in terms of getting a job in EM, but it gave me some idea of what goes on in terms of emergency services. I understand that part of that.
[TODD] Are you familiar with Team Rubicon?
[TODD] Ok, cool. The reason why I ask is, I know TR does a great job with getting volunteers on the ground, and really getting them a hands-on experience managing disasters, and I think it’s a really great organization for those who want to be emergency managers, to really get involved in, because they do respond internationally too, in some cases, but any other large scale disasters around the United States. I think it’s a good program, so… anyways.
[INTERVIEWEE] Somebody told me they have operations over in Greece right now, they’re providing refugee health care.
[TODD] Yes, yes.
[INTERVIEWEE] Yeah, but anytime we have a big disaster, we always have operations responding to that hurricane or that tornado, so… I mean, they’re a pretty diverse group. Unfortunately, I never worked with them. I haven’t had a disaster yet where I had Tim come in. When I was in FEMA they were active, but when I worked in Orlando, they hadn’t built up yet, and it wasn’t until I got to FEMA, they were starting to build the program. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked with them yet. I’m kind of looking forward to it.
[TODD] Yeah, I had the opportunity to work with the guys on a couple of occasions, and they’re a really good group of guys and girls, both. Yeah, so, I just thought of that as an opportunity. It’s funny, cause a lot of people think it has to be a veteran, but it’s not that way with them specifically, but they’re… there are a lot of veteran guys and they definitely have that go-get-it mentality in the organization. But they are a good group of people to learn from, for sure. So, we actually… with the operation Hermes, I’m going to be interviewing one of the doctors, in one of the upcoming episodes, regarding that event over there, what they do, as far as they go.
[INTERVIEWEE] Oh, good.
[INTERVIEWEE] When I first started the profession, there was maybe like, a handful… not a handful, but there was a good number of NGOs to work with, but now… the kind of disasters that just… we’ve seen a huge spike in the last couple years. The number of hurricanes we’ve responded to, and they’re getting bigger, they’re getting stronger… and tornados and what not. The number of NGOs has just spiked. We’ve got NGOs… I mean, I’ve responded to my share of disasters, of course, and every time I do, you have NGOs come out of the wood, where you haven’t even heard of them before, and they’re knocking on the door, like: hey, we want to help! So, I mean, they’re out there. It’s a question of the students going out and finding them. It might be just a question of the universities to kind of partner with some of these guys, ,and get their students more involved, maybe have a chat on the campus, where they do employment in the area. There’s definitely an opportunity there, it’s just a question of getting them to do it.
[TODD] Right. Well, the Red Cross guys does that, they’re really good at that. They have the college chapter Red Cross groups and stuff. I know mostly they kind of run the blood dries and stuff like that, seems to be what they do. But they do more than that, and they can do more than that, so that is a really good idea, as far as universities and colleges having clubs, disaster clubs. And you can even do the campus programs, those are kind of getting popular as well, you know. I know in some universities there’s a pushback regarding certain programs, which I really find kind of interesting. I was actually talking to the college administrator, regarding a certain program in Orange County, California, and they were resistant of having their students be disaster responders. I didn’t really say much, I just kind of shook my head a little bit, but… think about this, these kids that are in college are the same ages of kids that are joining the Marine, the Navy, and what not, responding to all things around the world; and, as soon as you turn 21 you can be a cop or a firefighter, and some of these guys become cops or firefighters, and some of them are working as EMTs and paramedics right now, in order to get themselves through college, you know? It just kind of makes me laugh a little bit, “no, we don’t want the students to have…”, it was… the person I was speaking to was actually the resident director of one of the universities… and you know, they don’t want the students to be responding, they want to make sure they’re being taken care of, so… just made me laugh a little bit, so…
[INTERVIEWEE] I mean, you know as well… in terms of being emergency manager in a college campus is infinitely different than being an emergency manager for jurisdiction. I’ve known a few EM’s that work in that environment, and they always tell me: “yeah, you have no idea”. It’s completely different, you have to look at things in a different way, and approach the professors, because it’s not a priority to do that. We have a hard time understanding that.
[TODD] There was actually a professor tell me one time directly that the safety of the students isn’t his responsibility. And I kind of shook my head at that one too. I was like, wow, that’s completely our responsibility! You know? When we’re in the classroom… that’s… you know, we’re responsible for the classroom!
[INTERVIEWEE] Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just going to walk around the whole day, I don’t know what I’m doing.
[TODD] And now, a word from our sponsors. Welcome back from the commercial.
[TODD] So, what kind of jobs do you see… I mean, I know, everybody who goes into emergency management… I shouldn’t say everybody… the vast majority of people, always think of… you know, working for a city, or a school district, maybe; some sort of municipality, maybe a fire department, police department, whatever. But what kind of jobs else do you think are out there for people who are interested in becoming emergency managers?
[INTERVIEWEE] Well… I’m going to laugh into… it’s not a real political analogy, it’s just an observation in terms of some of… someone who’s been in the profession for 17 or so years. Traditionally, I started at as a consultant. I worked for 2 years, and we were working with FEMA, the district of Columbia, and also did a little bit of work with the Office of Homeland Security in the White House, before it became the Department of Homeland Security. So… historically, in terms of… cause right now, consultants, there’s only a few consultants. There’s only a few businesses that actually do consultancy. There’s a lot of smaller ones, but the larger ones, like where I used to work, there’s only a couple of them left these days. Because a lot of that… you know, specially… and this is where the political comment plays. In terms of EM, generally speaking, in a broad sense, usually the democrats are more up to hire a large EM bureaucracy, being like a local government. They like to hire government employees for that. And usually, the Republicans, they hire… they like to keep their governments small, and they like to have consultants to complement that. So, we’re waiting to see how this plays out, and you and I talked about this, in terms of the new FEMA administrator, it depends on who the new FEMA administrator is going to be. Obviously, when the other administrator was there, he had… he rebuilt a program for FEMA. And he didn’t have a whole lot of consultants in the headquarters or in the region. There was a couple, I got to work there for three years, so we had… we did use consultants from time to time, but it wasn’t… it was just kind of supplementing, because we were already busy. We didn’t have the time to kind of work on this plan, work on that plan. So, it kind of depends. I mean, consulting is a good way. You know, the biggest firms like I said, they were kicking them when we first get started, and they were working to death. But that’s good. And you pick up a lot. I mean, a lot of the students I got started with, that’s what happened to them. We had one who is actually in the company where I work, and she had a background of environmental scientist. And so: oh no, you’re going to be emergency management no. And she grabbed hold, and she held on. I handed her a cup of tea, but she enjoyed it; she got bit by the bug and she’s still doing it today. And that was close to 17 years ago, and she’s still doing it. So, I mean, it just depends on where we see professions go, and we see kind of more of an outsourcing, we start seeing that… that they start pushing out. And a lot of that, a lot that is tied to the grants. Right now, last couple of years, grants have been kind of shy, they haven’t really had a lot of grants. They’ve been pulling back on a lot of the grants, because the idea was that the program of Homeland Security or what not, was funded for a certain time, and then locals and state take over. So, they’re trying to do that, it just depends on what happens on the last couple of years. We might see more of a turn of grant, we might now. The biggest spike I see is, we see a lot of grant coming out, and we start seeing a lot of consultants being hired. Because we’re all in a high stress work level, and sometimes we don’t have time to work on these projects. We still use consultants here, but it’s a different kind of consultant, so… usually, the Federal government hires a big consulting firm, and the locals and states will hire local firms. They are usually smaller, they’re not the big boys, obviously. They can handle… you know, cause the bigger firms, they like multimillionaire contracts, and the smaller firms… when I worked with consulting, we had… we were a small firm, we had probably a couple… 150 people, and we would do what we called exercise programs, we would go out with all the divisions, and we would to like, a table-top exercise, that would include the district level, the division level, the FEMA region, the states. And it was a bit to do in terms of exercises and core responsibilities during disaster, and also the Federal authorities as well. But we learned a lot. I mean, I still know people today that I met back then, and they’ve gone on to other things, and sometimes they stand in correction, sometimes they don’t. Most of them have. So, don’t work to death, they’ll put you to work, and you’ll learn a lot in a short amount of time. It really just depends on the projects, and whether or not there’s a lot of grant. And now, there’s a lot of grants, there’s sort of a down ship in terms of government jobs, then you’ll start seeing more of an uptick on these consulting firms. That’s probably the biggest… that’s probably the easiest way to get into this. Most of consulting firms, they don’t… you know, for entry-level jobs, they don’t hire saying: “you have to have 5 years of experience”. They’re like: “you’re a warm body, you can learn, get in there and go do it”, a lot of times.
[INTERVIEWEE] And that’s why I always get the students that I mentor, and I steer them in that way. Not lately, because a lot of those jobs have been going up, but in general, that’s what I kind of push them towards to. Some of the government jobs, they really require a couple of years of experience. There are a few entry-level jobs that open up, but I always tell the students that I’m dealing with, I say: you need to be prepared to move. You know? It’s nice if you want to stay here, but you can’t intend on that. You have to go, if there’s a job… not Canada, but let’s say, Alaska or California, you go. And you take that job.
[TODD] And there could be some good jobs in Canada, with some of the well companies and stuff like that, you know?
[INTERVIEWEE] Yeah, but you need to be willing to move, and some of them are kind of… “well, I’m staying here”. “There’s no jobs around here. If you stay out here, you’re going to be competing with 20 other people that have more experience than you. You need to be willing to move, you need to be willing to go where the job goes”. And that’s the biggest kind of pushback I sometimes get from students. They don’t want to move, I’m like: “you gotta. I know… you’re not going to make a lot of money, If you want this profession, you’re going to run out of money, because we don’t make a lot of money”. It’s not for the money, but… you know, and some… when you get your first job, you’re not going to make a lot of money, sometimes you’re going to be living paycheck to paycheck, but… you know, you’re just going to earn your strikes and move up the rank, you’ll get a better pay. If you get more experience and you do more. And I’ve always been a fan of the students to go out and find… go to Canada, go to California, maybe be international, but get that experience, because it helps you in the profession. If you are an emergency manager in Florida all of your life, you only know one perspective. If you’ve done work in Virginia, if you’ve done work in California, or done work in… say, Denver, you’ll learn a lot more, and everybody does the same role, but differently. And it will give you a better perspective, give you a wiser perspective. And you can, a lot of times, apply that to other disasters, as well.
[TODD] Right, I mean…
[INTERVIEWEE] And you become maybe, more versatile.
[TODD] Here, just in California, Northern California is completely different from Southern California. And even South Cal, it’s different from county to county. I’m sure it’s that way in North Cal too. You know, so… it’s…
[INTERVIEWEE] Southern Florida is, of course, very urban, and you know, we are the urban center of the state. And what a lot of people don’t understand about Florida, they think: oh, we’re all like… Orlando, we’re all South Florida. No, probably 90% of the state is mainly rural. You know, you go outside of South Florida, is basically farm land and swamps, and that’s it. And our population is very spread. It’s not… except… with the exception of Jacksonville, South Florida, Central Florida… the population is not a really big population, it’s very small compared to the other populations in Florida. And the most of the state is just rural areas, you know? And most of our emergency manager headquarters, with the exception of South Florida, are very small staffed. Sometimes, on average, you’ll see maybe two people on emergency management offices, and that’s it. We’re an exception, we have about 17 in our office. So, we’re one of the bigger ones. But when I worked in Central Florida, we had six. And that wasn’t enough. We had a population of 190 people, and it still wasn’t enough to deal with all the stuff we needed to do.
[TODD] Yeah, it seems to me like… I guess we’re under staffed on a lot of the stuff you know? All right, I want to roll back a little bit here. And this is kind of… this point of the conversation that we’re having. So, you talked about the public-private partnership, and then we’re talking about… just right now, with the consulting firms. And then I’d like to throw in there the Non-profit Organizations, and also volunteers, I guess. How do you see all of those programs working on the recovery side of a disaster? When I teach my class, because I teach recovery, and I tell my students: this is where the work… for me, this is my opinion. I know that you work in the recovery section. This is where the work really starts to happen, because once we put our fire trucks and our police cars, and all that kind of helicopter stuff coming around, and the news media has gone away… I mean, we still have people to bring back to be as close to whole as possible. How do you see those organizations working in the recovery, since you are in the recovery section?
[INTERVIEWEE] Well, there’s two basic kind of loads, that I think. There are the… what… a lot of times, it’s a significant match, but… there’s the coad concept with the volunteer organizations after a disaster, and then there’s the proud, which is a community organization after a disaster. A lot of the ones I’ve seen over the years have gotten more into the coad concept. Los Angeles is an example that comes to mind. They actually… they have their business EOC, but their business EOC is really just a coad, is really what they do, is they bring in the community organizations, the social services organizations, and they have their businesses, like the consults and what not. But that’s kind of the pitch with that. In terms of Miami County, we’re actually one of the first counties in the state to count with all the recovery functions. And the functions are on the Federal National Disaster Frameworks. They have their recovery functions, and that’s more dealing with long-term recovery. It’s when the declaration… they’ve done all the PA, they’ve done all the IA, and now we still have issues going out there, and we need to figure out how to do it, and now we have to be creative in terms of funding, in terms of approach, and what not. And they’ve have kind of success with that… so, what we did for Miami County, is we did a plan and the recovery support function… we sign… usually the accounting agencies, and then they have a support agency, so… similar to the emergency support function. And then, we’re still… right now, we just got all the recovery support functions signed and my goal for this year is to start doing table-top exercises, and exercising those plans, and kind of reading out in terms of how we’re going to respond. But the idea is, that we would have the recovery function. They would work in what we call the recovery operation plan, which… 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be… it’s going to be a virtual environment. So, we have our own EOC board, this is for recovery, and they would call in… probably every week or so, depending on the size of the disaster, and we would activate the recovery plan, normally we wouldn’t need a recovery period. So, a short term is when we transition from response to recovery, just try to shut down the EOC, and it’s when we start to ramping up the recovery operations. So, they would operate… they would get in a conference call, and we would do situation reports, depending on how active they are, so it can be every day, it could be every week… and then, we would do an action plan, what we call a recovery action plan, and we set up our priorities, our objectives, the operational period; and the operational period can be, of course, every 12 hours. But more likely it’s going to be maybe every week, or every month, it depends on what we’re dealing with. And then, if we have something and we need to transition to long-term recovery, then we would eliminate our post-disaster plan, and we would transition the recoveries report to technical advisory committee. And when getting to that level, it’s more of a political issue, because the technical advisors would recommend actions to the county mayor, and the county mayor is going to be making decisions about what we want to do. The only time we would really activate a post-disaster plan is when we had Andrew, but Andrew hit further North and hit Miami directly, and wiped out the county. That was really the time that we would activate the PDRP, because that’s really dangerous and catastrophic disaster, and now we would have to rebuild the county from scratch. But we never got to do that. I don’t want to be here when we do that, that’s going to be a challenge for sure.
[TODD] For California, that would be the… you know, 8.0 earthquake in San Andreas fault, which would really rip… you know, California a lot, and there would be a lot of that going on.
[INTERVIEWEE] Yeah. And then… like I was saying, the recovery support functions from our private sector partners. We have a Arts and Economics, which deals with the private sector. Which basic led… it right now led by OEM, but we really have our economic development council, which is our beacon council; they’re core to the government, they get some funding to the county. They’re basically in charge of bringing businesses in and retaining businesses in that county. So, they’re going to be working with a whole set of different partners, mainly our chambers of commerce, our small business development center, a couple of other organizations that make sure that we’re putting in place all that we say. We need to keep the businesses here, if there’s a disaster and say, one industry is wiped out, how do we retain those employees so they can still find work? How to we help those businesses that no longer have a market for their product, how do we reengage them, so they can find something else they can sell? And to continue making money?
[INTERVIEWEE] Which is a lot more challenging work, and if it’s not challenging it’s not really fun.
[INTERVIEWEE] In terms of being in EM. A lot of times, people look at us when we say stuff like that, “there’s something wrong with you”.
[TODD] Just to clarify… I know this is as far as it goes, people think we’re crazy, when we’re like: yeah! We want to suck some more, for lack of a better term.
[TODD] Just to clarify for people that are maybe listening to this… you know, that have not a lot of experience in emergency management, but… a lot of the economic issues that occur after a disaster are… we’re not talking about retooling a Target or a Walmart type of thing. It’s a small shop, small manufacturing companies that are out there, that get devastated. And realistically, statistics say, if you can’t get your business up and running within a week after a disaster, you’re probably not going to open shops again.
[TODD] That spread out across the country.
[INTERVIEWEE] Yeah. And most of our businesses in Miami county are phenomenally small businesses. You wouldn’t think that, and there aren’t only small businesses, but a lot share of our businesses are actually agriculture related. Because a lot of people walk in Miami county, and say: you have agriculture? I’m like: yeah, we actually have agriculture. Basically, the whole half of the county is basically farm land. So, basically we grow… I don’t know how much stuff we grow, but… we have a huge agriculture industry, and that’s a major industry in Miami county, so we work a lot with our agriculture extensions, because they’re kind of… the tip of the sword, in terms of working for distributers. They’re going to be dealing with the State Agriculture Department, who in turn, deals with the Department of Agriculture, in terms of requesting declarations. We have one… end of last year, we had a agricultural declaration, an SPA declaration as well, so we work a lot with them as well. But yeah, I mean, for us… we deal with… more in terms, that we have our ESF18, which is in EOC, and then they deal with the response side of it, pushing out information for our businesses. When we’re opening, when we’re closed, when we’re evacuating the county, or… when we’re evacuating parts of the county. And then, when we have a recovery plan, they transition into recovery for economics, and then they’re dealing more with pulse development. They’re not really dealing with pushing the information, and sharing the information. They’re really dealing with: ok, what do we need to do to get our economy back and operational, and what can we do? The biggest thing… I mean, we dealt with this for… because it’s a little weird, but… FDA, and you know, this is when the H1N1 pandemic… FDA will not do an FDA declaration for a public county emergency. Not within the scope of their laws, and their authorities, and their program. They can’t do a declaration for that. So, we were kind of like: ok, what else can we do? We have emergency vigilant in stake, but they won’t do it, because the emergency vigilant is more of a staff measure, until we get an FDA declaration. So, we had to get creative, we actually had one of our smaller organizations step up and do an emergency grant program for some of the businesses that were impacted. Fortunately, they had some impact, and definitely saw a big gift, and turned very special into one of the areas that was under quarantine. Miami Beach had a little bit. But fortunately, it wasn’t too bad. Once the warning was lifted, they started bouncing back. Some of them had higher impacts, but we were lucky this time. But, that’s probably one of the biggest things in terms of… you know, the FDA is not available, what do you come up with? We had to kind of put our heads together with our economic partners, and say: ok, what can we do?
[TODD] Right. Ok. So, real quick here. I want to ask you… so there’s a thing we use in the military… it’s called task and purpose, it’s kind of what your job is, and how you function, that type of thing. So, I’m coming up with my own type of thing here, and I like to call it 3 points of purpose. So, for emergency management, what do you think the three points of purpose are for you?
[INTERVIEWEE] Oh… ok… in terms of 3 points of purpose, probably the biggest thing for me is sharing information, being of assistance to colleagues, and then new employees, or new members of the emergency management profession… and then, also, you know, gaining as much experience, as I talked. I’m always looking for the next kind of opportunity, the next challenge. I’m happy where I am right now, and I don’t plan on leaving or anything… but you know, you’re always kind of hungry for: ok, what can I do next? What can I win that I haven’t won before? And sometimes, that’s personal, you know… I mentioned before I gave the emergency management weekly report, a lot of that is, I do that kind of effort through that entity. So, you know, I push out a lot of information on the profession, and that, of course, is blooming in to now EM information, it’s also blooming into hazard, it’s also going to what’s going on the other side of the world, and international affairs; global security… public health, climate change… so, the thing is, I’m always a big fan of, you know, just because something happened on the other side of the planet, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an impact here at home.
[INTERVIEWEE] And in all these different professions, they’re all interconnected. If we look deep enough, there’s always some kind of connection with that, I mean. If we have a terrorist attack over New York, we’re going to start seeing security here at home. And there’s always going to be stuff going on, even if it doesn’t impact us, but there’s always things we can learn. So, there might be something Europeans did that we never considered, and we go: “oh, I never thought about that! We should try that and see if that works”. So, there’s always like… they’re connected, and everything like that. I think those are probably the three biggest ones for me.
[TODD] That’s awesome! So… sharing information… you know, let me just break it down real quick here. So, that’s sharing information, new challenges and learning from others. That’s awesome. Cause that’s really what it’s all about. I was talking to the president of the university where I currently work, and we had a meeting, and he asked me what the meeting was all about. And I said: well, so this is all a bunch of other schools, and we get together before disaster happens. And you know, so we’re not exchanging our business cards in the day of the disaster. And you know, we’re staying patch to patch, that’s the term we used to use with the police department. We liked to say, touching patches before the disaster. That’s exactly what everything is… that’s awesome. Is there anything else that you’d like to add before you go? Because I already had you here for a bit, and I want to make sure I’m using your time wisely.
[INTERVIEWEE] In terms of like, in the profession, specially the new people coming in there… I’m not getting any money for this, obviously, but of course, I mentioned the emergency managers weekly report. If you want to know what’s going on in the profession… I do my best to push out as much information, and I’m very strategic about what I include and what I push out. I usually push out information that have some kind of impact on the profession, you know? It’s not just: oh, this person retired, or this person just had their mitigation meeting; it’s something that either has an impact on the profession, or maybe changes the dynamics, so new programs, it’s like: oh, we didn’t think about this! You know? “Oh, I didn’t even know about them doing this, maybe I could call this person and find out more about that program”. So, I’m always pushing the information out that would help, specially the younger generation. For an emergency manager, information is power. And information is necessary. We have to know what’s going on, we can’t be out of the loop. Sometimes we have to maybe be a little pushy about it with our other partners, like: what’s going on? You didn’t tell me.
[INTERVIEWEE] I need to know, because I need to brief the boxes. Cause they’re asking me, and I need to know. So, I always try to make that a point. I mean, if there are young emergency managers are there, that are like: how do I keep up with what’s going on? You can easily find that… or you can easily go on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and look up Emergency Management Weekly Report, and I have all those social media pages, as well as the weekly publication that goes out as well. I have a combination of everything you might need. I try to… I don’t get everything, obviously, cause I’m not a computer. But I try to get as much as I can in there, and jam it in there, and hopefully, there’s something in there that they enjoy.
[TODD] And we’ll put links to that in the show notes as well, so if you’re looking for this information, it will be down in the show notes as well. That’s awesome, Steve. Well, thank you so much for being here on this… well, for us here in California, it’s a beautiful winter day. And for the rest of the country, I don’t know how it’s doing. But you will be here this Spring, so I guess it will be better for everybody. Thank you so much, it was so great talking to you again, and sharing the information, and I’m excited about having you here. All right.
[TODD] Everybody, that was Steve Detwiller with Miami Dade County Office of Emergency Management. Great guy, great resource, and again, emergency manager weekly report is a product that he puts out, and it’s a great place to start. So again, thank you for joining us at EM Weekly, and until next time! Stay safe.