Community/Emergency Preparation: CPSR, GIGA Corp., The New York Times & Fire in Florida... : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

While kind of a tough one to categorize, the following is a sorbering example of the kind of thing one of the world's leading computer consulting firms believes ought to be included in a letter to the editor of a Big Time media outlet like The New York Times...

In July of 1998, the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility put together a letter to that newspaper urging them to take a more active and responsible role in spreading the word about the crisis. The people at GIGA Corporation (who have testified many times before congress concerning y2k) felt that the following ought to be added. What they have to say is particularly interesting because it has so little to do with computers. A lot of the people who claim that y2k is not going to be that big a deal always say that the hype, the hysteria, etc., is being generated by computer industry people (companies like GIGA) to enable them to jack their rates and make a quick killing... Notice the lack of emphasis GIGA places on the pressing need to remediate computer systems... Notice how they sort of leapfrog that issue all together and move on to the next phase of things. It's difficult to see how they'd make any money off what they're recommending here...


Date: Tue, 21 Jul 1998 09:07:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: Norman Kurland
To: "Multiple recipients of list"

Subject: Re: Letter to the NY Times -- Giga Statement

Received: 07/21 12:21 PM
From: Sabrina Gartner,

You have our corporateendorsements for your letter to The New York Times.

Below is an addendum that you may choose to incorporate (in whole or in part) into your package for the purpose of bolstering the effect of your letter. The second section (a message for the public) contains recommendations our firm is not normally asked to make by our corporate clients, of course. However, it supports the overall context in which your letter is written, so you might find it useful.

Sabrina M. Gartner Director, Marketing Communications

[MODERATOR NOTE: I am appending this in part as a PS to the letter which is going out today... Norman]

--------------------- From Giga Information Group---------------------

A message for government: Emergency management organizations exist at federal, state and local levels. The only way to maximize the limited resources within each of these agencies for Year 2000 is to have clear plans that coordinate the actions of all agencies, not if, but when an event occurs.

Federal and state programs may be adequately prepared to react to a disaster in any single area, but Year 2000 creates a scenario whereby all areas of the country may be affected at the same time. The federal and state emergency management plans must be expanded to include that scenario. The federal plans must be solidly linked with all 50 state governments and perhaps also with our neighbors, Canada and Mexico. In turn, state government plans must coordinate with local (county, city, town) governments.

Without solid processes for a coordinated response to emergency situations, loss of life and wide spread suffering are very likely to occur. Put the considerable logistical capabilities of the national and state armed services, guards and militias to work planning solutions to problems. Coordinate the efforts of the Red Cross and other relief organizations towards preparedness. Link foodbanks and community food programs. Incent community preparedness and self sufficiency for shelter, food, health and bloodbank inventories. Educate the public about the plans that are in place to deal with the problems. Inspire Year 2000 awareness and confidence or deal with the chaos created by Year 2000 ignorance and panic.

A message for the public: The best case scenario is that the public will not need to take all the following precautions if appropriate corporate and government action is taken.

Prepare as you would for a natural phenomenon, such as a blizzard, ice storm, tornado, hurricane, flood, or power outage. Have extra non-perishable food on hand, some potable water, some water purification tablets or method. Refill prescription medicine early. Those in cold climates should plan on using a SAFE alternate heat source, have chimneys cleaned, and buy extra wood, coal or other source of heat. Buy fire-safe candle holders, and plan activities for children who have no TV.

Keep detailed financial records on paper for reconciliation after the New Year. Buy a cheap non-cordless phone, as cordless ones generally don't work in a power outage. If you plan to use a generator, make sure you can safely store enough fuel to keep it running, and calculate what you'll need BEFORE you buy a generator. DON'T withdraw all your money from the bank, as you could be a prime target for robbery. Take a LITTLE extra cash, and pay by check if credit cards aren't accepted. Above all, don't panic. Get involved in your community preparedness activities.

About Giga Information Group Giga Information Group, founded by industry icon Gideon I. Gartner, provides strategic technology and management decision support services focusing on the developments and trends in the computing, telecommunications and related industries. The world's fastest-growing authority on information technology (IT), Giga's flagship service, Giga Advisory, is based on a breakthrough model that dismantles the traditional barriers between IT research segments, providing unlimited access to integrated knowledge across all research disciplines at a superior price/performance ratio. Giga's global client base includes users of IT products and services, vendors of IT hardware, software and services, and institutional and other investors.

Giga can be found on the Web at

Giga Information Group
Cambridge, MA

-- Bill (, December 23, 1998


And then, on the same day the above arrived, Harlan Smith sent this sobriety enhancing article... How ready is your local Emergency Services Department?

The Palm Beach Post
July 17, 1998

Blazes weren't only fires to put out

By Suzannah A. Nesmith Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

BUNNELL - When firefighter Steve Blackford arrived in flaming Flagler County on Sunday, his task was to Set up a communication system.

So he asked Flagler officials for 20 cellular phones. A Flagler county commissioner gave him a phone. One phone. A single cellular phone to run the entire show. All right it's working," Blackford said -- after he finally got the phone working four hours later.

In disaster lingo, Blackford, a Miami-Dade County district fire chief, is a logistics officer on the Fire Operations Command Staff. In English, he's one of 23 senior firefighters from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties here to do two things - set up a new fire department to relieve Flagler County's exhausted firefighters and make sure no houses bum while the U.S. Forest Service got the wildfires under control.

When a local authority has a disaster, they'll beat themselves into the ground trying to do it themselves," Palm Beach County District Chief Terry Croke explained Sunday as he drove up a deserted, smoky Interstate 95 to Bunnell to join the command staff.

Often, one or two people are left making all the decisions, from the most mundane to life-and-death questions.

"In one second somebody will be asking where to put the ice or how many meals they need, and the next that same person who had to answer those questions will be sending out five brush trucks to save a neighborhood," Croke said.

Three days before Croke and other officers from Palm Beach and Miami- Dade counties arrived, the wildfires had blown out of control in Flagler Count" The county's 46,000 residents were told to get out and weren't allowed back in until Monday. Flagler's fires presented problems no one on the command staff had ever heard of before.

Like the cell phones. Rural Flagler's radio system couldn't handle more than a couple of calls at a time.

There were other problems:

* Engines and entire crews of firefighters were lost., not in the field but before they got to fight any fires or after they returned.

* Firefighters sat in hotels because no one could find a bus to bring them in to fight fires.

* Fire trucks at at the side of U.S. 1 because they didn't have radios to reach the Forest Service unit they were supposed to help.

* It took two days to transport 200 cots from Daytona Beach a few miles north to Bunnell for fire crews sleeping In n high school.

In the midst of all the competing crises, residents periodically called, offering everything from home laundry service to a scheme to park 100 air boats on 1-95 to blow the smoke away.

It was a giant undertaking even for 23 highly trained firefighters, everybody's heroes.

At a meeting at the hospital Monday, Palm Beach County Lt. John Bartlett discovered that out-of-towners at one fire station hadn't been fed in three days. And the station doesn't have a kitchen or sleeping quarters because it's for volunteers.

By Tuesday they had more cell phones, though not enough, because they didn't have radio contact with firefighters in the field - a dangerous situation.

"If I had gotten a handful of cell phones, I would have put them on fire trucks," said Miami Fire Rescue District Chief Frank Rollason, the command staff leader. "let's say a fire breaks out. and we need a lot of fire trucks, we would have had to get in the car and go find them."

Often there were the problems communicating with the Flagler officials.

The state disaster response plan expects local authorities to ask for what they need. The command staff had to ask the locals to ask the state for anything and everything. But the county officials just weren't around.

Before the fires, there was no central fire department in this county. Two of the three towns, Flagler Beach and Palm Coast. had regular paid departments -18 professional firefighters between them. The rest of the fire stations were manned by 100 volunteers. The 118 firefighters -- including supervisors -- fought the fires for 27 days before the evacuation

Sheriffs deputies and paramedics joined the baffle, too.

And when the county was evacuated and state help began to flow in, the Local firefighters continued battling the fires, many refusing to be relieved.

John Tomaszewski, Delray Beach assistant chief, was brought in Saturday to relay in-formation from the Flagler fire representative to state officials in Tallahassee But Tomaszewski never found the Flagler rep.

"I don't even know who he is," he said Monday. "No one's ever shown up.

Miami's Rollason said, "If it was normal here, they wouldn't need us. It's messed up. That's why we're here."

Rollason doesn't blame the local officials.

"Emergency Operations Centers operate throughout the state, all at different levels," he said. "Ours in Dade County', we're always in a state of emergency. There's always something happening in Dade County. Maybe this place doesn't operate their BOC all that often."

And there has been tension between local firefighters and the command staff. It's been hard for the local firefighters to deal with the fact that they couldn't defend their county alone.

'They're proud of what they do. They're proud of their abilities and they should be.... You fight afire for a month and you give 110 percent, 120 percent to it, it's really hard to accept that, even with all that effort, it wasn't enough," said paramedic Rich Weizer, Flagler County's emergency spokesman.

Despite the problems, a mission was accomplished. Residents found firefighters in all the stations when they returned home Monday. When they called 911, they got a response. And when they worried about the smoke in their neighborhoods, they saw fire trucks roaming around, looking for trouble.

Still, when the command staff began to leave Tuesday, it was none too soon for some Flagler officials. By 1 p.m., some of the locks on the staff's makeshift headquarters in a county building had been changed.

"It's like someone calling you to help them and they say, don't come in my house, stay outside but help me'," said Coral Gables Fire Rescue Capt. Mark Stolzenberg.

Not all Flagler County workers felt that way. A few hours before the South Florida firefighters turned the reins over to another relief crew on Wednesday, one of the engineering employees confessed: "I finally felt safe when you guys got here," she said.

-- Bill (, December 23, 1998.

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