Meet a Delegate Monday: Sonja Koukel

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Sonja Koukel

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?Sonja Koukel
My initial involvement in disaster preparedness and emergency planning occurred when I was employed as a University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension district agent based in Juneau (2005-2010). One of the most important roles I played in that capacity happened when an avalanche took out the hydropower lines affecting 30,000 residents. As the Extension agent, I provided information to the Governor’s office covering topic areas from keeping foods safe to safe use of alternative fuel heat sources. When I relocated to New Mexico, I approached Billy Dictson – then, the Point of Contact (POC) – and asked what I could do to help. I became an EDEN delegate, attended the 2010 Lexington, KY, annual meeting and have attended every annual meeting since. I also became the POC when Mr. Dictson retired.

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in disaster preparedness in your state?
This is another area in which Billy Dictson played a large part. He was a founding member of the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center housed on the New Mexico State University campus. In a nutshell, the Center helps communities plan and exercise food protection planning and incident response, all hazards agriculture response and recovery planning, and risk assessment planning. When I arrived in NM, Mr. Dictson hired me to coordinate the Food Safety Initiative. Upon his retirement, 2012, I stepped into the position of Co-Director for the Center. As an Extension Specialist, and through my connection with the Center, I assist in helping raise awareness of disaster preparedness with Extension county agents and the general public, by providing materials, resources, and exploring the best use of social media in response and recovery.

3. How have you seen disaster preparedness differ from state to state?
While the nature of the potential disaster may differ – avalanches in Alaska / wildfires in New Mexico – I find the act of preparedness very similar no matter where you live. The greatest difficulty is in getting individuals to actively engage in preparedness as most have the “it will never happen to me” mentality. In both Alaska and New Mexico, my work revolves around raising awareness, engaging Extension agents and community members in training and exercises, and then keeping people involved during the absence of disasters.

4. What can EDEN delegates look forward to for the 2015 EDEN Annual meeting?
Bienviendos! The Annual Meeting will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico – also known as “The City of the Crosses.” Located about 50 miles north of the Mexican border, with a population of just over 100,000, it is the second largest city in the state and is home to New Mexico State University – the land-grant institution of NM.

EDEN delegates have a unique opportunity to visit the Santa Teresa International Export/Import Livestock Crossing located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The border crossing is the busiest in the U.S. averaging over 300,000 animals a year. Visit their website for videos and more in-depth information. We are currently planning: a tour of the Santa Teresa “inland port” Union Pacific rail facility and a visit to Old Mesilla, NM, where Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang. Visit the EDEN homepage for information on the post-meeting trip to Albuquerque – an EDEN excursion to the International Balloon Fiesta!

5. What was your favorite part of the 2014 EDEN Annual meeting?
Attending Annual Meeting is a source of motivation for me. Reconnecting with EDEN professionals who have become friends over the years, meeting new delegates, and attending the informational sessions are my favorite parts. I’m always amazed with the incredible work the EDEN group accomplishes year after year. Muscle Shoals, AL, is a fabulous place and a location I don’t think I would have experienced had it not been for EDEN.

4th National Conference on Building Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships

Nathaniel Tablante, Extension Poultry Veterinarian and EDEN Point of Contact, University of Maryland College Park, attended this conference on EDEN’s behalf.  Below are his takeaways.

Welcome slide to the 4th National Conference Building Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships

 

The 4th National Conference on Building Resilience Through Public-Private Partnerships was held on October 15-16, 2014 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C. I represented EDEN and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

This annual conference is a partnership between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Northern Command. This year’s agenda focused on our interconnected world, from neighborhoods to the global partnerships. Speakers discussed evolving risks to the infrastructure that powers, transports, informs, and otherwise connects organizations and the people they serve. Discussions involved emerging issues such as climate adaptation and cybersecurity, as well as innovative efforts to leverage philanthropy, technology, trained corporate volunteers, and information-sharing networks through public-private partnerships. It was good to see many representatives from both the government and private sectors as well as academia participate in lively and productive discussions on various ways to strengthen disaster resilience though public-private partnerships (P3s).

Here are some highlights:

Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security delivered a powerful keynote address, “The Road Ahead to Partnership.” He stressed the importance of public-private partnerships to homeland security. In particular, he pointed out that the American public is very anxious about the threats posed by ISIL and Ebola and encouraged calm, meaningful dialogue among public officials, the private sector, and the media regarding these threats to national security and public health.

The first session, “The Evolving Threat Environment,” involved three panelists, Thomas Fanning (President and CEO of Southern Company), Keith Squires (Commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety), and Francis Taylor (DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis). This unclassified briefing presented emerging threats from the perspective of government intelligence leaders, risk experts, and corporate CEOs, and set the foundation to examine how preparedness and resilience efforts can reduce the likelihood and/or impact of these threats.

Gen. Taylor provided a government perspective on threats to national security. He stated that the Al Qaeda core and its affiliates continue to be a major threat to the U.S. with aviation as the number one risk. He also warned that ISIL is a terrorist and military organization that has a Westernized propaganda arm that appears to be very effective in recruiting Westerners who become “lone wolf” threats. He stressed the importance of understanding threats at every level and that sharing information with local enforcement agencies is critical to the successful mitigation of these threats. For his part, Mr. Squires shared the State perspective on threats to national security. He cited that information sharing is critical to homeland security. He mentioned that there used to be a government monopoly on information on threat activity with absolutely no information being shared with the private sector prior to 9/11. He emphasized the vital role played by post-9/11 Fusion Centers, a “collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.” Mr. Fanning shared the private sector perspective and pointed out that cyber and physical threats are inseparable and recommended a “bottom-up, top-down” approach to addressing these threats. He also stressed that good corporate governance is the key to success and that everybody has the capability to deliver goods and services when necessary. Gen. Taylor shared a final thought on the importance of educating business and local leaders about risks and threats to national security. He mentioned that “low probability, high impact” events happen every day but we never prepare for them. Mr. Fanning also pointed out that threats are not fixed but continue to evolve and mutate, therefore we should be flexible and focus not only on preparedness but also on rapid response.

The second panel discussion, “The Interconnected World: Challenges and Opportunities,” involved William Beary (Chief of Engineer Operations, NORAD), Shoshana Lew (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation and Policy, DOT), and Nick Shufro (Director of Sustainable Solutions, PricewaterhouseCoopers). This panel discussed evolving approaches to risk management and innovative ways that the private sector and government can engage and collaboratively prepare and protect their organizations and communities from the threats outlined in the previous panel.

Two breakout sessions were held in the afternoon of October 15. The first set of breakout sessions focused on “Badging and Credentialing,” “Bridging the Cyber/Physical Connection”, “Business Continuity and Corporate Philanthropy: Why Resilience is Good for the Corporate Will”, and “Technology and Voluntary Capabilities.” I attended the “Technology and Voluntary Capabilities” session which involved Rakesh Bahraini (West Coast Lead, Cisco Tactical Operations), Deanne Criswell (Incident Management Assistance Team Lead, FEMA), Harmony Mabrey (Senior Operations Manager, Microsoft Disaster Response), Andrew Rasiej (Chairman, NY Tech Meetup), and Ted Okada (Chief Technology Officer, FEMA) who moderated the session. This session explored the role of technology volunteers in disasters as well as collaborations with government and non-government organizations focused on community resilience. Mr. Bahraini of Cisco cited the numerous benefits of involving company employees in disaster preparedness and response, among which are boosting employee morale, doing something tangible, and increasing employee retention. Mr. Okada of FEMA cited that the critical needs during disasters are volunteers and equipment such as cables and routers. Ms. Mabrey of Microsoft stated that employees want to get involved in this effort anyway so volunteers are always available. The panel agreed that Best Practices standards are essential, including pre-credentialing of volunteers and having a reserve of equipment.

The second set of breakout sessions focused on “Driving Mitigation and Resilience,” “Cross-sector Collaboration Opportunities Using Critical Infrastructure Big Data Analytics,” “Business Emergency Operations Centers – Maximizing Coordination at the State and Local Level,” and “Volunteers and Donations.” I attended the session on “Driving Mitigation and Resilience” which involved Michael Grimm (Director of Risk Reduction Division, FEMA) and Sean Kevelighan (Head of Government and Industry Affairs, Zurich North America). Mr. Grimm opened the session by stating that resilience is the ability to act on information. Mr. Kevelighan assured everyone that although insurance usually kicks in after a disaster, insurance companies such as Zurich are also involved in mitigation and risk assessment. He shared Zurich’s program on global flood mitigation and stressed that his company spends a lot of money on information gathering and risk modeling. He also pointed out that Zurich educates consumers on how to mitigate risks.

The second and final day of the conference started with a recap of the previous day’s session. The discussion was led by Assistant Secretary Caitlin Durkovich, Office of Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Director Randel Zeller, J9 Interagency Directorate, NORAD and USNORTHCOM. This brief recap was immediately followed by a panel discussion, “Public-Private Partnerships in Action” which was moderated by Dr. Mark Troutman, Associate Director, George Mason University School of Law’s Center for Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security. The panelists included Susan Maybaumwisniewski (Vice President, Policy, Business Executives for National Security), Seth Miller Gabriel (P3 Analyst, Institute for Public Private Partnerships), John Odermatt (Managing Director, Office of Emergency Management & Fraud Surveillance, Citi), and Michael DeJong (Mational Cybersecurity Branch, Canada).

Mr. Odermatt stated that an all hazards approach works best for companies and localities and must include cyber events. Mr. DeJong reported that Public Safety Canada has a cybersecurity branch and that the biggest indication of a cyber-attack is its physical initiation. Ms. Maybaumwisniewski commented that the government can partner best with industry through planning and organization. Mr. Gabriel stressed the need for political leadership in order to extend resources to educate the right people.

The last panel discussion was a “Leadership Roundtable” involving a Q&A session with Robert Griffin (General Manager for i2, Threat and Counter Fraud Business Unit, Information and Analytics, IBM Software Group), Andrew Guzzon (Vice President, W.W. Grainger, Inc.), and Susan Hartman (Sr. Group Manager for Corporate Security Strategic Partnerships, Target). Russ Paulsen (Executive Director, Community Preparedness and Resilience, American Red Cross) moderated the session.

Q: (Paulsen)- How do your companies approach resilience?

A: (Guzzon) – Resilience is about communicating when an event happens. We help each other after an event and make sure that the supply chain is robust. We help the community and first responders.
(Hartman) – We think about it holistically as a team. We focus on educational awareness of our employees and strategic partnerships with the community which also meets our business objectives. Our team also practices for earthquakes and other natural disasters.
(Griffin) – IBM is a big company. We have a global and local crisis management team as well as a pandemic team for diseases such as bird flu and Ebola. We conduct table top exercises annually, provide essential support to our clients, and partner with government agencies such as the FBI.

Q: (Paulsen) – What are the keys to the success of P3s?

A: (Guzzon): Give yourself the ability to adapt to a changing environment—be flexible. Think of other things to do in times of disasters [other than the routine activities]. Invest in each other’s success.
(Hartman) – It all comes down to people. Focus on increased networking and the opportunity to connect.
(Griffin) – It’s all about relationships and people. As a corporation, make sure you are essential to what your clients do. Help solve local community problems. Identify critical areas to sustainability. Our guiding principle is “resiliency by design”, i.e. adapt to the local situation. Identify risks and liabilities and what you can do to address those.
(Hartman) – Businesses need resilient communities in order to thrive.
(Guzzon) – We are very customer-centric in California. We keep it simple. We keep the “invite” going.

Q: (Paulsen) – What is it that made you come here [to this conference]?

A: (Guzzon) – It’s personal because we have employees who lost their houses [during the forest fires in California]. We won’t exist if we don’t have stable and safe communities.
A: (Hartman) – We have a long-standing commitment to the community. We need communities in order to thrive.
A: (Griffin) – It’s about giving back to the community. It’s also personally gratifying. The character of a company is not built during good times but during bad times.

Wrap-up (Paulsen) – There is no “one size fits all” for public-private partnerships. We have to be more inclusive and get more involved in joint planning for disasters.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Traci Naile

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Traci Naile, who will be presenting at the EDEN Annual Meeting.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?
I believe I first got involved when I was a PhD student, profile-photoand was looking into doing disaster work; I saw materials from EDEN. I was able to really get involved when I finished my PhD and started working at Texas A&M. I was able to attend my first conference while I was working at A&M, and have been going ever since.

2. Can you tell us about the study concerning incidence response planning at livestock shows?
That study was conducted by one of my graduate students at A&M. she wanted to find out what managers of large livestock shows knew and had done about incident planning. She wanted to find out if people on the government side know what was going on at the livestock side, and whether the show managers had actually talked to government partners in case something happened. She did interviews with big broad questions, and received great feedback about different things you have to think about when you are planning for shows, whether you are on the municipal side or the show side. One of the important things that came out of this study was the importance of communication. We will talk all about that at the EDEN Meeting, along with the other themes from the interview.

3. Can you tell us about the emergency management training requirements for Cooperative Extension personnel?
We sent a survey out to the EDEN Delegate listserve to find out what training requirements are in each state, and what EDEN professionals think should or should not be included. There is a lot of variability across states, so we wanted to find out why; why there is some training required and other training is not. We confirmed, with data, that the training requirements are widespread. Because of this survey we have a better sense of what training is required, what resources are used, and how EDEN delegates think we should be delivering disaster related training to Extension professionals.

4. Can you tell us a little about your involvement in disaster response experience in Oklahoma?
I am a Red Cross volunteer, and am specifically a local government liaison. I also work in operations management in bigger disaster responses. I have, both fortunately and unfortunately, been able to work disasters, and am fairly involved in that aspect. I also do other things related to the Red Cross: I am a volunteer leader for our chapter, on the local level. With that role I am the liaison to the county emergency response team, which has not been able to go out on anything yet because it just got started. But I am the go-between for the county team and the local Red Cross for setting up shelters and scheduling co-training. Another thing I do within our Red Cross region, Central Western Oklahoma, is the volunteer counterpart to the Senior Disaster Program Manager. I help plan events such as a mass care exercise for October and a statewide emergency management exercise. I also help train people on the new Red Cross procedures for responses. I am the subject matter expert for a training work group for the Red Cross divisional level, South Western Rocky Mountain division. So between all of these positions, I am very involved in preparing my area for a disaster.

5. What advice would you give to our delegates about the importance of communication before, during, and after a disaster?
It is absolutely vital! A big part is figuring out what communication means in the context of disasters. To me, communication is across partners and internally within an organization. Also having the people you work with trained to talk to partners. A lot of those beliefs come from my Red Cross background. In Oklahoma, we do not have a very cohesive response system because there is a lot of overlap. If you are communicating with all the other people preparing for a response, or in the recovery period after a response, it will be that much more efficient, and effective. For me that is where that communication piece comes in, and a large part of that is networking; making sure that you are clear internally and externally, have plans in place, and have worked to develop those relationships because they will be necessary when a disaster happens. That communication piece is extremely vital, because no one who is responding to a disaster can be expected to do everything, and do it effectively.