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Author: mtthwhgn

Standard Recovery? Recovery Standards?

Standard Recovery? Recovery Standards?

In two week’s time, I’m moderating a conference panel session entitled Standards in Recovery: Are we getting it right and what have we learnt from recent incidents? 

This blog is an attempt to organise my thoughts and set out my own views, rather than to reach any particular conclusions!

On the face of it, standards seem like a good idea in anything; normalising complicated processes or ensuring homogenous technical precision. However, you don’t have to look too far before you realise that the issue of standards is polarizing and fraught with challenges.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be useful, just that extra care is needed in their development and application, as well as the performance management which flows from them.

Standards came to prominence around the time of the Industrial Revolution, allowing manufacturing industries to regularise processes and reduce waste. Things we take for granted are the result of standards which have developed over long durations.

I can easily conceive of, and ascribe value to, standards for ‘technical’ things. Even if I’m not an expert in the subject, I can see why it would be advantageous to standardise things like:

  • How much electricity comes out of your sockets.
  • How bright your lightbulbs are.
  • How can you be confident your eggs are salmonella free.

I can also see that standardising language/terminology would be helpful in establishing a shared understanding.

However, I find it harder to see how a meaningful standard can be developed for the complex set of processes associated with emergency recovery. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, there is a seemingly endless range of questions and possible answers about what recovery is, and how it should be done.

So I turned to Lewis Carrol to see if he had any wisdom…

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ asked Alice.

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don’t much care where –’ 

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ 

Can we really know what we’re recovering from until an incident happens? If there isn’t a fixed destination for recovery, how will we know we’re there?

So, looking forward to the conference session, here are some of the questions that I’ll have in reserve for my esteemed panel members to respond to:

  • Just was is ‘recovery’ in the context of an emergency?
  • In their experience, when does ‘recovery’ start and finish?
  • What do you think a standard for recovery would look like?
  • Should a standard for recovery be specific or allow for flexibility? If it gives too much room for manoeuvre is it really a standard?
  • Have emergency responder organisations already adopted any of the standards out there? What has been their experience and how can we learn from it?
  • Is there a danger that standards become increasingly complex over time and require disproportionate effort to maintain and measure against?

What’s your perspective on these issues? My experience is that, as a profession, recovery is overlooked in favour of areas which are arguably easier to measure impact or seen to be more exciting.

Leave a comment or start a discussion with me on Twitter.

Ramen Resolution – Thousand Knives

Ramen Resolution – Thousand Knives

Last Saturday I took myself over to Spitalfields for the We ❤ Asian Food Festival.

Now, before I go on, a word about food festivals – in general, I think they are pointless. They’re usually overpriced and repetitive. However, at just £5 for a ticket which included a free drink, it seemed like a no-brainer, and the advert I saw mentioned there were ramen vendors! Say no more!

I did a full lap of the venue and didn’t see a single ramen stall. My stress levels were mounting.

But then, I spied a lady slurping on noodles from a box. There were ramen here somewhere, I just needed to find them!

Another lap and a half later I found Thousand Knives hidden behind a queue for a bao stall. Apparently, they have a fully fledged restaurant in Dalston, so that’s another one added to the to-eat list!

The menu options were limited, but this is essentially street food/take out noodles, so I didn’t mind too much.

I went for the signature pork ramen just as it comes, and was not disappointed. In fact, the quality of take out ramen consistently surprises me – the noodles were firm, the egg was soft (although a little cold). The spring onions could have been sliced thinner and ideally, there would have been another slice of pork. However, for £8, this is some of the cheapest ramen I’ve had in the UK.

I give them a solid RAMEN (3 out of 5), which for noodles in a cardboard box is actually pretty damn good!

Ramen Resolution – Danbo

Ramen Resolution – Danbo

There’s no shortage of ramen joints in Seattle. After trying a few and an evening googling and reading TripAdvisor reviews I decided that the place I absolutely needed to visit was Danbo.

There were some really excellent reviews, and clearly, the word had gotten around – when I arrived at about 19:20 there was a queue to the end of the block.

I took myself on a little explore and found the Elysian Capitol Hill Brewery so stopped in for a beer; my strategy being perhaps it was the early evening rush and I should just give it a while.

Wrong!

About 45 minutes later (oh, ok, it might have been more than one beer) I trundled around the corner and, if anything, the queue had grown.

The beauty of travelling alone is that in such situations you don’t have the dilemma where you want to stay but don’t want to subject anyone else to waiting if they don’t really want to. No siree, I was committed to eating here!

I got chatting to a guy in front of me in the queue. This would definitely not happen in London!

Dan was a few years younger than me and worked at a car hire firm at the airport. He regularly eats at Danbo which I took as another excellent sign! He also gave me a wonderful spur-of-the-moment recommendation for the Pink Floyd Lazer Dome at the Pacific Science Centre, which I booked there and then for later the same evening. #Spontaneous!

Danbo offers customisation options on noodle firmness, broth thickness, spiciness and richness. I think I’ve said previously, if you get a bowl of ramen with perfectly read-to-eat noodles, then by the time you get to the last noodles they are overcooked. Opting for firmer noodles so they have some durability is definitely a top tip.

I went for the classic ramen and a side of yaki gyoza.

The broth was near perfection – leaving a slight oily residue on the roof of your mouth as a little reminder of the deliciousness, and a sweet nuttiness from toasted sesame seeds. The pork was soft and salty, and the egg yolk oozed into the broth just as it should.

It’s really hard to find fault with Danbo, other than the length of the queue, but that’s a reflection of how good the food is! There will likely be no surprise that I’m giving Danbo full marks, RAMEN (5/5).

Ramen Resolution – Kiki Ramen

Ramen Resolution – Kiki Ramen

It’s that time again, time for another Ramen Review!

Heads up, I’m currently in Dublin, and writing this in an emotional and Guinness fueled haze, but I think that can only work out well for the ramen I’m about to review!

A few weeks ago I was in Seattle. I managed to find the time, in 7 days there, to squeeze in 3 separate ramen joints. The first in the hat trick of reviews is over here.

The second place was a freak accident, and by far the earliest I’ve ever eaten the noods. I was early for the St Patricks Day Parade, and apart from a bit on how they are being really good people, the Amazon Spheres weren’t free to get in, so I was at a loss for things to do.

Kiki Ramen wasn’t one of the places I had got on my google hit-list, but I had a quick scan of the menu online and there was a ‘breakfast’ option! Ramen with bacon – I needed that in my life!

The item that actually enticed me in was the Lazy Devils (devilled eggs kiki style – whatever that is) but sadly they were only available in the evenings. Undeterred, I found a table and perused the menu.

Somebody needs to take responsibility for bringing ‘brunch noodles’ to the UK. East London hipsters would lose their actual minds! The broth was a bit on the thin side, but let us look at the facts – bacon, egg, mushroom, fishcake…these were contenders for the perfect noodle.

The only other thing which let down the Kiki Ramen restaurant was that they appeared to be playing two TV stations at the same time which it was too early for my brain to process.

Definitely check it out if you find yourself in Seattle, and let me know how those Lazy Devils are!

I rate this RAMEN (4/5).

Ramen Resolution: Karaage Setsuna

Ramen Resolution: Karaage Setsuna

After a long flight and a quick trip to Kerry Park to snap the picture (below) of Seattle’s iconic skyline, I was ready for ramen!

After being mesmerised by the view for a while, I turned to trusty Google Maps to find the nearest place that took my fancy and set off in the direction of the hipster-lite Belltown district.

I initially walked past Karaage Setsuna, I paused briefly to look at the menu, but decided to see what else might lie around the corner, but I soon doubled back. I think it was the smell of fried chicken that did it.

This is not a fancy place. The kitchen storage is in the restaurant, brooms and mops are scattered about. This is an authentic neighbourhood restaurant.

Karrage Setsuna roughly translates as “a moment of fried chicken”. Therefore it was a given that the signature chicken dish would be my starter, I added a side of spicy mayonnaise and chose the Ra-Min noodles (which I assumed to be a typo).

The noodles arrived first. A little on the watery side, rather than the thicker tonkotsu broths that I’ve come to prefer, but still very tasty, and the paper-thin slices of red onion added a crunch and a sweetness. My only comment was there was slightly too much coriander, which made it feel a bit more like pho than ramen.

That said, this restaurant pitches itself a Japanese-Hawaiian fusion, so a bit of a twist was to be expected.

The chicken arrived and was piled high. The chunks of thigh meat were a little larger than bite-sized, which made eating them tricky, but perhaps that says more about my chopstick prowess. The coating was salty and crispy, with the spicy mayo adding a good amount of heat.

There were other lone diners in the restaurant, which made me feel less awkward, and there is something very normal about eating ramen alone.

I have to also commend them for the addition of Narutomaki into the noodles. I always see the white and pink swirly fishcake always as an indicator of quality (even if I don’t know what it;s made of!).

I award Karrage Setsuna a grand total of RAMEN (4 out of 5), a thicker soup and this would have tipped into a 5.

Some thoughts on professional societies

Some thoughts on professional societies

Getting into any career is tricky. Employers are looking for the perfect combination of both knowledge and experience. Fresh out of University you have to try extra hard to demonstrate that you can actually do the job, not just talk about it.

That was the position I found myself in almost 13 years ago. I spent countless days completing applications; labouring the point that “yes, I might have only ever worked in a shop, but you can definitely trust me not to screw this up”.

One way I could show employers that they could put their faith in me was to join a professional association. These bodies are designed to represent the interests of those in the field, so if I was a member it would enhance my legitimacy. Not one to do things by halves, I joined no less than 4 professional associations.

I did my research beforehand, of course.

Some of these organisations had a specific focus, others were more general. Some had active online communities, others were more traditional.

As a fledgeling emergency manager, I thought it was a good idea to try and learn from as much of this as possible. That way I could tell employers I not just only understood the job, but I also understood the profession and the direction it was travelling.

I’m no longer a member of any of those organisations that I joined.

Professional societies, at least those that I joined, had failed to move with the times. The challenges facing the profession now are not the same as those before critical UK legislation was introduced. The risk environment has changed, and the profession seems to be struggling to keep up.

Although, I think there were more fundamental issues holding those societies back

  1. Ego – None of these societies are sufficiently large in membership that they require the level of process that most of them have. Beacurcracy tends to override what could be helpful information exchange platforms.
  2. Identity crisis – There’s a shift towards a more holistic concept of resilience which is not reflected in the scope of the professional bodies. Emergency Planning, that’s too focused on ‘plans’. Civil Defence – that’s an outdated term from the 50’s. Business Continuity – that’s too defined by formal standards.
  3. Lack of value to members – having been associated with a range of bodies for at least the last 8 years I cannot honestly say that it has been worth the investment either financially or in terms of benefits gained.
  4. Unrepresentative leadership – those employed in emergency management when I first started my career often had military or security backgrounds. At the practitioner level that is changing, and new perspectives are being introduced, but the makeup of the decision makers in many of the professional organisations has not kept pace with the changing demographics of the field.

I don’t like to just sit on the fringes and criticise. If I see an issue I want to try and resolve it. For one of the bodies, I worked with similarly enthusiastic colleagues to solve some of these problems. However, after 18 months of trying different things and volunteering my own time, the same issues remained.

That organisation in particular alienated its members through sporadic, ill-conceived communication and disrespected its own volunteers. For a body designed to support members, it showed an extreme lack of empathy.

Contrast that with the sense of camaraderie and community I’ve seen online from my SMEMchat colleagues. This eclipses anything I have seen in over 10 years of being a member of a society.

There are, of course, many ways of doing things; I’m not simply suggesting that everything should move online. But if professionals are going to continue to support each other (and I really hope they do) then it might be time for a more radical rethink of how this is best achieved.

I feel no sense of loyalty to bodies which didn’t demonstrate any to me. However, I do feel a sense of loyalty to my colleagues, whether I work directly with them, or our paths haven’t crossed yet.

Everything that we do as a profession is a team effort. There are many ways that we can collaborate without the stuffiness of societies.

Oodles of Noodles

Oodles of Noodles

Osaki Hiroshi, the author of The Secret History of Ramen in Japan, claims to eat 800 bowls of ramen per year. At a measly 14 bowls, I haven’t even come close to 10% of that in the last 12 months.

However, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a big fan and whilst I couldn’t claim to be an expert, I do have a well-developed sense of what I like, and what I would steer clear of.

Based on what I’ve learnt during 2017, I present my perfect ramen…now I just need to work out how to make it!

  • Broth – thicker/meatier ones have the edge over thinner soy or miso versions
  • Noodle – on the slightly hard end, and ideally the straight ones rather than curly ones
  • Toppings – Egg, swirly fishcake, seaweed, sweetcorn, cabbage and add cheese if available
  • Spoon – call me weird, but I prefer a ramen ladle to a rice spoon

There are still ramen joints I haven’t gotten around to trying (and I’m always open to recommendations!). I’m not done with blogging about this just yet, but take a look back at all of the blogs so far, or skip right to my faves Bone Daddies and Monohon.