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Tag: Personal Resilience

30 Days, 30 Ways: Day 18

30 Days, 30 Ways: Day 18

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I saw the title of today’s task, What’s Your Special Need and immediately had the answer, my glasses. Then I clicked the link to find out what i needed to do to win the points on offer.


To me, my glasses are one of my special needs.  Too many times when we talk about folks with special needs, we think of individuals with mobility issues or perhaps relying on oxygen on a daily basis, however we all have some sort of special needs…

1 Pt: List any items that may be a special need for you.

2 Pts:   Now lets think about your neighbourhood… Are their individuals on your block that have a special need you could assist with during an emergency or disaster.  How could you help?

Nooooooo!! The example mentioned my special need! My thunder had been stolen! Not having my glasses would make me more vulnerable; something I’m currently battling this having accidentally broken my glasses several weeks ago. Whilst I have contacts as a contingency, but I don’t always get on with them. So it’s made me realise that my vision prescription should also be one of the key documents included in my kit.

Some family and friends take regular prescription medication, which they would need to consider in their own emergency preparedness, However, perhaps one aspect that hasn’t been thought of are those people with specific dietary needs – gluten intolerance, allergies, or as dictated by certain religions. I wonder in an emergency whether it would be possible, or whether it’s even a consideration, not just providing food, but providing sufficient and diverse choice?

Looking to my neighbours – the only thing that I could think of in the context of this event would be that one of the families has a nanny. If she was unavailable it could prevent parents going to work. Family emergency plans should therefore consider contingency child care options.

30 Days, 30 Ways: Day 5

30 Days, 30 Ways: Day 5

Reading Time: 2 minutes

survival-skillsThe challenge for today’s 30 Days task is to summarise your own personal resilience, with points being allocated as follows:

1 Pt:  Share with us some of the ways you believe you and your family are resilient.  List or show us some clever ideas you have come up with.

3 Pts:   Don’t be afraid to share what you did if it could help someone else along the way also. Make a 30-60 Sec video demo to showing how you did it.

The prompts for the challenge included: Do you have a garden? Can your own foods? Have a cargo bike? Or have creative solutions for transportation, food and dealing with human waste?

For me though, it’s not so much about the gadgets, bunkers or survival skills. Sure, I wouldn’t refuse help from Bear Grylls if things got really bad, but does that mean I need to be him? The LEGO Movie had some sage advice for us all “Everything is cool when you’re part of a team” but not everyone in the team has to be the hunter gatherer!

Whilst I agree that some sensible steps like a grab bag and a couple of days of food can be handy, for me, personal resilience is more about

  • Information and Awareness – as a product of working in emergency management I have a very good understanding of both the risks and the planned responses, I therefore understand the risks that could impact me
  • Options – there are many options open to me, if there is a problem affecting my home I have friends I can stay with, if there is a problem affecting my work I have the ability to work from home, if there is a problem affecting the train I can get the bus…making more options available to more people increases their resilience
  • Cushioning – none of us can prevent emergencies from happening but we can reduce their impact. For that reason I checked my exposure to flood risk before moving into my house, I have insurance and a contingency fund, and I (try to) eat healthily.

The first two factors enable improvisation. The third element provides a time window where I can determine whether improvisation is required. Together the combination of all three means my focus isn’t just on responding once something bad does happen, but trying to mitigate potential impact in advance.

Maybe I’d feel differently if were exposed to more risk. Or maybe the rationale behind the gadgets and bunkers just hasn’t been clearly articulated to me. Either way, if I were to make a video about my own resilience, it wouldn’t be much of a ‘show and tell’.

International Day for Disaster Reduction (Cross Post)

International Day for Disaster Reduction (Cross Post)

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Some areas of the world are more at risk of disasters, but there is nowhere that escapes them completely. Similarly, whilst everyone can be affected by disasters, they can have a more pronounced impact on people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.


This year the UNISDR International Day for Disaster Reduction draws attention to the specific challenges of Living with Disability and Disasters.

To mark IDDR2013, I wrote a blog post for LondonPrepared which you can read over here


Image Credit: (and before anyone says, I know being in a wheelchair isn’t the only disability!)

Facebook Emergency – who you gonna call?

Facebook Emergency – who you gonna call?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

How many of your Facebook friends do you think you could call on in an emergency, perhaps to provide you with a bed (or at least a sofa!) for a couple of nights? Complete the 3 question survey!

What’s this all about?

I finally managed to watch The Social Network this weekend. Whilst not the most exciting of films, it provided time to appreciate how much ‘social media’ has changed how many people do things.

As I mentioned previously in my post on the Boston Bombings, I’m no stranger to the digital world and have been instrumental in the implementation of corporate social media presence for two employers – recognising and emphasising the potential benefits for emergency planning and response at an early stage.

I avoid watching the news unless there is a story I’m following, and I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper (bar a quick flick through the Metro to pass time). In general, my news consumption is now predominantly Twitter and the links it provides to other content.

The average Facebook user has 140-150 friends. To someone who was clambering at the doors to be a member when it was still exclusive to colleges in America, this seems counterintuitive. I believe there are two phenomena at work here:

  1. Simple maths (my favourite kind), as explained in The Anatomy of Facebook and
  2. The changing demographics of Facebook – as older generations embrace it, they potentially have less online friends and therefore reduce the average number of friends?

So back to my survey – how many of your Facebook friends do you think you could call on in an emergency, perhaps to provide you with a bed, or a sofa, for a couple of nights?

I don’t want to prejudice the results of my survey, but here’s my hypothesis…I expect that there are probably 10% of my friends who I wouldn’t feel too uncomfortable in contacting for assistance. Of those, I’m going to guess that 50% are local, given that Facebook is primarily locally clustered.

So for ‘Average Joe’,

  • 140 x 10% = 14 Facebook friends that he can contact
  • 14 x 50% = 7 of which live locally who could help Joe out

Joe could then approach these friends and they could plan together to support each other – what we in the trade call “Community Resilience”.

I’m going to leave the survey open for 2 weeks and then report back on how results compare to my prediction. If you want to leave any thoughts on the rudimentary maths on show here, just pop a comment in the box below.

At the movies: World War Z

At the movies: World War Z

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This post needs three caveats. First, I’m by no means a zombie expert. Second, I have not read Max Brooks’ novel, although appreciate the narrative device is dramatically different.

wwz cropped

Finally, at just shy of 1000 words, it turns out I have a lot to say about zombies! My guess is that this stems from a traumatic experience as an 8 year old watching a cannibalism story on BBC’s Crimewatch. I still get the shivers on hearing the theme tune.

Valerie over at Emergency Management suggests that Zombies could be considered a Disaster Preparedness Meme; having appeared on official channels such as the CDC blog.

I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say that we’re in meme territory here, but we’ve certainly got a lot of zombies about at the moment. Here’s my take on what World War Z tells us from a resilience perspective.

Establishing what happened

  • There are several hints throughout that the government (in itself this is interesting, usually it’s a scientist or a conspiracy theorist that the Government don’t take seriously) knew that there was a potential for something significant. This isn’t confirmed in dialogue, but a spattering of lingering looks between government officials provides enough to read between the lines.
  • Despite the disruption to phone networks, we still see traces of international surveillance. Quite why so much of this had to be first hand data collection from Brad is a mystery, but I suppose it’s difficult to dramatise an exchange of emails.

Prior Levels of Preparedness

We begin in the middle of the action – as a result, examples of emergency preparedness are scant, but I did make a few observations

  • That said, there are one or two examples of emergency preparedness. The best example is probably the family in New Jersey who have stockpiled food (and weapons) and have candles on hand for when the power goes off.
  • The film also hints at some of the perils of not being prepared. As new of the outbreak becomes common knowledge, we see supermarkets ransacked – a reminder to have a stockpile at home perhaps?
  • Thankfully for us, the protagonist has a history working with the UN, which stands him in good stead for the rest of the film, adapting to circumstances and being resourceful with equipment


With much of the US Government taken out early on in the film (the film makes a stong mention of the UN – an organisation to which Pitt is connected) it’s down to Brad and dude on the boat to try and save humanity. Whilst this is probably a stretch of the imagination, it reinforces the point of ensuing resilience and sustainability of your own team, an important business continuity consideration.

I did think it was interesting to see cordons being used for containment. There are very few occasions where this is permitted in the UK. However, a double line of police cars is no match for Pitt’s RV, which effectively conveys the lengths people will go to not to be contained.

Unlike other disaster films, there are no casualties. You’re either alive or undead. This means we don’t see too much in the way of how medical facilities cope with a surge in demand.

The Science Part

As is often the way in these films, the young virologist who is confident of finding the solution, manages to accidentally shoot himself. A reminder about the risks associated with a single point of failure.

From soldiers in South Korea, we’re told that that Jerusalem has isolated itself by building a large wall (surely this is a topical reference to Israeli/Palestinian policies? Turns out Al Jazeera made this connection too).  This reminded me to the small Derbyshire village of Eyam, which successful avoided the Plague. Simultaneous infection of cities all over the globe seems a little unlikely. However, real-life experience from H1N1 flu was that many large urban centres identified their first cases within a week of the declaration of an event of international significance.

The 12 second ‘conversion’ from human to zombie is incredibly quick. The timescales and convulsions shown present more like nerve agent exposure than bacteria or virus. Whilst the ‘flocking’ behaviour of zombies toward the source of noise isn’t new, the collective emergent response to form a pyramid of zombies to breach the wall was interesting (and technically not unfeasible).

Communications were a dominant theme in the film. The trusty satellite phone made an appearance; I must have missed the part where they realise that it’s cloudy so it won’t connect, or how Brad was able to recharge his device. I thought perhaps the filmmakers glossed over the true impact that a loss of telecommunications would have. We’re now so used to texting/emailing/tweeting/skype-ing (and yes, even phoning) that the distress caused when these systems are not available would be significant. It seemed overly convenient that the family groups depicted were all together, rather than being separated.

I did think it would be unlikely for a research facility of that nature to store all their ‘deadly’ samples all in the same fridge, but I guess it makes for an easier storyline.

The part that I found hardest to believe (apart from Pitt’s hair) related to the ‘cure’. Let’s give the whole population a disease to ‘camouflage’ ourselves. Whilst giving ourselves disease is nothing new (vaccination) I’d expect it would be more thoroughly assessed before inducing meningitis. Did they consider just using the pathogen as an aftershave? Eau de Ebola? Perhaps they did, but with Brad beard never getting past ‘rugged’ it was difficult to tell how much time was passing.

Other observations

Brad Pitt’s hair. Need I say more?

Whilst he might have had irritating hair, I liked Brad Pitt’s cautiousness. Too often the leading man just goes in all guns blazing. Brad was a (slightly) more considered hero, resourceful and aware that there were no second chances.


brain  brain  brain  brain (4 brains)

Final Word: Not a cross bow in sight and another innovative use for duck tape (surely a staple of anyone’s Grab Bag?!)


Image Source: Plan B Entertainment

Rainy Day Funds

Rainy Day Funds

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ceramic piggy bank

I read an article in The Independent last week about how there has been an increase in people unable to cope with unexpected expenditure.

Presumably this is as a result of the recession, and I’ve certainly noticed that everyday life seems to be that little bit more expensive than it used to be; most likely as a result of a combination of rising fuel prices, an increase in VAT and inflation rate changes. However, I’m no economist and therefore I’ll leave precise analysis of the reasons for this to people much better informed than me.

This does have impacts for resilience though. Flooding, arguably the UK’s most likely risk, rarely generates sensational media images associated with…say…helicopter crashes, but (I would suggest) is more damaging in terms of cost. In this context, Rainy Day Fund seems a particularly apt metaphor.

Right now, would you be able to afford, or does your insurance cover,

  • Replacing all of your downstairs carpets?
  • Hiring equipment to dry out plaster?
  • Repairing damage to your car caused by flood water and debris?

It’s something The Guardian picked up in 2011, but clearly many of us didn’t heed their warnings! How many of us have a piggy bank that we can raid in an emergency?

I have several contingency funds, but none of them particularly extensive, and I’m sure I’d have to call on other sources of assistance if I needed large sums of money quickly.

The organisations that I work with every day prepare detailed plans for many of the risks in the National Risk Register. Some of them have considered how to ‘deal’ with Vulnerable People, and often this involves information to “prepare a household or community emergency plan” but perhaps some more practical advice like “save a small amount of money each week” would be more advantageous?

Community resilience isn’t just about sandbags!


Image Source: Ocean/Corbis

mtthwhgn phone home…

mtthwhgn phone home…

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I doubt I’ll be alone in confessing that E.T. makes me cry. Especially that part where he’s getting frustrated that he can’t contact his family.


Now, anthropomorphic aliens aside, I think there is a resilience message here. (Yes, I can pretty much get a resilience message from any TV or Film – feel free to challenge me!)

Imagine yourself in his situation, due to a turn of events, lets say a disaster; you’re unable to get in touch with your friends and relatives, or find out information via the internet or social media. This could happen for a variety of reasons – the sheer number of people trying to use the network could cause overloading, similar to the effect observed every year on New Years Eve.

It could also occur because your phone has been damaged or the battery runs flat as you’re using it. This is a particular problem for smartphone users as many of the apps suck battery life even in sleep mode, and research from Purdue University suggests that even “a fully charged phone battery can be drained in as little as five hours”.

Being a committed emergency planning professional, I practice what I preach and have a Zombie Apocalypse Bag ready and waiting. Two of the items in this bag are designed to enable me to charge my phone, so you’d think that would be enough. However, an article in the New York Times yesterday, summarising research from the Electric Power Research Institute, has made me question how effective these solutions would be – answer: not very.

  • From my solar charger – I’d need 6-8 hours of sunlight to charge a phone by 25%.
  • From the hand cranked charger with built in torch – I’d need to continually crank at a rate of 2 cranks per second for two and a half hours to get the same, 25%, level of charge.
  • I don’t have a car, but if I could use a cigarette lighter socket charger, then I have a reasonable chance of getting 25% charge within an hour – but it does present risks of draining the car battery and might need to be done in a ventilated area.
  • If I had a battery charger, I could get a 15% charge in 30 minutes, which sounds like a much more effective rate of charge – but would require me to invest in a supply of long-life AA batteries

This post was originally written for my work blog, where I posed a question to readers about what I could do to improve my own resilience. I’ll bring you a breakdown of the responses soon (because this site needs some graphs!).

But for now, how much do you rely on your phone? Have you considered what you’d do without it?

Image source: