Archive - Oct 22, 2007

The San Diego Fires

As I continue to dig through the messages in my inbox, another theme I’m finding is one about how we respond to disasters. The fires in San Diego bring an immediacy to these issues, but the issues are much greater.

One group that is doing important work on looking at how we deal with disasters is the Disaster Accountability Project (DAP). It was founded by Ben Smilowitz, a UConn Law student who volunteered with the Red Cross and a managed a client service center in Gulfport, MS, during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Around a week ago DAP sent out a press release critical of the timing of the TOPOFF4 exercise,

because an updated National Response Plan is not yet in place. Originally, the Exercise was planned to follow the close of the comment period for the newly proposed and highly controversial National Response Framework (NRF). In a large-scale emergency, it would be critical for plans at all levels of government to be aligned with the national coordinating plan. But, state and local officials have not had time to align their plans with the NRF because it has not been finalized.

They also point out

that the Department of Homeland Security made a similar error in April 2005, when it held TOPOFF3 before the deadline by which state, local and other federal agencies were to have revised their own plans to reflect the National Response Plan (NRP) issued in December 2004 with little input from state officials.

While the timing of the exercises might not have been optimal in terms of making the exercises as effective as they should have been, they do illustrate what seems to be a key aspect of dealing with disasters. Disasters often come unexpectedly or at inopportune times.

Today, DAP issued a press release about the comments they are submitting on the NRF. They note that "The description of the FEMA Director and DHS Secretary's responsibilities conflicts with requirements of the Post Katrina Reform Act…Federal exercises frequently ignore recovery or give it lip service if addressed at all… Not all 'lessons learned' are publicly reported or followed up with changes to plans… the TOPOFF III after-action report still has not been issued."

Only seven and a half hours later, they had their next press release out about San Diego.

Noting that ‘Gaps In Disaster Services [are] More Likely To Get Fixed If Made Public’,

The Disaster Accountability Project's toll-free hotline (866-9-TIP-DAP) is ready for CA wildfire-related calls. California residents, firefighters, and relief volunteers can report problems or whistle-blow gaps in disaster relief services in the wildfire response and relief effort. Individuals should use the toll-free hotline (866-9-TIP-DAP) to report the specific location and nature of the disaster relief/response gaps.

Soon afterwards, I received an email from a good friend of mine who is a therapist in San Diego. She notes that two of her friends have lost their homes and were evacuated this morning. Her family is still safe, but they have been close before. She notes a huge dislocation of people, currently over 250,000 evacuated. She urges people to send money to the Red Cross and to help out in other ways because, she notes “this is not going to be over soon as so much housing and business has been destroyed.” She also notes that the therapy community is mobilized and helping, which I believe is too often overlooked in the aftermath of a disaster.

So, for the people of San Diego, I offer my prayers. If you know people struggling with the disaster in California, make sure they know about DAP’s toll-free hotline. It might not help with the current disaster, but it will help as we all learn to deal better with disasters in the future.
(Technorati tag San Diego Fire)

Teach your parents well

Sunday, I received an email pointing to an article in the Hartford Courant, Moms, Dads Urged To Be Stronger Advocates. The article spoke about a meeting organized by CT Parent Power, “a statewide parent action network with a history of strengthening the voices of parents on the many decisions that affect our children and families.”

They advocate subversive activities like encouraging “members to register to vote” and “to go to their children's schools”. It was interesting to see the responses. For some reason a bunch of people don’t think parents should be involved and one went so far as to claim, “Parent Advocacy is NOT linked to better student performance”. Those looking for real information are encouraged to check out the research summary of the National Middle School Association.

Today, I received an email pointing me to another article in the Hartford Courant, I Am...Running for Mayor about Raul De Jesus’ campaign to become Mayor of Hartford. It is feel good sort of article and I wondered what is behind Raul’s campaign. The issues page of his campaign website leads off with Education, and his first point is about Parental Participation.

Educating our kids is a task that not only lies in the hands of leadership in our community but also lies in the hands of the parents. Many are single household parents and have more than one job. I acknowledge the effort that many put into our school system. Sometimes due to fact that they are multi-tasking, it’s easy for them to forget to allocate the time for their kids’ education.

He goes on to talk about "Parents Report Cards". He then tackles Outside Suspensions noting that in 2005-2006 there were 13,159 suspensions which he considers to be schools avoiding the real issues. He suggest he “would replace outside suspension with inside suspension and supervised community service.” He goes on to talk about public safety and taxes, and of course, he has a Register to Vote link on his webpage.

Soon after I got the email about Raul, I received an email about New York State’s Parenting Education Graduation Requirement. I don’t know of this requirements talk about the importance of parental participation in schools, but I sure hope that is does.

Raul is right to note the difficulties some parents have in finding time to be involved in their children’s schools. However, it is worth noting that this involvement doesn’t have to be an onerous task. This weekend, Kim is helping with the Halloween Hoot organized by the Beecher Road School Parent Teacher Organization and I am sure that everyone will have a good time.

I hope and expect that the majority of my readers are already very involved in their children’s schools. Good for you. I hope that some of these stories will re-enforce your commitment to be involved and provide useful thoughts for when you talk with others about the importance of parental involvement.

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