--> Gill Blog: July 2006

Gill Blog

Monday, July 31, 2006

Canadian Municipalities Missing From Disaster Planning

A report on the impact of federal government activities related to public safety and emergency preparedness on municipalities was recently published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Here's the backgrounder:
Municipal governments need a voice in decision-making if they are to ensure the safety and security of their communities, according to “Emergency: Municipalities missing from disaster planning,” a new report commissioned by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

The report, prepared for FCM by the National Security Group (NSG), focuses on the roles municipal governments play in managing emergencies.

The report says it is imperative for municipal governments, the first responders in more than 90 per cent of all emergencies, to have a voice in shaping the policies that legislate and regulate security and emergency preparedness.

Additionally, the report calls for a plan to guide the allocation of all funding for public security and emergency preparedness. Such a plan would require that municipal governments be recognized, consulted and properly funded so they can fulfill their responsibilities as first responders.

The report says there has been a serious increase in threats facing Canada and its municipalities and that little of the $9.5 billion spent by the federal government on security since 2001 has gone to municipalities.

Although municipalities have received some funding through federal programs, including the Joint Emergency Planning Program (JEPP) and the Heavy Urban Search and Research (HUSAR), this funding has been limited.

The NSG report updates an earlier report by Global Change Strategies International for FCM in October 2004. The earlier report demonstrated the critical role municipal governments play as first-line responders in emergencies and outlined the challenges they face in ensuring the security of Canada’s cities and communities.

The NSG report confirms many of the earlier findings and examines trends in potential hazards as well as the escalating costs resulting from them. The report takes an in-depth look at the 2003-2004 operating budgets of 12 municipalities and the proportions dedicated to emergency management and protection.

The 12 municipalities dedicated 19 to 20 per cent of their budgets to protection, with the proportion of overall expenditures dedicated to protection predicted to continue increasing.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the need for better cooperation and coordination among governments on planning and response capabilities; municipal involvement in setting the policies and programs for emergency response; and appropriate funding.

The report is available here in pdf from the FCM website.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Katrina: What Went Wrong?

The Wall Street Journal reports on what went wrong, and publishes a free chapter of Chris Cooper and Robert Block's new book on the subject, Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security. "Cooper and Block's reporting does seem to suggest that this column may have been right about the focus on terrorism and its effect on our ability to respond to natural disasters," adds Glenn Reynolds.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Video iPod

Now that I'm turned on to Video iPod, it probably won't be long before we're podcasting and vlogging here on the Gill Blog, er, vlog. Stay tuned.

While we're disovering the secrets of videoblogging, you might enjoy the latest Rocketboom video.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

9/11 at the Movies

I just watched the movie trailer for World Trade Center, directed by Oliver Stone, which opens on August 9th. Don't know if the trailer's one to download to my iPod, but the movie reviews are encouraging:
Movies like "World Trade Center" - and "United 93," which preceded it - don't come along very often. More should.

There are many scenes that will cause audiences to reach for the tissues, but the last one is a true resurrection moment. As Jimeno, first, and then McLoughlin are lifted out of what could have been their graves, they are passed from hand-to-hand along a gauntlet made up of their colleagues, more than 50 of whom are real-life members of the PAPD, the NYPD and FDNY who were flown to Los Angeles for the scene.

Whatever one thinks of Oliver Stone, the man knows how to make movies. This is one of his best. It deserves an Oscar in so many categories. It also deserves the thanks of a grateful nation. Go and see it beginning Aug. 9 and make him a large profit so he might consider inspiring us again, as his predecessors so often did during Hollywood's Golden Age.

I'll be seeing both United 93 and World Trade Center in the next few weeks, and will collect my own thoughts here on the blog.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Comic Book Adaptation of 9/11 Report

Comic industry veterans have turned The 9/11 Commission Report into a graphic novel, hoping to get the information contained in the government report out to a younger readership.

According to this review in the Washinton Post:
The book condenses the nearly 600-page federal report released by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to fewer than 150 pages, and the creators say they hope their book will help attract young readers and others who might be overwhelmed by the original document. With sans-serif captions, artist renderings, charts and sound-describing words such as "Whooom!" and "R-rrumble," the adaptation recounts the attacks with parallel timelines of the four hijacked planes.

But can a topic as massive and sobering as Sept. 11 be dealt with effectively in the pages of a comic book?

The comic book is aimed at the "kids, teenagers and adults" unlikely to read the government's nearly 600-page version, says illustrator Ernie Colón.

Creator Sid Jacobson, publisher Thomas LeBien, 9/11 Commission member Slade Gordon and others were on hand at Comic-Con on Friday to discuss the 9/11 Report, the adaptation, and another potential 9/11 movie. Here's the video of their press conference.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blog Censorship in India

We're saddened by press reports that Gill Blog, our business blog concerning disaster planning and workplace continuity, may be blocked in India inadvertently as a result of governmental censorship in a democracy.
The country's 153 internet service providers (ISP) have blocked 17 websites since last week on federal government orders.

Some of these sites belong to Google's Blogspot, a leading international web log hosting service.

Indian bloggers say that the decision is an attack on freedom of speech.

A number of them have started filing petitions under the country's new landmark freedom of information law which gives citizens the right to access information held by the government.

Bloggers say the ban has meant that people do not even have access to blogs like the one set up to help the relatives of the victims of the recent train bombings in Mumbai (Bombay),

We might be back online for our readers in India soon, according to India Times:
The Internet Service Providers Association of India, the body representing all internet service providers, on Wednesday instructed all its members to lift the blockage at the domain level.

This means that if you have a blog where the domain level is Blogspot or Typepad, this blockage will no longer apply to all users, but only at the sub-domain level. At the sub-domain level, only those 17 blogs which have been blacklisted by the government will continue to be inaccessible.

Hopefully then, blog readers in India will be able to read posts on Gill Blog, like "Mumbai Bounces Back After Blasts" our most recent post concerned about India.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mumbai Bounces Back After Blasts

I've really been giving a lot of thought to the Mumbai bombings over the past few days, and have been principally pondering what type of effect the bombings will have on its white hot economy. Already, there are many who are predicting that this event could create a serious setback for India's outsourcing community and questioned how well outsourcing partners in India can maintain the continuity of their operations:
In the wake of the attacks, outsourcing providers in Mumbai scrambled to make sure employees and customer data were safe and secure. Meanwhile, outsourcing customers sought reassurances that their Indian partners could handle future unforeseen events.

The terrorist attack in Mumbai—and conflict between Israel and Lebanon for that matter—raise a series of questions for companies sourcing technology globally.

Do you know the disaster recovery plans of your offshore services provider? Are their plans integrated with yours? And how prepared are these providers?

Despite such ominous predictions, and after weighing multiple scenarios in my head, I can still answer this in a word: little.

Surely, this is not the first time that India's financial capital has seen a terrorist attack, but it is the first time this has occurred during India's new period of being an economic powerhouse. In the past these types of incidents had much to do with terrorist factions, particularly from Kashmir who wanted to destabilize the country to the point where war became a distinct possibility. The underlying assumption that somehow the outsourcing industry in India will fly south as a result of the attacks has one crucial flaw: it assumes the economy will continue to be driven by low end service functions such as call centers, without recognizing the country's massive potential to move up the business value chain. It is for this reason alone that more measured analysts remain bullish about India's long-term prospects.

Despite the actions of scattered terrorists, my gut tells me that nobody's going to take the bait and undo all the good things that have happened - there's just too much going on to let this disruption get in the way of something that can rightly be described as an economic miracle. Since the last time terrorist bombs ripped through India, a middle class has been firmly established, multinationals are lining up to jump into India, and the India-Pakistan cloud that has been hanging over the continent for decades is dissipating, especially because their respective leaders, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf genuinely seem to like each other.

What are the lessons that can be learned from a business continuity perspective? In short, there is much to be learned from the resilience of the Indian people, who perhaps as a result of living through decades of turmoil, conflict and uncertainty have exhibited a striking ability to dust themselves off and continue to move forward. Although there are some who believe its not enough to laud the efforts of the residents of Mumbai, we in the west should pay particular attention to it.

Given the state of fear that we have become accustomed to accepting, there is much to be admired from the resolve the Indian people. Little wonder they are doing as well as they are.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Urban Telecommunities

Urbanization is a feature topic in the Harvard International Review this month. The lead article, The Future of Urbanization, is written by N.J. Slabbert who, among other engagements, is an advisor to the Telework Coalition, a Washington DC-based ressearch group.
Urban Telecommunities As Regional Growth Engines

A good microcosmic example is an initiative to develop the town of La Plata, Maryland, into a pioneering telecommunity (E-Burb or wired suburb), presenting significant implications for the future of greater Washington, DC, as well as for urban regions throughout the United States, for which the La Plata project offers a growth engine model. The project envisages a telework community in which many residents will remain physically in La Plata while working virtually in DC or elsewhere, linked around the clock by fiber-optic internet and video. The project's controlling idea is a telecommunity concept developed by Dr. J.J. Hellman.

This "urban telecommunity" is not telecommuting as commonly understood—employees working from home occasionally or a loose network of geographically separated people linked periodically by the internet—but a formal group of substantial size, whose members, both remote and proximate, are continuously connected via a combination of on-screen and other contacts for public or private purposes of collegial cooperation, with most members sharing a common geographical locale. The idea of a dedicated social organization using teletechnology in this way to support a widely distributed urban workforce, metropolitan services infrastructure, and rurally located small community is an innovation of far-reaching practical and theoretical importance. It brings into useful illustrative convergence a cluster of concepts that together portends a new era in urban philosophy, embracing information technology as a positive and crucial contributor to both the social and infrastructural architectures of community.

Read the whole article to learn more about how teletechnology is shaping a new urban order.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is Your Business Ready for a Flu Pandemic?

Ford & Harrison attorneys, and F&H Solutions Group, have an interesting article posted on the firm's website as a Legal Alert:
In light of the extensive news coverage given to the possibility of an Avian flu pandemic, many employers are concerned about their operations as well as potential legal obligations should such a pandemic occur. This Alert provides guidance for developing a plan to help ensure the safety of the workplace should a pandemic occur. Having operational as well as communication plans may also prepare the organization in the event of other emergencies...

6. Identify your company policies and how they would be affected by a pandemic.

What is your company's policy on sick leave? To what extent are employees able to carry over or share/bank accrued sick leave? What are the implications of such a policy under wage payment and benefits laws?

What is your company policy on medical leave? Have you considered developing leave policies to be used in a pandemic situation that encourage employees to remain at home if they are sick or are caring for sick dependants? Such policies should be clearly worded to apply only in situations that implicate the use of your emergency management plan, to ensure they do not affect your day-to-day policies. Limit the contours of your plan to prevent it from working against you .

Do you have a telecommuting policy or at least an emergency telecommuting policy? Have you addressed any possible security concerns (through technology and through agreements creating binding legal obligations) if more employees are forced to work remotely?

Do your company policies address issues that may arise in a possible pandemic, such as: quarantine policies, social distancing policies, and increased sanitation policies to ensure a healthy work place?

You can find the complete article here. This is a very clearly written article that would be a good outline for discussions about company preparedness amongst any corporate executive group.