Learning from Experience: Public Officials Share Lessons from Emergencies

In this piece from www.govtech.com, four public officials share the lessons they’ve learned after their experiences with disasters.

Below is a brief summary of each person’s story, as stated in the article. For the background info on each person’s experiences, see the link below for the full original article.

1) Rafael Mena, chief information officer (CIO) of Orange County, Fla.: Mena has extensive experience dealing with hurricanes. A day before the official opening of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, Mena sat down with President Obama to share his insight. Here are the most important lessons he’s learned in his career:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of GIS (geographic information systems).
  • Apps with two-way communication are effective.
  • During a crisis, get everyone in the same room if possible.

2) Justin Holmes, overseer of Boston’s 24-hour phone hotline and many mobile and website applications: Holmes was involved in keeping citizens informed during the Boston Marathon bombings. Here are some tips from him:

  • Before an emergency, ensure that technology is scalable, so you aren’t caught off guard.
  • Ask for help from the private sector; companies probably will respond quickly.
  • Be personal, not robotic, when communicating with the public.

3) Steve Emanuel, CIO of New Jersey: Emanuel remembers Superstorm Sandy all too well. He took part in a lot of pre-planning before the storm hit, and was involved in the response efforts. His lessons are:

  • Be prepared for help from the outside, including colleagues from other governments.
  • Tap into the disaster recovery plans of the private sector when offered.
  • Pilot projects can be put to use in the real world to fill a need.

4) Hugh Miller, CIO of San Antonio: Miller and some of his staff were put in charge of technology at an old Air Force building after Hurricane Katrina. That building became a processing center for thousands of people the storm left homeless. Miler shares his tips:

  • Brace for some chaos; it might be inevitable.
  • Establish authority and leadership early on.
  • Know who your vendors are before the emergency.


For many more details, see the original article here: http://www.govtech.com/public-safety/Hard-Won-Experience-Lessons-from-Americas-Biggest-Disasters-and-Emergencies.html