"The sky is falling"...and other life-threatening issues

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA Kansas City Office

Red alert, orange alert, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, ice storms, pestilence, disease. Not only is the sky falling but the world is coming to an end! Or so it would seem from the news reports we hear daily. Did you notice that many of the emergencies listed above directly impact the public works department in your agency?

In most cases, no other city department will face the number of "emergency" situations that the public works department faces. In fact, they happen so frequently, many departments don't stop to realize they actually are emergencies. Just because the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) doesn't open, doesn't mean it isn't an emergency. How your department responds to these issues is a key element to the safety and security both of your citizens and to the operations of your department.

Members of the Emergency Management Committee focus on these issues and many others as they work throughout the year. They face the challenge of staying on top of the many issues at the federal level involving homeland security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and then determining how best to communicate those issues to our members.

Participation at the federal level consumes much time for many of the members of this year's committee. Brian Usher, Zion, IL, represents APWA in developing NFPA Standards credentialing. Teresa Scott, Gainesville, FL, coordinates our efforts with the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-8 on National Preparedness. MaryAnn Marrocolo, Philadelphia, PA, is the representative to the National Emergency Management Association Homeland Security Consortium. Larry Zensinger tracks the workings of the Stafford Act which monitors the Presidential Declaration of Emergency that triggers the financial and physical assistance from FEMA. David Himes participates in the International Association of Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid meetings. Curt Edwards coordinates activities with FEMA's Floodplain and Mapping Program. The entire committee is involved in the National Incident Command System initiative. Diane Linderman, At-Large Director for Leadership and Management, is directing the Department of Homeland Security Credentialing program. Dan Jensen, Government Affairs staff, is the key liaison to the federal agencies and task forces.

In addition to monitoring all these programs, committee members have presented testimony at congressional hearings, participated in congressional staff briefings conducted by APWA, and shared the APWA perspective whenever requested.

One of the upcoming issues is the development of a position statement on how public works agencies should prepare to handle problems relating from a possible flu pandemic. MaryAnn Marrocolo is working to develop this statement and any input or suggestions from members would be welcomed. An educational session will be presented at the 2007 Congress in San Antonio, as well. Developing plans for handling waste, spread of contagion, and even the staffing of our own departments may be crucial should the pandemic occur.

A second position statement is being developed to support the allocation of fuel to include public works agencies as emergency service providers. Seems only logical that public works vehicles would be included but making that happen may take a great deal of communication and explanation. Your suggestions on this topic are also solicited.

The committee is also considering offering a one-day workshop during the 2007 APWA Congress which would provide NIMS 1 and 2 training. If you have an interest in seeing this occur, please send your support to MaryAnn Marrocolo, Committee Chair, at

The work of the committee is documented each month on the Emergency Management web page at Please visit the site frequently to stay in touch with their activities. Also available at this site is a PowerPoint(tm) presentation that could be used at a chapter meeting which details the role of the committee in presenting emergency management information for our membership.

A roster of the members and their contact information is also available at this web page and is there for your convenience in reaching the committee. If there are issues you would like to see addressed, either at the federal, provincial, state or local level, please contact one of the members. Their goal is to provide the best emergency management information available.

An old adage says, "Forewarned is forearmed." Preparing for the possibility of an emergency is much more valuable work than cleaning up after it's over. Take a careful look at your public works department's emergency plan and how you relate to the agency-wide plans. Insist on being included as a first responder, not only to the actual emergency, but more critically, to the pre-planning. After all, you may not be able to stop the sky from falling but you can provide a sound roof overhead to protect your community from falling debris!

Ann Daniels is the staff liaison to the Emergency Management, Leadership and Management, and Fleet Services Committees. She can be reached at (816) 595-5223 or