ALLIANCE FOR BUILDING REGULATORY REFORM IN THE DIGITAL AGE
NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP TO STREAMLINE GOVERNMENT

STILL STANDING AT THE FOOT OF THE TOWER OF BABEL

Robert C. Wible, Principal Robert Wible & Associates & FIATECH Project Manager

WHERE WE HAVE BEEN
On September 11, 2001, I spent the majority of the day in the state building code agency in Trenton, New Jersey alongside a team of people looking at how to possibly get building inspectors into Manhattan to help with the damage assessments that had to be done.

That day we witnessed the tragic outcome of the system's shortcomings: no one at "Ground Zero" had interoperable communications to help navigate the essential flow of information between agencies, nor did anyone have access to the operational building plans of the World Trade Center, or to the architects and engineers who constructed the towers - those essential experts who would have been able to help first responders understand, in those early moments, just how the buildings would come down.

In the aftermath of the event, at the McGraw Hill "Homeland Security Summit, Session on Lessons from the World Trade Center Destruction" held in Washington, D.C. on June 6, 2002, several speakers, including then Senator Joseph Biden, assessed the damage and addressed the need for:

  • Interoperable communications for first responders
  • Immediate access to building plans
  • Stronger & larger mutual aid agreements
  • Better protocols for spelling out Federal, state and local roles and responsibilities in disasters
  • The integration of the private sector into disaster response units
  • Greater uniformity in building codes with stronger disaster resiliency provisions
  • The elimination of "stove pipe bureaucracies" that block effective coordinated disaster preparedness, response and recovery programs

WHERE WE ARE TODAY
May 19, 2011. I am watching a room full of public and private sector professionals run through the 2011 Golden Guardian exercise at the State of California SOC outside of Sacramento. Everywhere around me, teams of people are rehearsing their response to a scenario in which large portions of California's Central Valley, including most of Sacramento, are underwater, with more downpours yet to come in the largest flood in the Golden State's recorded history.

I can see through this 2011 Golden Guardian exercise the fruits of the tireless work of countless professionals, who reflect in their planning exercise some of the lessons learned from the last ten years, including:
  • The expansion of EMAC into a nationwide system
  • The work of CalEMA's Business Utilities Operation Center as an integral part of the SOC
  • Clear & readily understood lines of authority & communication between Federal, state and local units of government
  • The greater ability of first responders to communicate using interoperable devices
  • The role of stronger building codes and codes enforcement

HOW FAR WE HAVE TO GO
As encouraging as the work in California is, there are still significant problems to be addressed nationwide. Eric Holdemen's "Black Swan Events" Point of View column in the May/June issue of Emergency Management, the on-going revelations from Japan's recovery efforts since the March disasters, and a report issued June 3rd by McGraw- Hill, "Recommendations to Congress, the Administration and the Private Sector to Mitigate Impacts of Disasters by Planning and Building for Resiliency" each highlight just how far we have yet to go to make the nation more disaster resilient.

Chief among those shortcomings is the fact that despite the best efforts of all parties our nation still:
  • Treats disasters as "one of" events, that happen elsewhere but "not here"
  • Generally prepares for only one disaster scenario at a time and not for multiple catastrophes or events of such magnitude that they cripple the American economy and cause - as Japan is experiencing - large parts of our economic base to be permanently captured by competitor nations
  • Sees disaster resiliency as being a totally separate issue from the economic sustainability of our nation

While more of us today work better together to make our nation more disaster resilient, too many of us still do not understand the need to join in such communication. We continue to see disaster resiliency as something not related to us and go on speaking our individual languages - aerospace, military, energy, agriculture, banking, et al. Without the ongoing mutual effort from our public and private sectors, we will find ourselves, just as we did on 9/11, still standing at the base of the Tower of Babel, unable to communicate and effectively cooperate in order to assure the resiliency and growth of our republic and its people.

PLEASE JOIN THE ALLIANCE AND THOSE OF US WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE MARCH 2-3, 2011 McGRAW-HILL CONFERENCE and prepared "RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONGRESS, THE ADMINISTRATION AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO MITIGATE IMPACTS OF DISASTERS BY PLANNING AND BUILDING FOR RESILIENCY," in working together to address these vital issues!

Contact me at: rcwible@comcast.net



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