FEMA Basic Academy graduation – first one in Illinois

The time has come to welcome all of our graduates of the FEMA Basic Academy here at DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management!

“This is the first FEMA Basic Academy offered here in Illinois and we are proud to bring this Emergency Management foundation education here to DuPage County.” said Academy Instructor Kevin Sur. “The skills learned during this intensive course from November through March builds the framework for all Emergency Managers combining knowledge of all fundamental systems, concepts, and practices of leading actions for future leaders.”

The course started in November 2019 where participants were exposed to all mission areas including a myriad of case studies that highlighted the importance of collaboration and coordination in the response and recovery phase of any disaster or emergency.

In January 2020, participants took a deep dive into the science of disasters as well as planning to better help and understand the threats and dangers to each of their own communities.

To understand our hazards, we must understand legit science so that we can use the right resources to solve the problem.

The last week in March 2020, the class focused on the hot button topic of Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program and the Public Information and Warning course. Special thanks to new FEMA MEPP DuPage County OHSEM Sup Corey Mulryan for teaching with me on this one.

Participants debated the use of mass notification systems, social media in targeting specific audiences, and the value of the Public Information Officer (PIO) who’s role is so vital to the success of the agency.

Proud to be a part of the Instructional delivery team to get this first class here at DuPage County OHSEM.

Who’s who in the zoo? Well, we had participants from 6 different states, 3 different FEMA Regions with a diverse crowd from local, county, state, and Federal partners.

OUTSTANDING!!!!!

As we rolled into the graduation, I was able to make some opening remarks and thanking our most esteemed guests in the room.

Glad to hear from the new FEMA Region V Deputy Regional Administrator Kevin Sligh.

Deputy RA Sligh is a graduate of the program and is proud to see this foundational course being used as the marker of success for local Emergency Managers.

We also got a chance to hear from FEMA Region 5 Training & Exercise Manager Jessica Mitchell on the value of training. She is a proud resident of DuPage County.

And finally, to close things out, ladies and gents….put your hands together for Former IEMA Director and former Director of DuPage OHSEM….FEMA Region V Regional Administrator James Joseph!!!!

@rusnivek = #HypeMan

Great to hear his words of wisdom as his start here at DuPage and move on up has been solid.

Oh yeah…..social media. Yeah, I haven’t been posting a ton of stuff. Been concentrating on instruction and delivering the best class stuff.

Buttttttttttttttttttttttttt since I am one of the few FEMA Master PIOs, I figured it was only appropriate that I take a class selfie right?

#engagement #selfie

But seriously, I’m super proud of all the work that everyone contributed in class.

Lots of love for all of them.

More importantly, I know who I can count on during an activation/disaster.

Rusnivek’s 2020 Objective-1: Instructor certified FEMA Basic Academy – completed.

From the bottom of my heart, mahalos to my colleagues for the support throughout the academy.

Reporting live with a huge smile on my face…..

@rusnivek

Phil Politano 😢

Earlier this week on Thursday, I was informed of the passing of Phil Politano.

😢

Just like the PIO world, the news came with an embargo as I was told to hold on the distro of Phil’s passing until more details were released.

I was not ready to hear this.

Then FEMA EMI pushed the info out.

😞 😔 😢 I’ve known Phil for years. 😢

I cherish all my conversations with Phil, bending his ear on ideas, strategies, and how we can better serve our communities as leaders and still be innovative by stretching and setting the bar higher for others to achieve more.

Phil pushed me to do more.

I openly share info and talk about my duties as a PIO.

Again, Phil pushed me to do more.

I told my story about PIOs and how critical they are to the success of our mission in Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.

Phil said you can empower more.

I increased my exposure and worked/traveled/trained more public safety PIOs across the country.

Phil smiled and said in his loud booming voice, “Well done man!”

Over the years, I have literally trained thousands of pros. There is no doubt in my mind, each one of them knows the importance of getting the right message, to the right, people, at the right time.

Phil’s oversight to my official FEMA PIO duties and actions helped make me a better PIO. He was always watching me.

Phil was always watching what I was doing.

Speaking of watching, I knew Phil was always watching me, this turned into a little game called the SURprise. Here’s one time I SURprised Phil at a secure USCG Base in California.

That was a good one.

Another time, I caught him delivering an exercise inject, eating a salad in the sim cell during a functional exercise.

A salad and Sur…who could ask for anything more!?!?!

<Sigh>

In 2018, Phil handed me my FEMA Master PIO certificate.

<sigh>

I was hoping to catch up to him at the end of the month at EMI. However, it seems that God needed a PIO and Phil got the ultimate deployment resource request.

Gonna miss his booming voice….

Gonna miss that side eye…

Gonna miss that PIO guidance…

I’ll just settle for that award winning PIO smile.

Trust me Phil, I’ll definitely take more notes.

Reporting with tears in my eyes…

@rusnivek

It’s all smiles in day-2 of ICS-300 at DWFD

Starting off our day-2 of ICS-300 here at DWFD with Jake and Elwood!

You know those two jokers executed their plans…to get the band back together.

This morning, we are joined by another representative from Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Region 4 Trainer Wendell Brewer!

Hope to lean on his recent expertise as a MEPP throughout the day.

Additionally, I got several inquiries on training that pertains to timely and proximity to the holidays (specifically any classes in December).

Look, it’s only December 6th. You need to calm down. You’re being too loud.

In short, disasters don’t take holidays or extended vacations. And neither do we. I am proud to see so many public safety partners attending our class from across the country.

Today, we hit the Planning P in full force as we brief our partners with the deets on the tactics meeting. We also dive deep on how important the ICS forms are (esp the 215 and 215A) for all tacticians and deployed personnel. I believe these two forms are critical to every single Incident Action Plans (IAP).

And for those that took ICS courses and thought they were boring and a waste of time or had poor instruction….that’s your fault.

Here’s proof that ICS participants, if provided solid instruction, can enjoy training and smile throughout class. I would say that the smiles probably help nurture transparent and dynamic conversation in class to solve legit problems that face any government agency. Sooooooo critical for any agency leader.

So go ahead and continue to complain about your experiences. Perhaps you just haven’t found an agency that provides solid instructors with real-world experiences that nurtures coordination and collaboration.

And as a true marker that I believe what we teach is impactful in all of our communities, I submit my sock choice for today. If we as leaders of our organization do not plan accordingly, we will likely become extinct.

Rawr.

Reporting live from the front of the class…

@rusnivek

IPEM? Yep!

When I was deployed this summer with FEMA for the disaster response in Nebraska, I totally missed the State of Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) awarding me my official Illinois Professional Emergency Manager certification/designation.

Whohooooooooo – IPEM!

Special thanks to DHS/FEMA, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and the DuPage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for their support in this process.

Reporting live from Illinois…

@MEPIrusnivek 😆

Quick chat with FEMA Deputy Administrator Dan Kaniewski

I was fortunate this week to sit down this week with FEMA Deputy Administrator for Resilience Dan Kaniewski at FEMA HQ.

Dan’s efforts across the country has helped pushed the importance of preparedness and strength for any community. With regular talks on flood insurance and hazard mitigation, his ability to bring pre-disaster planning to the forefront has been solid as we continue to help many communities better prepare for any disaster or emergency.

Dan’s hard fought efforts is not only with government agencies, but various partners in the public and private sector too. The importance of their efforts will only help better their community when disaster strikes.

Glad to see our top brass pushing for more preparedness every single day too.

Reporting live from FEMA HQ…Happy Aloha Friday peeps!

@rusnivek

Monday morning with FEMA HQ staff

Solid Monday morning here at FEMA HQ.

Catching up to a few friends in External Affairs because preparedness doesn’t stop! I knew Jana starting back in the day as we were (and still are) huge advocates for the Ready.Gov Program.

For more details behind the FEMA Ready.Gov program, check out www.ready.gov

And since we are talking about External Affairs, I got a chance to take a deep dive with FEMA External Affairs Director Jessica Nalepa.

Lots of discussion on the complexities of External Affairs and how our actions are so critical in a disaster and of course the public perception. Also lots of discussion on dedication to career and service.

Looking forward to having more discussion with her on how to improve our response and elevate External Affairs for FEMA and the nation.

Suit up because I’m reporting live from Washington DC….

@rusnivek

Day-2 of the new 2019 ICS-400 course!

Day-2 of the new 2019 ICS-400 course! This morning, we start out talking about the deadly 2005 Hurricane Katrina/Rita response with the US Coast Guard.

Facilitated discussion allows our participants to openly discuss perceived issues. Lots of response actions from all of our participants that can contribute to a successful response. Glad we had fruitful discussion prior to the actual disaster.

Our class also acknowledged the national Emergency Alert System Test today for TV and radio.

Everyone in class knew about it…aka prepared leadership and pros. Love it!

Midmorning and afternoon class-time was spent on the capstone activity with heavy discussion on the use of area command and how we allocate resources for multiple jurisdictions.

And you are right if you said that the rotor wing options are high on the list of valuable recourses.

Channeling my best FEMA EMI Bob Ridgeway, “…and don’t worry sports fans” moment, we included the infamous State of Columbia!

This fictions town is always a disaster.

Great to see so many partners discuss overarching goals including challenges with the big three public safety providers. Like pros, they included a large bite into health intelligence, DoD assets, and of course addressing various audiences like the tribal nations. Solid!

Proud to serve my fellow public safety pros from all professions this week in the ICS-400 course.

@rusnivek

National Preparedness Symposium Day-3

Final day of the 2019 National Preparedness Symposium here at CDP! Lots to share as we open up the day with a long talk on cyber.

Hint to Emergency Managers, Cyber is the sexy incident now…so I suggest you plan and design with your training manager now. Yep, you heard me right, cyber = sexy.

Noooooooow switching from cyber to FIT – because we will all get a FIT!

Here to listen in on the deets for the FEMA Integration Teams (FIT) from my FEMA LNO in Hurricane Irma, ladies and gents, put your hands together for…….. John Allen!!!!!

John Allen, better known as FEMA’s Director of Preparedness Integration and Coordination out of HQ has been point person for this effort started when previous FEMA Administrator Brock Long started.

This program imbeds FEMA Planners at specified locations to support all state, local, tribal, and territory (SLTT) partners. Rollout has been ongoing as this is a phased effort. Many of the 56 FITs are not staffed yet.

Also fortunate to have one of the FIT Leads with us from Idaho – hiya Justin!

Great to see that kind of partnerships on all levels including building confidence in the SLTT’s efforts. The most beneficial aspect of the program would be that the FIT can provide RRCCs and NRCC accurate SA/COP for real-time operational assessment and needs. So more than just an FEMA LNO, these FITs are able to integrate and provide immediate support.

But truth be told, the FITs are really integrated into their community as they live there. They work there. They are part of the response, recovery side of any event or incident that state may have. Great idea!

Me? I’m totes interested.

Riding on the wave of productivity, we popped back into our regional groups again and talked about our lessons learned from this symposium.

We discussed at length how we can help each other under blue/grey skies time…and really support each other during event/disasters.

Here’s a little behind the scenes of the group. Everyone participated including solid contributions from our tribal partners.

After all, isn’t that the mantra of Emergency Management? Building relationships before a disaster?!?!? See, even the pros practice what we preach!

In breaking for lunch, I know many of you remember taking IS-100, IS-200, IS-700, IS-800 and remember this slide.

I wanted to dispel the rumor, that is NOT me.

Saw a few of the FIWA folks in the hall and thanked them for their help during our MRTs as well as our pre-disaster deployment support prior to Irma. While there, I had them check my FEMA phone and tuned up. They reminded me that I still needed to do my yearly compliance training on “Security Awareness”

#whoops

As the symposium closed out, we had the color guard from the Anniston Police stop by to retire the colors.

Everyone who attended work tirelessly in protecting our nation from emergencies and disasters. We all believe in helping out and supporting all our communities because a prepared nation is a more resilient nation.

On the door step of the Memorial Day weekend, we all pause to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect everyone in this great nation.

Be safe out there folks!

Reporting live from the 2019 National Preparedness Symposium…

@rusnivek

Forming the proverbial PIO Voltron for today’s FEMA JIC/JIS course

And now starting the FEMA JIC/JIS Course with our class here at the Defiance County EMA Emergency Operations Center.

And yes, if you’ve been in a JIC/JIS class w/ me before, you know I talk about Voltron. In the FEMA Basic PIO Course, we teach you to be an individual PIO and function with limited options…however, the JIC/JIS course allows you to join forces with other PIOs and work the magic despite being from different backgrounds and different factions for the emergency or disaster. That’s right-we can all get along in the JIC.

Starting out the day with a cold reality check on expectations and capabilities as we assess our options and ready our agencies for disasters. It would be a good idea to have a clear understanding of the situation and build from there.

Additionally, we bring our all-hazards partners into the fold. Here’s Sister Michael Marie talking about the complexities of what appears as a simple emergency that could quite result in bringing soooooooooooooooooooooo many partners to respond to this typical emergency.

Drawing too simple for you?

You need more description?

NO SOUP FOR YOU!

The whole point of the exercise is to get your mind thinking about various options as well as partners to call early as likely, they have a dog in the fight to help any affected community recover from any disaster.

Look, it’s more than Fire, Police, and EMS – it’s the #WholeCommunity to build a culture of preparedness.

Proud of every single one of these participants as everyone walked away with a new understanding and respect for the PIO. While some have been on TV before w/ a few interviews, all of them realize the dangers of an unprepared interviewee.

Looking forward to working with all of you on the next big one. And just think…in the midst of a disaster, you just might see these two smiling faces.

Now, go forth and use your new PIO powers for good!

@rusnivek