What's the difference between education and training? A lot of us tend to flounder a bit on this one. Someone once facetiously suggested to me that you can understand the difference if you ask the question, "Do I want my daughter to have sex training or sex education?"
Joking aside, we generally see training as teaching individuals to perform specific tasks. It focuses on the "how".The tasks may be simple or complex, but ultimately they are performed by people at the technician level. Education, on the other hand, stresses critical thinking. It teaches the "why" and encourages students to develop creative problem solving skills. These are the skills we require of our leaders and managers.
Emergency management is evolving as a profession. In my opinion, we are rapidly moving away from the days when being a solid technician was sufficient to do the job. The emergency manager of the future will need a solid theoretical base and the ability to function as a high-level manager and trusted adviser.
Given this need, I was apalled to find out this morning that FEMA has cancelled this year's Higher Education Symposium at the Emergency Management Institute in favor of a "virtual symposium" to save money. Started some years ago by my colleague Wayne Blanchard, the symposium provides an opportunity for academics, researchers and practitioners to come together in a collegial atmosphere to discuss our ideas for higher education curricula for future emergency managers. This goes a long way to bringing some cohesiveness to our various courses, showcases successful programs, and suggests research gaps that need to be filled. The attendance has grown each year, as has the conference in importance.
The cost to the government to support this symposium is minuscule. Attendees pay their own way and pay for their meals and housing on campus. Staff support is provided by volunteers working with the two-person higher education office at EMI.
I firmly believe that emergency managers of the future will need to be educated as leaders and managers and not just trained in the various tasks performed by emergency management organizations. The development of future leaders is, I also believe, a core mission of the Emergency Management Institute. To cancel the only effective way FEMA has to influence the direction of emergency management education in this country is both short-sighted and incomprehensible. It sends the message that higher education is not a priority for FEMA. If FEMA abrogates its responsibility in this area, who can fill the vacuum?
The twin explosions in Boston yesterday serve to remind us of the vulnerability of an open society. Despite the best intentions of our government, we can never completely prevent attacks such as this. The initiative is always with the enemy. They choose the time, the place, the method, and the target. We can't stop all the attacks every time but we can choose how we react to them.
Lenin is supposed to have said, "the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize." In the aftermath of tragedy, we forget that the purpose of any attack is to provoke not only a reaction but an over-reaction. The goal of terrorism has always been to undermine free societies by creating the circumstances where those societies destroy themselves from within. When we choose security over civil liberties, the bad guys win. In our rush to "do something" we forget the freedoms that are the prime reason we were attacked in the first place.
This is true of any tragedy of this type. At the time of this writing we still don't know who is responsible for the bombings in Boston. Whether we lable this "terrorism" will depend on the presence or absence of a political motive but what we call it is really immaterial. How we react to it is everything.
September 11th led us to a disturbing curtailments of civil liberties both at home and abroad. But in a similar fashion, the shootings in Newton have led to a strident and emotional debate over measures that offer questionable value in preventing future shootings and are viewed by some as attacking fundamental Constitutional rights. Where will Boston take us? Will we see calls for more stringent controls such as background checks on all runners, searches of spectators, restrictions on bags and parcels? Will we continue, as we did after September 11, to view our citizens as potential terrorists rather than allies this fight?
There are certainly things we can do. We can track down and bring to justice the perpetrators of this tragedy.We can review our security precautions to see if we can do better. We can use our bloated intelligence services to try to prevent future acts. But above all, we need to be rational, keep things in perspective, and avoid an over-reaction that will do little to improve our safety.
To do less is a disservice to the victims of these outrages. Worse, it means the bad guys win again.
Two things are always apparent in disasters. First, people are incredibly creative in dealing with crisis. Second, simple solutions work best. Case in point is the use of bicycles in disaster.
I recently came across a blog by Hamzat Sani on the League of American Bicyclists website titled Bicycles Play a Major Role in Disaster Recovery that details the use of bicycles in the aftermath of the storm caused by Hurricane Sandy. Sani notes that bicycle commuting increased by 130% in some parts of New York, straining the existing 300 miles of protected cycling lanes. More interesting was the work of cycling groups in helping to raise funds for recovery and in helping deliver relief supplies to heavily damaged areas.
The concept is not a new one. During my days with San Francisco, we worked with a small group of bicycle messengers who were trained to serve as messengers during disasters. We even had a spin off group of motorcyclists who served the same purpose. We successfully integrated them into several exercises and were able to prove that the concept worked.
What is a new, though, is the idea of neighborhood groups and bicycle clubs organizing themselves to provide logistic support to isolated communities. This carries the concept far beyond what we envisioned with our small pool of daredevil cyclists in San Francisco. The city of Portland, which is touted as having more than any other big city in the US, is a prime example of how this can work. Portland has encouraged the use of heavy-duty cargo bikes within its Neighborhood Emergency Teams with great success.
Occasionally the Recreation and Parks folks drop a mound of dirt in the middle of the dog park where my dog, Kona, and I spend most mornings. Nobody really knows why they do it but does create a certain variation in an otherwise flat landscape. Between active dogs running over them and digging for buried treasure, the mounds gradually disappear over time.
Recently I decided that an expedition was in order and hiked to the top of the current mound. It was tough going as the mound must be at least 6 inches high and might even reach a foot. The view was worth the effort, though.
Okay, I'm being a bit facetious. The interesting thing is that just that small bit of elevation for some reason changed how I viewed the park. I'm not really sure why - it was just different. Maybe it was being a bit taller than everyone else. Maybe it was because I could see just a bit further beyond the park boundaries. Something was different, though. It must even more dramatic for a dog.
I've also experienced the same thing in martial arts where a change in your body position can provide new opportunities for engaging your opponent. Just a small shift can allow you to see new angles of attack that you never noticed before.
My point here is that small changes in your perspective can yield dramatic results. It isn't necessary to change the world but you can create incremental change that over time will allow you to reach your goal. Consultant guru Alan Weiss says that if you can improve by just 1% each day, in 70 days you will be twice as good.
So fill your water bottle, cinch up your rucksack, and get to the top of that mound. The view is great!