Ask the Emergency Management Experts – Lucien Canton
Ask the Experts – Emergency Managment
Emergency management professionals have a lot of different risks to worry about and solutions to consider. In this Ask the Expert series, we interviewed some of the top leaders in the emergency management field to share critical insights on weather, technology and their effects on emergency management.
This week, we gain insights from certified emergency manager (CEM), Lucien Canton. Over the years, he served as a stabilizing influence in seventeen presidentially-declared disasters on an elite national response team.
Today, Lucien Canton works as a consultant. He specializes in helping managers lead better in crises and adapt to new environments.
Earth Networks: What do you think are the biggest weather-related challenges that Emergency Management professionals face on a daily basis?
Lucien Canton: The biggest challenge is uncertainty. Reacting to a potential crisis carries a cost. If you order an evacuation and nothing happens, you’re in trouble. On the other hand, if you fail to order an evacuation and something happens, you’re in trouble. Our weather predictions are fairly accurate but they are in the end just estimates based on available data. So there’s a considerable element of risk associated with relying too heavily on a weather forecast and emergency managers sometimes hesitate to take action until the crisis is a certainty.
Unfortunately, this is often too late. In part, this is because not all emergency managers have taken the time to understand how forecasts are made or to understand how to read the detailed forecasts and discussions available on the National Weather Service website. Instead, we rely on news broadcasts which don’t offer the detailed information needed to make informed decisions in a crisis.
Technology & Emergency Management
Earth Networks: What role do you see data and technology playing to help mitigate these challenges?
Lucien Canton: From an emergency management perspective, getting accurate information with sufficient lead time to react to a crisis is on everyone’s wish list. Technology is what’s making this possible. If you compare where we were with weather predictions even a few years ago to where we are now, we’re much more accurate and we have more time to react. But weather patterns are still unpredictable.
We still can’t say for certainty where a hurricane will make landfall or make accurate long range predictions that can help us prepare for seasonal storms. With climate change bringing even more unpredictability to weather patterns, the development of more improved forecasting methods and the accumulation of predictive data becomes even more urgent.
Advice for Others
Earth Networks: What advice would you give to other Emergency Management professionals to help them work through these issues?
Lucien Canton: The single best thing I recommend is to educate yourself on how weather predictions are made and what predictive tools are available to you. Visit your local NWS center if possible and get to know the weather expert. They’re happy to talk about what they do and may even offer training to you and your staff. Know who to call when you have questions. Don’t try to be a weatherman yourself; ask the experts.
Consider what tools you may want to include in your emergency operations center. Most importantly, know what a particular forecast means to your community and think outside just your jurisdictional boundaries. It may sunny be where you are but that doesn’t mean that the weather somewhere else won’t create a crisis for you.
Lucien currently provides consulting services, speaking services, and leadership development. He shares his knowledge of three separate blogs. The first blog, “Canton on Emergency Management,” is devoted to emergency management topics and current events. The second blog, “Managing Crisis,” is a blog for Emergency Management Magazine. The third and final blog, “Consulting Transitions,” is Lucien’s site for those interested in entering or advancing in the consulting profession.