Newman: The town library as home-grown fusion center

Stanstead QC–This enote is a bit like shooting-the-rapids-on-the-stream-of-consciousness so bear with me.

Last evening I was wearing my firefighting gear [always interesting to literally change hats] assessing flood damage in our area after a very rapid snowmelt and heavy rain.

Something that I read in an Economic Gardening presentation struck me as we drove by the Town’s library – that it’s built on high ground, with broadband internet access, on a mainstem power line, easily accessible, and has become a natural networking hub on both professional and personal levels.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the research work done by our Emergency Management colleague Dr. Murray Turoff. Murray has spent a great deal of time examining how information is processed in an emergency and how much more effective decision-making could be with access to real-time situational awareness.

True situational awareness is much sought after but seldom achieved. It’s a bit like competitive intelligence which sadly often is neither competitive nor particularly intelligent. Much of the art & science of crafting true situational awareness depends on informing the searchers as to which nuggets of information are most important to formulating the particular big picture at-hand.

Retired Canadian Forces Col. Richard Moreau teaches a serious ‘leadership in crisis’ program that emphasizes the need for intelligent awareness. According to Richard, if you don’t provide guidance on what you’re looking for, don’t be surprised when your intel crews come back excitedly proclaiming, “We’ve got cod! We’ve got cod!”

At some point, you’re going to have to explain to them that you were looking for swordfish.

Which brings me full circle to write that perhaps we ought to be considering our town libraries as our economic & community resilience centers – and that one goes hand-in-hand with the other.

What if we provided additional training to our librarians, what if we subscribed to meaningful databases, what if we invested in building the capabilities of our community libraries – that additional capacity could be leveraged to serve in times of preparing for, mitigating the effects of, and recovering from crisis and catastrophe.

There aren’t many small towns who can afford a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center [EOC]. I’d argue that there are very few towns who cannot afford to invest in building a leading edge community library/fusion center.

Thanks, as always for your consideration in allowing me the privilege of writing from well outside the box.

Be well. Practice big medicine.


Newman: No magic bullets or special cookies

Stormy Weather Ahead Road Sign

Pointe Claire QC–Often when people discover I have managed to lose a serious amount of weight, they want to know if there’s a secret to overnight success.

When I explain that I’ve been cycling for eighteen months, have altered the way I consume food, and carefully ensure I put in 90 minutes of exercise every day rain or shine, they want to know if I’m on a cookie diet.

It seems much easier for some people to accept that eating a package of diet cookies each and every day would somehow lead to lasting overall physical fitness.

It’s a funny thing.

I hear the same thing from corporate and government leaders who want to know how another entity achieved a meaningful level of emergency preparedness.

Was it a special plan? How can we do the same thing? How quickly can we make it happen? Can we be ready for that storm whose clouds are currently gathering on the horizon?

It always seems to be somewhat of an epiphany when I explain that a true culture of preparedness can be achieved by each and every community on a grassroots level simply by mapping out where you want to go and then figuring out what you need to change to get there.

A friend of mine, Jim Stephens, wrote these words to me as we discussed our respective efforts to achieve and maintain the delicate balance that comes with mind-body fitness:

“Change is for those who Want it, not for those who Need it. It is a miracle that sometimes occurs. If you could figure out how to put it in a bottle you could retire tomorrow.”

It is a process. You need to want to make the change and then you need to surround yourself with a scaffolding that will provide support, guidance, education, encouragement, and political will as each is required. It is not rocket science or neurosurgery.

Or you could eat a special cookie or two or three.

Be well. Practice big medicine.