ASK ANN

"After listening to all the confusion and upset associated with the emergency response to the multiple natural disasters this year, I'm not really certain which agency is responsible for coordinating emergency efforts in our local jurisdiction and I'm concerned about whether our agency will be ready in the event of such a disaster. Where can I go for help?"

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), local authorities, not federal, have the primary responsibility for preventing, responding to, and recovering from emergencies and disasters. As we know, the great majority of emergency incidents are handled on a daily basis by a single jurisdiction at the local level. Consequently, it is essential that all jurisdictions comply with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) because the challenges we face are much greater than the capabilities of any one jurisdiction but not greater than the strength available from all of us working together through mutual support. We have discussed the need for agencies to implement NIMS by the start of Fiscal Year 2007 (October 1, 2006). If your agency has not done so, or your response has slowed down, now's the time to reenergize your efforts. For more information visit the FEMA website at www.fema.gov/nims/index.shtm.

"I am subscribed to several of the APWA infoNOW Communities and I know they can really be useful in getting answers to my questions. However, I am confused about which one to use to get answers for my fleet management questions. Any suggestions?"

Have I got a deal for you! You're right, it can sometimes be frustrating to determine which community is designed for what subject areas. And to compound the issue, some of them are actually misused and then no one knows who should respond. With regard to your fleet questions, I am happy to share news that there is now a new infoNOW Community specifically dedicated to fleet issues. You can subscribe in the same manner by visiting the website and joining fleet@infonow.net. With the soon-to-be-released Fleet Certification program, we anticipate greater need for communication among this group of public works professionals. If this is your area of need, feel free to subscribe.

"I recently attended one of the Self Assessment Workshops and see the value of using Self Assessment to ensure that our department is operating at our highest level of competence. Can you tell me what the real value is to us to go forward with Accreditation? Seems like we've accomplished what we needed to do by making our improvements and I don't know if the expense is justified."

Sure, I could tell you why but you'd probably appreciate the answer more from someone who has worked through the Accreditation process, and even Re-Accreditation, and continues to see the benefit to his organization. Terry Burks, Accreditation Manager and Project Coordinator for Coconino County, Arizona, tells me, "I believe there are many benefits for any agency that decides to go through the Self Assessment program. But unless you are willing to take the next step (Accreditation), you will never know how accurate and thorough your self assessment is, and how it compares with that of other agencies. In my agency, we wanted our management practices to be reviewed by an independent process. We were proud of the service levels that we provide to the community and the practices we had in place. We wanted the recognition that comes from all the hard of work of completing the Self Assessment process. We never viewed Accreditation as an option for our agency but as a requirement for excellence. My simple answer to your question regarding the cost of Accreditation is that we were willing to spend the money to open up our agency to an impartial, independent review of our public works operations in order to be the best that we could be." Couldn't have said it better myself! Thanks, Terry.

"I can't believe that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spending money to launch a campaign to get homeowners to replace one light bulb in their house so the country can save massive amounts of energy. Whose bright idea was that?"

Good one. "Bright idea" to replace a single light bulb. Actually the new EPA grassroots campaign is asking every household to replace one traditional light bulb in their home with a more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb which they say will use two-thirds less energy and last six times longer. Stephen Johnson, EPA Administration, says that if every home did what the EPA asks, the country would save $600 million in energy costs. The average homeowner spends 20 percent of energy costs on lighting. Substituting one of the energy-conserving light bulbs with the Energy Star label will help to reduce that cost.

This could be a good community project for your department. Most people don't think about the impact of an energy-saving light bulb. It can save them money and save the country energy and the pollution that goes with its generation. It's really easy to do. We Americans take so many things for granted. We also have to be told things over and over and over before we get the picture. Look at the use of seat belts; that didn't happen overnight. This initiative will take support and repetition at the local level. How about joining the program?

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd., Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to: (816) 472-1610
E-mail:
adaniels@apwa.net