Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pack Less Stuff

I was thrilled this summer when Jerry Gross, my boss for three years at Washington Mutual, asked if he could read the book as it went to press.  He complimented me then, saying that he (Mr. Tech Gadget, Mr. Cutting Edge Everything) had learned some new stuff in the chapter that covers the online experience.  Today he posted the following up to Amazon.  
"Annie Searle has created a straight-forward guide to mitigate our personal risks. Through her easy-going style of recounting her personal risk journey, Advice From A Risk Detective is structured around four contexts we all live within: At Home, At Work, Online and On the Road.

Annie provides practical insight into increasing our "360 degree" view of our lives and how to be proactive. It's up-to-date providing tips on Social Media and use of mobile iOS devices and the Appendix is a great summary snapshot of her key messages and artifacts. There are too many great tips to mention, BUT I particularly found her On The Road chapter particularly helpful in convincing my wife to pack less stuff!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old Year's Resolutions

I've heard from so many of you that you plan to put together an emergency kit, but just haven't had the time to do it.  My book has a list of kit items, as well as a link where you can just buy a kit that comes in a backpack rather than try to assemble all items yourselves if you prefer.

The Christmas Day windstorm we had here in the Northwest knocked out power for thousands.  And heavy snows with close to blizzard conditions have already hit the Midwest.  Think of such events as reminders to get your own house organized.  If you don't already have my book, take a look at a government site in your area, like this one for Seattle.

Doing it yet this week means one less item to put on your list of New Year's resolutions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Think before you click

 A Washington Post article on spear-pfishing illustrates the problem with not paying attention when you are on the Internet.  Evidently Chinese hackers gained access to U.S. Chamber of Commerce accounts through planting a link within an email or on a social media site for the viewer to click on -- which in turns led to code being installed on the viewer's computer.  It's very difficult to detect that such code has been installed and the results can be quite damaging.

The third chapter of my book is devoted to high impact risks when you are online.  One of the most remarkable statistics I note is from a Reuters article indicating that only 13% of Facebook users vett requests to be friends.  The Post article points out that the easiest locations for hackers to plant links is within social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter.  And if it's this easy to "friend" someone, it's equally easy to plant that code.

Most who bank online know by now -- sometimes through hard experience -- that their bank will never ask them to provide their login or password information via an email request.  Now we need to apply that same standard of care to other types of communication, where who or what is being asked are unknown.

Like with most other risks, being alert to this risk now that it's been identified should help us avoid becoming a victim of this type of attack.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Germs and travel

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal, we now have a pretty comprehensive list of the risks of going through security and then flying, at least from the germicidal perspective.  You'll want to click through to the article if you're traveling over the holiday season.

Read this article and take action appropriately.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday delivery thefts increase

Thanks to our neighborhood blog that is also a "block watch" site, where I've learned of a new risk with holiday package deliveries.  Police have indicated that FedEx or UPS drivers are often followed when they make deliveries, and packages are promptly stolen right off the front porch.  In some cases, drivers are trying to find more secure locations for the packages at the home, which may mean increased searches to find the packages. Since it's happened more than once in our neighborhood, so it's safe to assume that is happening elsewhere.

One of the bloggers for our neighborhood pointed out that Amazon now offers delivery to your home or to the closest secure locker location, noting that such locations have extended hours.  If you're not at home in the daytime, you might wish to consider having packages shipped to your office or to another secure location.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Managing Risk Across the World

Front from left, Rosalita Whitehair, Elizabeth Davis, Oluremi Olowu, Molly Grant, Kelly Discount. Second row: Carmen Rodriquez; Evelyn Rising representing NACWC, Inc.; Rosemary Cloud; Kay Goss; Avagene Moore; Annie Searle; Lisa Orloff. Back row:  Major Darryl Leedom representing Catherine and Evangeline Booth, posthumously; Margaret Verbeek; Susan Diehl-Brenits. Not present for the photograph were Lynn Canton and Dorothy Lewis. Inducted posthumously were First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Eglantyne Jebb. © 2011 inWEM

I just received these photos from the November Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony for the International Network of Women in Emergency Management.  I'm proud of the breadth of the awards across both the public and private sectors, and around the world. The women handing me my award in the photo above is Dr. Jacqueline McBride, who organized the entire program and ceremony.

Not much else to say except for my motto:  "You always get back more than you give."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mental Risk

My book looks at the commonest risks in four areas of life -- home, work, online and on the road.  I would have added a fourth area -- mental risk -- but decided instead to try to incorporate that risk inside the external four.

There's so much noise in the world that it's sometimes difficult to hear oneself think.  Yet thinking is at the heart of the premise of my book:  Managing risk is possible only by thinking about understanding what constitutes a potential threat or behavior.

"Being aware means that it is possible to identify risks and make a plan. Being prepared means having more control over the outcome of events." (from the Forward)

If you're tired or burned out, then your mental risk is probably higher than at any other time.  You need personal time and a good night's sleep.  You don't need to be posting too much data on social media sites or in blog entries. You can erase the post later, but you can't erase the impression you leave for  those who read it.

Which puts us back to the slogan I posted last week:  "Measure twice, cut once."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Holiday TIps

 I was happy to see this morning that the Seattle Times reprinted two relevant articles from other sources.

First is Michelle Higgins' New York Times article that covers changes in travel regulations over the past year that should be read by anyone planning to travel for the holidays.

And the other is for those (like myself) who may not have done any online shopping yet, and that's an eminently readable set of tips fro Andrea Chang in her Los Angeles Times article.

The fourth chapter of my book covers the largest travel risks, and in fact cites an earlier article by Michelle Higgins.  The third chapter of the book is all about online precautions and behavior where your digital identity is concern.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Your Digital Identity

CIO Insider has just published another of their lists of ten tips, and this time it's about Facebook.  Take a look at Four Facebook Tips for 2012.

My book has both tips and a longer discussion of the pro's and con's of Facebook.  The point in both the book and this article is the same:  your digital identity can be compromised if you fail to think about what data you are presenting to the world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trojan Horses

Our Internet hosting service sent out a security alert earlier today, concerning a new Trojan virus for which there is yet no quarantine.  I've posted their message below.  Nonetheless, it's a reminder that you should not open emails or attachments from unknown senders, especially if they are already marked as SPAM by filters on your computer. And you should not click on sites that you are not familiar with that may appear while you are in the midst of performing some other transaction on the Internet.
 Do set up your computer to automatically install security updates as well as any operating system patches.  And if you're active on the Internet, it's a good idea to invest in a good antivirus program that will also handle spyware and malware.  
 You can find more details on reasonable Internet precautions in Chapter III of my book.
 In the meantime, here's details of the new "DHL" Trojan virus --
We have identified a potential threat to your email users in the form of a new spam campaign that masquerades as a shipping notification from DHL. Currently, none of the major anti-virus providers are capable of catching and quarantining this message. As such, this scam has the potential to be successful and can have serious consequences. We have manually updated our virus definitions to stop future incoming messages and are working with our providers to ensure protection against this virus. However, you users may already have messages in their inbox.

Therefore, we recommend that you take the following action: • Notify all your email users about this threat • Caution your users not to open any attachments from DHL or any unknown sender • Be aware that this is a rapidly-changing virus. Even if your anti-virus provider lists it as covered, you may still be at risk.

Monday, December 5, 2011


This time of year, with the holiday madness starting to spin up, there's a good reason to adopt the carpenter's equivalent of "measure twice, cut once."  When we get busy, it's hard to stay focused so that items on our list get done properly rather than having to go back for rework. 

In juggling work projects that need to be finished before the end of the year with a long list of "to do's" at home, try to prioritize then give each of those tasks the right amount of time so that you don't end up with what I call a "do-over."

And while you're at it, take a more objective look at that list of priorities once you've laid them all out.  You may find that you can eliminate at least half of them if simplification is a goal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back it up!

I spend a fair amount of time discussing computer backup strategies in my Chapter III of my book.  In case I ever thought I was preaching mostly to the choir, I was just reminded by an email from a stressed out colleague that most people still don't back up their data at all. When a computer crashes, those folks are helpless until a technician can attempt to recover their data and perform any other parts replacements or repairs.  Sometimes the data can be recovered, and sometimes even with technical support, it's just plain gone because the hard disk in the computer has died.

Home computers often have hundreds of digital photos, email and contact information for friends and legal or financial information.  Work computers not only contain corporate data, but often also house personal email account information and photos.

If you can't be bothered to learn how to back up critical files to an external USB port hard drive on a regular basis, then please do the research and purchase a continuous online backup program from a company such as Mozy or Carbonite.  Given the amount of time each of us spends on the computer, it's worth it to eliminate at least one source of high anxiety when your computer crashes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Some figure more prominently for their ideas and support."

On the day of my book launch celebration -- it seems appropriate to reprint its dedication page here.

"Many people have made this book possible, and I thank them all.  Some figure more prominently for their ideas and support.  In particular, I would like to thank Lauren Du Graf for seeing what could make this a better book; Emily Oxenford for masterful technical support; Jesse Brown for his design of the book; editor Molly Martin for her keen eye; and the two men in my life who offer unwavering support of my work, Leroy F. Searle and James H.S. Searle." 

Three of these people have worked with me since 2009, to create and launch Annie Searle & Associates LLC, my risk consulting and research firm.  Lauren and Molly created and refined content and organization of, its website.  This past summer, Lauren did the initial edit to the book as originally written, and encouraged me to increase the number of stories in the book and to rethink and magnify the "risk detective" theme.  Molly did the final lucid edits to the manuscript, working closely with Jesse on particulars that only a former newspaper person would catch.   Jesse designed ASA's logo in 2009, including its internet look and feel and its printed materials. He's done a superb job on this book as well.  Emily was ASA's research associate for the 2010-2011 academic year, and provided technical support on the book from inception until it was turned over to Jesse for design this past summer.

The final thanks in the dedication are to my husband and my son and should be self-explanatory.  It's only when I work with executives who complain about how little they are understood at home that I realize how lucky I am.

Tonight I'll have a chance to thank others for their help -- members of my WaMu team, colleagues and clients from the days of Delphi Computers & Peripherals, and those who have so inspired me in my current line of work.

There are others no longer with us but who shaped who I am and how I got to be this way -- in particular the poet George Starbuck; Ewen Dingwall, mastermind behind large events like Seattle's presentation of  World's Fair and the King Tut exhibition; and Bagley Wright, former newspaperman, art patron and philanthropist.  I'll lift a glass in their honor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reduce your risk around holiday decorations.

It's a little early for me to be decorating our home for the December holidays, but others have already started. 

As you pull out the decorations, ask yourself  a couple of questions:  How old are those holiday lights you're stringing along the roof line?  You're using hooks rather than a staple gun, right?  Are your extension cords rated for outdoor use? 

The number of accidents connected with ladders and stringing outdoor lights is high.  With a few reasonable precautions, you can significantly reduce your risk of fire or calling 911 for an ambulance.

For a good checklist that covers both inside and outside holiday decorating, print out this brochure from the Consumer Product Safety Commission..

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The risk of too much.

We've just moved into the holiday season.  The media encourages our sense of frenzy, of wanting to purchase things, as if things make us happy.  We make long lists, against the backdrop of a story about gifts brought to a baby in a manger.  If we're not careful, incorporating festivities into our regularly hectic schedules often results in a higher level of personal risk and safety.

We're seeing more studies now on the costs of multitasking without respite.  So it's worth it to make a new set of resolutions for this holiday season.  Slow down. Simplify.  Practice acts of kindness.  Worry less about gifts and more about being grateful for what you have.   Know that others care for you because of yourself and your innate gifts.  Most of all, as we move into the darkest time of the year when the sun is furthest from the earth, find the light and joy within yourself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


For more information on the book and the first six reviews, and to decide if you'd like to purchase the book, just click the link on the right hand side of this page.

If you're in Seattle on December 1, please consider joining us for the book's holiday launch party. Drop me a note and I'll send you details on the event, where we'll be selling the book at a reduced rate and I'll be glad to autograph your copy.

We think the book is perfect for a stocking stuffer for the upcoming holiday. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Publishing via a new model

This book proof arrived less than 2 hours after I wrote the entry below. 
It used to be that when you had a manuscript ready, you hired an agent to sell it to Harcourt Brace or Random House.  You waited 18-24 months to see the book appear, and these days you would have covered a lot of the costs of publishing the book as well.   This route appears to be a crumbling model.

It used to be that self-publishing was looked upon as vanity publishing designed for miniscule audiences.  Lucky for all of us that things have changed radically as the business of publishing and selling books has evolved.  I did not want to wait 18-24 months and so I've chosen this new model.

I'm publishing this book via, a service of Amazon.  So far the experience has been clean as a whistle. Services that I'm using from createspace will include options to sell the book from my own e-store (now live on this site), or via Amazon, or via extended book distribution.  My book will also be converted to a kindle version option over the next couple of months.  Best of all, the printing is done "on demand," with books shipped within 48 hours of an online order.

I meant this book to be read by both professionals and the general public.  There is not a single acronym in the book.  So for me the challenge (the risk) is to market the book as well as a big publishing house.  We'll give it our best shot.

"Standing on the shoulders of giants"

I flew to Las Vegas last Saturday, to the 59th Annual International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM) conference.  That evening, in an inaugural event, 20 women were inducted into the Hall of Fame for Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.  There are 14 of us shown in the photo below, all of us standing on the shoulders of those who preceded us -- women like Eleanor Roosevelt (first Civil Defense Assistant Director), the founders of The Salvation Army (represented by the sole gentleman in the photo) or the Save the Children Fund.  Leaders from local, state and federal government,  volunteer, faith and community-based organizations, private and nonprofit sectors, academia and the military joined conference attendees as the awards were presented.
An informal version of the formal photo of honorees.
I was inducted as the "first female emergency management leader in the private sector." Because of the award, I've met women I'll never forget, and am especially grateful for the additional leverage this gives me to mentor women still rising through the ranks.   Here's a photo of the award itself.

Amber flame on clear glass inscribed base, roughly 15" high.
All of which causes me to say once again, "You always get back more than you give."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stormy weather ahead

This NOAA image shows us the Alaska storm about 20 hours ago.  Its ferocity can act as a reminder for those of us in the lower United States to start now to prepare for what Mother Nature will throw at us this winter.

Is your emergency kit refilled from the last time you used it?  Is your emergency plan known to other members of your family?  What else might be sensible to do to get ready for a harsh winter?

The forecast from ExactaWeather reads like this:

The latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) update suggests neutral conditions ahead, but...It is likely that La Niña will return more frequently during this time period...

Low solar activity is also a primary driver of atmospheric cycles that influence blocking activity patterns/ridges.  Our weather models consider all of these factors and are currently showing a particularly harsh winter for many parts of the US during 2011-2012. Large parts of Central and North America will face below average temperatures with above average snowfall throughout this winter, with temperatures in many Eastern and Western parts also showing as below average with above average snowfall amounts.

We expect the Pacific Northwest region to experience a very severe winter and the Cascades snowpack is likely to see increased levels due to the negative (cold) phase of PDO. Our weather models are also showing an increased likelihood for major snow events in Northeastern and Midwestern parts of the US throughout December 2011 and January 2012, that could see severe blizzard conditions hit New York City and Chicago.

With low solar activity levels...and the general trend for a much colder winter after the onset of last year’s La Niña, this winter could prove to be a record breaker with extremely cold temperatures and exceptional levels of snow for many parts of the US.

 Many residents of Connecticut are still without power after the early winter East Coast storm.  You can't assume that grocery stores or gas stations or ATMs will be working after large storms or other catastrophic events like hurricanes or earthquakes.   Even though it may have to be modified as events unfold, having a well-organized plan and supplies is always better than being unprepared.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pro bono

It's a term used generally to describe services rendered for the public good voluntarily, without payment.  I've tried over the years to offer pro bono services in areas where various areas of my expertise could be put to work.  For some years, my technology background came in handy as a board member at NPower Seattle, which offers technology training to non profit organizations. I drew upon my liberal arts background as a member of the Washington Commission for the Humanities.  At the Seattle Public Library Foundation, I use my leadership experience as well as those two areas in the decisions we make as a board of directors.

I agreed this summer to step in on an interim basis and lead the Washington State financial services coalition that I helped found in 2003 so that we could develop the next generation of leaders.  My agreement was contingent upon having a co-chair presently in the industry, and I was lucky enough to recruit Shelby Edwards.

I also agreed to help lead our neighborhood disaster preparedness team to increase the number of families participating.  There are 300+ homes and 17 coordinators for our neighborhood.   Being part of this effort helped me better describe in Advice From A Risk Detective how neighborhoods anywhere can organize themselves.

Don't wait until you retire.  Make time for a cause you care about now, and work it into your schedule.  As is the case with most pro bono efforts, you'll get back more than you give.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A keen eye

As we get much closer to the end of fixes to the book's galleys, I'd like to say what an extraordinary experience it is to work with a fine editor who won't settle for less than the best. Here's what editor Molly Martin said:

"As I think about it, Annie, I'd recommend that you not send the book to be published until you are able to give it a good final read and have confidence in it.  The book does have your name on it, after all.  And down the road, a bit more of delay now will pale compared with un-fixed problems in the printed versions."

Molly worked with Lauren and I on content and its management for the ASA website.  She knows not only my voice but also my high standards.  Here she is reminding me about my integrity as well.  Who could ask for more in an editor?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Other risks

Sometimes I forget how small the world is.  My friend and colleague Cathy Allen was at the Scottsdale conference I attended a week ago.  When she heard about the next book I am working on, she introduced me by email to an executive named Marilyn Mason (  Marilyn and I had a chance to speak earlier this week, and I learned a lot.  Our discussion included two other risks  which perhaps I can cover in my next book, a risk primer for executives.

The first is the risk around dying and death, what is usually the absence of a plan or statement of intentions because the deceased just never got around to it.  There are so many issues here, including powers of attorney and designation of another to make medical decisions if necessary.  Advice From A Risk Detective does not cover this risk, though it does discuss the importance of storing such documents in several places.

The second risk not discussed in the first book may come up in this next book focused on executives
it's the risk of wealth, whether sudden, inherited, or earned.  Each of those situations creates a need for planning, usually with a financial planner.

I intend to continue the conversation with Marilyn on a regular basis, and have no doubt that we'll cover even more ground next time around.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Your digital identity

Some of us get so caught up in presenting ourselves on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ that we re-invent our real lives to look good.   Young users don't think so much about looking more interesting or better than they might appear in real lives.  They are busy posting details and photos that are often inappropriate and cause for alarm.

College admissions personnel, job recruiters and the FBI all spend some amount of time qualifying candidates for a variety of reasons.  If you want to get into a good college, don't post photos of yourself drunk or drinking, or in compromising photos.  If you want to get a good job, follow the advice for college admissions, and also refrain from expressing political or religious views when you post.  If you get arrested, be aware that local and federal law enforcement officials are double checking your profile to see whether you exhibit characteristics that would be of interest to the court.

You get the picture.  And soon you'll be able to get the whole book.  This advice is covered in several places in the my new book, but most particularly in Chapter III.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Escape routes

When I checked in, I did what us risk types usually do and checked out the location of the stairs to and from the main floor and exits from the building.  Though most hotels provide a map with exits marked out on the back of the hotel door, I like to perform this operation in hotels and with other locations where I am unfamiliar with the layout of exits and stairwells.  In emergency management lingo, we call this "situational awareness."

I've been doing this for so long that it seems routine, and does not take long.  You could pick up this habit for yourself starting any time you're in a large building with more than one floor.

In case you cannot walk down and out of a building because of smoke and heat from a fire, the back of your door should tell you to shelter in place, putting wet towels at the bottom of the door and staying low in the room until the firefighters arrive.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Travel light

Hitting the Road, 2009
The fourth chapter of my new book is all about traveling light, and with an open mind.  I used the photo above to illustrate what I consider to be the appropriate amount of travel gear, which I carry on to the train or airplane.

I've since found a lightweight Coach briefcase to replace the larger and heavier one shown on the photo.  And I've just packed everything for the next five days in the grey bag.  The briefcase holds a netbook computer, my wallet and a cosmetics bag, a book, work papers and the cables I need to do business virtually.

That's it.  I even figured out a costume for the second night party at the conference -- I'm going as an author, wearing my "Read Local" tee shirt from Seattle 7 Writers; and I'll be handing out bookmarks to market my book at the same time.  I had thought about going as a risk detective, but that would require the magnifying glass, the trench coat and the fedora.  A little too much for Phoenix, I think.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Emergency Car Kit

Though the first priority is still to build an emergency kit for your family that will sustain you through 3-5 days without power or refrigeration, another smaller kit should go in the trunk of your car.  As we move through fall into winter, it doesn't hurt to double check to ensure that you have what you might need in case of a situation where you could be trapped in your car for an extended period of time.  In addition to an extra set of warm clothing and a small first aid kit, my red carrier contains a pair of boots, a can of wipes, a zippered tool kit, and a large water bottle that also contains a flashlight and emergency flare.  The "EvacPack," which can also be used at work, contains even more emergency supplies, including a poncho and more emergency flares. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Smoke detectors

How long has it been since you changed the 9 volt batteries in your smoke detectors?   Those batteries operate as backup when the detectors are hardwired into your electrical system -- so that if the power is off, your smoke alarms will still alert you when necessary.

Same deal with your flashlights.  It's fall, time to also check your flashlights to see if you need to replace the batteries, or stock up on some extras for your emergency kit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fire Extinguishers

Our neighborhood disaster preparedness coordinators, responsible for 312 homes, met last night to calibrate our progress. One of the things we talked about were fire extinguishers.  If you own a business, someone comes around once a year to check each of the extinguishers for pressure and refill them if necessary.   If you've got fire extinguishers in your home, chances are they have never been checked unless you've had a fire.  

One of the coordinators had a great idea, transferable to any neighborhood: find a service provider and schedule so that all neighbors can bring their fire extinguishers to a central location to have them tested and refilled if necessary.

This tip falls into the "small but possibly life-saving" category.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where did "risk detective" come from?

 Here's the first term I used the moniker to describe my work.  I've always been grateful to Carolyn Douglas and KING 5 News for such a great profile of my business in its infancy.
KING TV News profile

Friday, September 30, 2011

OBE -- Not All Risks Can Be Managed

I'll be at the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland this weekend, handing out bookmarks and post cards.  I had planned to be selling the book as well, but even the wriggle room I left in the schedule cannot manage truly unpredictable human events.  Jesse Brown, the book's designer, broke a bone in his right thumb and put up with a good bit of temporary trauma in that hand as well,  exactly five weeks ago today.  He's hoping next week to pass along the finished product for a final read by Molly Martin before we ship it to

"OBE" or "Overcome By Events" happens to everyone, even a risk detective.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Other 19 Hall of Fame Members

The full list of inductees for the International Network of Women in Emergency Managment came through this morning.  I am in distinguished company.

1865 – Catherine Booth and husband founded the Salvation Army
1906 - General Evangeline Booth started disaster relief services for The Salvation Army and became the first female General of the Salvation Army in 1934
1919 – Eglantyne Jebb, founded the Save the Children Fund, Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, Director, Domestic Emergencies Unit, SC
1941 – First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt appointed Assistant Director; the “first
woman in Homeland Security/Emergency Management” (formerly Civil Defense)
1950 - National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc. (NACWC, Inc (formerly the National Federation of Colored Women and National Federation of Afro-American Women) participated in the first national “Women and Civil Defense” conference in Washington, DC. (President Evelyn Rising)
1981 - Dorothy J. Lewis, International Association of Emergency Managers’ lead liaison for governmental relations and second female President of IAEM
1990 – Margaret Brenda Verbeek, founded the Canadian Emergency Preparedness Association (CEPA), which became IAEM-Canada
1991 - Avagene Moore, emergency management trailblazer and 1987-1988 President of IAEM
1994 - Kay Goss, first female Associate Director of FEMA
1994 - Molly Grant, one of the first Native American females in emergency management 
1994 - Rosalita Whitehair, one of the first Native American female in emergency management
1995 - Lynn Canton, first African American, female Regional Administrator of FEMA
1996 - Mrs. Oluremi Olowu, the first Director of Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency
2001 – Lisa Orloff, one of first female founders’ of an international emergency management program
2001 – Elizabeth Davis one of the first female founders’ of an international emergency management program
2001 - Annie Searle, first female leader in private sector/industry of emergency management
2002 - Rosemary Cloud, first female African-American Fire Chief
2005 - Susan Diehl-Brenits, first female project manager in emergency management at Con Edison
2005 – Kelly Discount founded EMPOWER, the first modern day organization for women in emergency management
2010 - Carmen G. Rodriguez,  the first female Fire Chief of the Puerto Rico Fire Department - Bomberos de Puerto Rico (BPR).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hall of Fame Award

I've been invited to Las Vegas in November to attend the 2011 Inaugural Induction Ceremonies and the 70th Anniversary Celebration of Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, where I'm one of 20 women to be made members of their Hall of Fame

"Mission:  “To honor in perpetuity those women citizens of the United States, its territories and Tribal Nations; and around the world, whose contributions to the field of emergency management and its profession in local, state, tribal, and federal governments; critical infrastructure facilities; voluntary, faith, and community-based organizations; private and nonprofit sectors; academia; military; industry; and professional associations, have been of greatest value for the development of our nation and world.

Purpose:  To celebrate and recognize women, around the world, who have made outstanding achievements and significant contributions in the emergency management professional field, to elevate the status of women and girls, or in community outreach; and to motivate and inspire young women to envision and expand their horizons and fulfill their dreams and goals as an emergency manager."

It's not clear how I appeared on their radar, but this is a high honor. Dr. Jacqueline McBride wanted first to induct me using the year 1975, but I was at that time still back in upstate New York at work in the visual arts. Though I can make a good argument that I've been a risk detective my whole life, proving that I've been responsible for emergency management functions that early would be a stretch. So we settled upon the year 2001, given that I became a senior executive with responsibilities in the area of private sector emergency management that year. The ceremonies will be held in conjunction with the IAEM 59th Annual Conference & EMEX 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Don' t More People Take Calculated Risks?

We're in a bizarre, disheartening environment. Not much good news is getting through. The tendency is to hunker down, to play it safe, rather than figure out how to go out on a limb and re-think one's strategy. What works well, despite the economy? What inspires you, outside your job? What pleases you?

None of these questions cost more than time to consider. And you may learn something new about yourself in pondering them. The autumnal equinox is as good a time as any to start.

In the last chapter of my book, using travel as the metaphor, I talk about how the risk of taking no risks is that you stop growing. So start thinking about where you can travel, mentally or literally. Learn something new. Read something that's out of your comfort zone. Invest in a project that's larger than yourself.

Your family and your colleagues will thank you -- you will have become a more interesting person and, I would guess, a happier one as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


A box of postcards arrived this morning.  Only one version of a postmark stamp at the post office, and they are delicate versions of herbs.  Had I known when the book would be done, I could have asked for a magnifying glass stamp.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sneak Peek.

Here's an advance look at the book's cover, via a large sign being made to use at book events.  The designer is Jesse  Brown.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book reviewers.

A reporter asked me yesterday how I chose the six experts to review my new book.  "You're pretty well-connected," she said.  "Was it hard?"  It's close enough to launch time to say who they are, and I would guess that you'll be able to figure out why I asked them if they wanted to read and comment.

Pete O'Dell -- founder of Swan Island Networks, and author of Silver Bullets: How Interoperable Data Will Revolutionize Information Sharing and Transparency.

Alfonso Martinez-Fonts -- former DHS Undersecretary for the Private Sector, now at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Catherine A. Allen -- Chairman and CEO of The Santa Fe Group.

Bill Raisch -- Director, International Center for Enterprise Preparedness (InterCEP), New York University

Brian Tishuk -- Executive Director, ChicagoFIRST

Dr. Kevin C. Desouza -- author of Managing Knowledge Security and a host of other books. He's just become director of The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

Monday, September 12, 2011

18 Days and Counting...

I had another fine email, this one from Jerry Gross,  the CIO at Washington Mutual who promoted me into an executive job and who named me "The Princess of Darkness." He really likes the book, and has offered to write a review when it is published.  What an honor!

And I just had a call from Lauren, who is back at UNC/Chapel Hill, checking up on the book's progress, lobbing suggestions on bookstores where she thinks I can snag a reading.  I guess that would start with Third Place Books Ravenna, where I spend several afternoons a week, working over a pot of tea.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 2001

Art Spiegelman's 2006/2011 New Yorker magazine cover
I've kept a personal journal since 1981.  I went back to check my recollection of September 11, 2001 this morning.  I remember being at home in the kitchen, ready to leave for work, when word came over the radio of the first plane hitting the tower.  There was no employee alert notification system in place at the bank, so I got in my car and drove to work.  By the time I arrived, the second plane had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was not far behind.  I think of this day as the beginning of my business continuity career.  It became apparent that we would receive no direction from the bank's executives, who were all cloistered in an emergency operations center across the street watching television news, along with my boss.  After fruitless attempts to reach my boss -- we later found out that none of the cell phones worked in the EOC --  I told my employees that they should make their own decision about whether to stay at work or go home. 

Ten days later, I was offered a senior vice president position in the new CIO's organization, in part because of questions I had asked about the bank's readiness to handle such events or even to get information on bank employees based in Manhattan.  A month after that I assumed responsibility for technology recovery operations.  It took several years to build a truly redundant technology infrastructure.  When another set of events overtook us in 2003-- the "slammer" virus -- the executives at the company turned over the business continuity side of the operation to me.  From that base, we gutted existing programs and rebuilt a comprehensive technology recovery, event management, and business continuity program under the umbrella of the Office of Continuity Assurance.  In the years to follow, we reduced outages to operations from natural disasters, terrorist threats, or from technology outages by over 50%.

And I committed myself to working on projects at a national scale that increased public-private sector emergency preparedness.  Today, my firm participates in several global risk projects that seek to ensure we are never again caught unprepared.

Every time September 11th rolls around, I remember the yawning gaps in the company's readiness to handle such an event and the trajectory that those events put on my own career.  It's not something I cover in Advice From A Risk Detective, but the point I'm making probably is made indirectly in the book.  Ten years later, we should be moving forward.  We should be personally more prepared to handle any type of contingency than we were then. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

From Princess of Darkness to Risk Detective.

Spotting our cars on the racetrack for the 2003 Zucchini Race, with Mike Spalter, infrastructure chief (a la Jerry Garcia), on the left and me on the right, as the Princess of Darkness.

Back in 2003, my nickname was "The Princess of Darkness," a title bestowed by former WaMu CIO Jerry Gross.  When asked in a managers' meeting about the condition of our earthquake preparedness in Northern California, he said in his plummy Aussie tones, "Oh, let's just get the bloody Princess of Darkness up here to answer your question."

I think my interest in dark topics preceded the nickname, but it became a way to costume myself for annual zucchini car races that kicked off the season's United Way campaign.

2007 Zucchini Races, with a colleague who also raced a car.
I kept my Princess of Darkness persona until I left JPMorgan Chase in 2009.  Shortly after I took that nickname, my husband  hand-carved a stamp for me with which I mark my books to this day.
When Carolyn Douglas interviewed me for KING-TV about my new business that June, it was my own words that created the new identity.  "Think of me as a risk detective," I said.

Now we have taken that metaphor and made it resonate throughout Advice From A Risk Detective.  I can't wait to hear what you think.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September is a time to look forward

It's a beautiful Seattle morning, the first day of September, which is National Preparedness Month.  There are a number of sites where you might look to see how you and your family can become more prepared for natural disasters or other types of events that knock out power to your home.  I like the site hosted by the Centers for Disease Control, an organization that's been utilizing Facebook and Twittter for several years now.  Here's the link: .

September is also the month when Advice From A Risk Detective will appear, late in the month.  It has checklists as well as tips for plans and precautions you might want to take to manage your risks at home, at work, online and on the road.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ten billion dollar disasters so far this year!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is reporting that Hurricane Irene is the tenth one billion dollar disaster this year.  And we are just at the beginning of the hurricane season!

Despite New Yorkers' grumblings that they actually had to go out and spend money on water and canned goods, it's to be hoped that folks wise up -- as my friend Shelby says, "this year could be the new normal."

And there's more coming, so the investment far outweighs the inconvenience

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More coming!

Evidently I need not worry about missing the big storm -- there are more coming.  Just need to be sure the book hits the shelves while it's still hurricane season.

It's astounding to me that people don't pay attention to directions from their emergency management officials.  If we didn't have FEMA and local emergency management, recovery would be impossible in affected areas.  Surely the events of this past week on the East Coast has made that clear?

Take a look at this news story.  How can I market my book to these people?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene.

The earthquake earlier this week and now Hurricane Irene make me wish that my timing on publishing this book had been accelerated by a month.  Who knows how many people could have been helped with the Emergency Preparation information in the first chapter?

Making a plan, building an emergency kit, signing up for alerts on the weather and from your city's emergency management office -- none of those things take much time or money. 

In the meantime, it's worth it to read everything you can about how this hurricane is handled so you can increase your own level of preparedness at home and at work.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Eye of the Needle.

Two of seven reviewers have already sent back their comments!

Emily's working her last magic on the manuscript, managing the risk of conversion into an entire different program.  Jesse gets the hand-off very soon. Emily pointed out this morning that she never could have known when she became an ASA intern last October that she would actually participate in the creation of a book.

I'm interviewing candidates for the ASA academic year internship today and over the weekend.  We've added a few new responsibilities this year, including support and maintenance of a new Office 365 site to manage work; and (voila!) support for the book's launch and marketing campaign.

It's going to be an interesting autumn!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On its way.

Emily worked late into the night to prepare the PDF for the book's reviewers.  I sent it on this morning, noting for myself and for Emily a few more refinements before passing it on to Jesse tomorrow.  But it's clear as today's sky that this is a real book.  Though I knew that all the time, I am sure of it now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes and hurricanes.

Both types of natural events come in different sizes and shapes.  Evidently our West Coast brethren have been belittling the 5.8 quake that hit the East Coast yesterday.  Once folks in New York and Washington DC figured out that we were not under attack and that it was an earthquake, it became for most merely an inconvenience.  It spread a great distance north from its origin in a small town in Virginia.

Please note that no one on the East Coast has been trained to "drop, cover and hold"  for an earthquake.  It's doubtful that you could keep anyone in Manhattan working inside a high rise when they remember 9/11.

This weekend, the East Coast is looking at a plausible second event this week and making  Hurricane Irene preparations.

If you're a business located on the East Coast, this ComputerWorld article titled  "Hurricane Earl: Tips to Batten Down IT" from last fall might be of interest.  The advice in it from me and others is as good now as it was then.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The rhythms of publishing

I was wrong when I said last week that the worst was over. There's always always more.  A bit of exhaustion accompanies each phase of rewriting.  It is as if energy rises or falls according to what I am asking of myself and others.  Intense energy was required to drive through manuscript revisions -- thirteen of them from when the counter was turned on  -- via three different sets of critical eyes.  

Molly did an amazing job on the edits, which took more than three times the number of hours I had estimated.  Next round is Emily's, to fix technical issues and prepare the manuscript for its two trajectories, described in the last post.

Jesse Brown has a front cover design we like a lot.  He will be working on the interior design, which while the book is out for review.  Then the last step before sending it off to CreateSpace will be to design the back cover of the book, selecting blurbs and nailing other details down.

We're still ahead of schedule.  I say that somewhat tentatively.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The hardest part is done.

This morning I had the pleasure of shipping off the manuscript to Molly Martin, who will do the final edit with suggestions for the book.  Lauren and I put long hours in to get the manuscript to this point, and we're grateful Molly could fit this job in.  She's a strong writer and editor, and has a good sense of my voice from the work that she did on the ASA website.  It's good to be working with her again.

When the manuscript comes back, we turn around and send it in its Word layout to the seven back-of-the-book blurb writers to read and determine if they actually want to say something.  At the same time, the manuscript goes to the book designer, who can begin on design of the interior while waiting for the blurbs. He is currently working on the design of the cover.

Once Jesse Brown, the designer, is done and has put it in PDF format, I ship it to Amazon's CreateSpace publishing division, and then sit back and wait for a proof.  Since it's not being printed on a Gutenberg press like the one in the illustration, we're almost there and the end is in sight.  All the rest of the work here is collaborative,  a pleasure.  The hardest work is over.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing a book.

Once you become an executive, you are prized for your ability to write short and sweet, in paragraphs that form an executive summary that other executives can understand.  In the past two years at Annie Searle & Associates LLC, I've continued to write short pieces, either monthly columns or research notes that are 300 words or so.

Now I'm coming down to the wire on a book manuscript for which I have created deadlines that back up to the Northwest's largest book event, the Northwest Bookfest on October 1-2.  The name of the book is Advice From A Risk Detective: At Home, Online And On The Road.

The book stems from a desire to influence a larger audience than I can reach in my professional work with corporate clients.I want the book to be small and handy, a reference book rather than a scholarly work. It's written for you and everyone else you know, in plain English. It discusses how to handle your personal risk at home, at work, on the Internet, and in the world while traveling.

And things are coming along pretty well, except that I can't work on it full time at this point.  Emily has been assisting me with the manuscript as a sort of zen master of Microsoft Word.   Three specialists who helped build the ASA website are back in the saddle to bring  in the best possible book -- Lauren has been working with me for nearly two weeks, reshaping some thematic elements in the book and directing the rewrites; Molly from First and Union will recommend final edits; and Jesse, who designed ASA's look and logo, will design the book cover and make the interior presentation exceptional.

When everything is all done, we'll ship the book as a PDF to Amazon's new independent publishing service called createspace.  I'll have a commercial bookpage on Amazon, and it will be printed and shipped within two business days of an order of any size.

I do have to say that writing a book and growing a business at the same time have put me right at the edge of my comfort zone.  This next month will be quite interesting as we find out whether my deadline is realistic.  Either way, I'll be thinking through how best to manage my personal risk.