1. Week 1 Lecture
Introductions and Problem Solving
This first week allows us to get to know each other a little better via the Discussion Board. I’m
interested to hear about your backgrounds, interests, and why you’re taking this course. This will
help me direct some of the discussions we have and ensure you get as much out of this course as
possible. Some of you may be fairly new to the world of emergency management, while others
may be seasoned veterans.
You will also complete your first FEMA Independent Study course on “Decision Making and
Problem Solving,” which will hopefully provide you some tools for the rest of the quarter.
Finally, there are a couple of preparation activities. While they do not need to be completed this
week, you should start thinking about them now as they will need to be completed in the next
Objectives – In this module, you will:
1. Understand where to find all the course components.
2. Introduce yourself to the other course participants.
3. Learn how the problem solving process can be broken down into a few steps.
4. Understand the importance of ethical decision making.
5. Apply decision making skills to disaster case studies.
Let’s get started with our first lecture! If you’re fairly new to the online learning environment,
this may be a little different than what you’re used to. Online learning is more than watching
videos of classroom lectures. Instead, you’ll be more actively involved in the learning process by
discussing the lessons with your fellow students and me in the online Discussion Board. You’ll
still be learning on your own (primarily by taking online FEMA courses and via other readings),
but this class is designed to promote collaboration with others. If you’re not already aware,
collaboration is key in emergency management. One agency—let alone one person—cannot do
everything needed for effective disaster preparedness, protection, response, recovery or
mitigation. This is why there are so many groups involved in emergency management.
Please begin by introducing yourself to me and to the rest of the class on the Blackboard (Bb)
“Discussion Board” (which is due Saturday). You should then respond to at least two of your
fellow students’ posts by Tuesday. If you haven’t yet participated on a Discussion Board, or if
you need a reminder of how to create posts, you can watch an introductory video by clicking
here (select the blue link by pressing the Ctrl button on your keyboard and clicking the link).
You will find what information needs to be posted on the Discussion Board in the Assignments
Summary below as well as in the actual Discussion Board. As students have the potential to
come from a variety of businesses, organizations, government departments, etc I use the term
“organization/department” throughout the course as a catch-all to describe the place you
associate yourself with. For those of you with practical experience in emergency management,
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2. I’d really like you to share some of your personal experiences in this discussion and throughout
the rest of the course. This makes the discussions more interesting, shows how emergency
management processes are in place in the “real world”, and allows us to learn from each other. In
the words of Sir Isaac Newton, who just happened to go to school near where I grew up, “If I
have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
You can access the Discussion Board either from a link in the “Week 1” folder or from the
Discussion Board button on the course menu. Both links take you to the same place, but the link
in the Week 1 folder requires one less mouse click. I mentioned collaboration is a focus of this
class, and emergency management in general, so you will be asked to post twice in the
Discussion Board for most weeks. Your first posting will answer a question(s) I pose and the
second posting should be a response to your fellow students. I typically require the first post to
be made by the Saturday of each week, which gives others a few days to respond.
Within the Discussion Board, I have also created a “Student Lounge” as an opportunity to post
informal messages to each other about the course or other unrelated topics. In addition, I have
created a “Resource Area” to post resources that may be of interest to others. To access these
areas on Blackboard, click on the “Discussion Board” link in the course menu on the left hand
side of the screen and click on the “Student Lounge” or “Resource Area” respectively. I’ve listed
links in the Resource Area alphabetically according to their source. I recommend you check out
both areas as they contain resources that may come in handy (e.g., a list of acronyms and terms
used in emergency management).
In addition, and in the spirit of collaboration, I’ve created a Delicious account for everybody to
share websites they think may be useful to the rest of the class. To access the account, use the
I have also created a link to Delicious in the “Resource Area” of the “Discussion Board.” You
will not be graded on if you contribute to this site or even if you visit.
You’ll notice there are no required textbooks for this class (I do however list on the syllabus one
optional online text book, which will provide more context to the class). Instead, you’ll be
reading through several FEMA Independent Study Courses. A lot of emergency management
departments will ask you to complete some of these courses if you want to become an intern or
join the department. After completing seven of the classes (you can see which ones by clicking
here), FEMA will automatically issue you a Personal Development Series certificate. In addition,
you can count some of the training towards getting certified by the International Association of
Emergency Managers (IAEM) as a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) or Associate
Emergency Manager (AEM) (for more information on certification, click here).
For our first week, I would like you to take FEMA’S Independent Study course Decision Making
and Problem Solving, which also has a link in the Readings folder. The ability to solve time-
sensitive problems is essential for emergency management professionals as your decisions at
each step in the decision-making process may have an impact on lives, property, and the
environment. Your problem solving will be made easier if you and your organization have
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3. planned ahead by putting down in writing specific actions and steps to take in documents such as
an Emergency Operations Plan and Standard Operating Procedures. The FEMA course breaks
down the steps in the problem-solving model and explains how personality styles affect decision-
making. The course also discusses the components of ethical decision making, some ethical
“dos” and “don’ts”, and provides case studies to demonstrate some ethical decisions that may
arise in an emergency response. Finally, you will apply the problem-solving model to a disaster-
related case study.
You should also take the FEMA test that follows the online training (the training should have a
link to the test and the homepage of the course also has a link). I highly recommend you keep a
record of your answers as you go through the test. The website has an uncanny knack of losing
some of your answers and requiring you to re-answer the same questions. If you don’t pass the
test the first time, don’t worry. Just familiarize yourself with the material again and retake the
test until you do pass. Once you have passed your test, you will see a message on the website
saying your certificate will be emailed to you within 1- 2 days. Don’t worry! (Do you promise?)
You should get an email from FEMA within a few hours with a link to your certificate that you
can then download, save and print. If you have trouble saving your certificate, please email me
the link to your certificate so I can see that you completed the course. You should then upload
your electronic certificate to Blackboard (there will be an area on the page describing the
assignment where you’ll upload the electronic document). Please save your electronic copy of
your certificates in a safe place as you may need them at a later date and I don’t know how long
your certificates stay online.
Finally, there are a couple of assignments you can start preparing for now. This will save you
time in the upcoming weeks when you may be busier. In week 5 you will each be asked to
interview an emergency management professional by phone or in person (which could be
government or non-government) and who has responded to a disaster. This interview and
report will be worth 25 points out of a possible 150 points for all the assignments. In week 3 the
course group will come up with a list of questions to ask and in week 6 you will need to submit a
presentation on what you learned during your interview. So, please consider who you may want
to interview. This person preferably is somebody you may need to work with in the future who
you haven’t built an existing relationship with. If you can’t find anybody to interview, please ask
the rest of the group for suggestions on the Discussion Board. If they can’t help, contact me and
I’ll help you find somebody.
The presentation you make in week 6 will be with Screencast-o-matic.com (the link to the
website is also in the Week 1 folder). You are not required to upload a Screencast presentation to
Blackboard this week but I strongly recommend you create a practice presentation for yourself.
Your computer will need a microphone and Java software for a screencast to be created.
An optional activity for this week is to review FEMA’s recommendations to Be Informed, Make
a Plan, Build a Kit, Get Involved. The site provides information on how to be better prepared at
home for disasters and covers information such as how to build a disaster supplies kit and create
a family disaster plan. While all members of the public should be prepared at home for a disaster,
it is especially important for those who work in emergency management. After an emergency
situation, you need to know your family is safe if you’re to be effective in your emergency
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4. Read: FEMA self-study “IS-241.a Decision Making and Problem Solving”:
http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/is241a.asp [Due Monday]
Discuss: Provide an autobiography of yourself with the information requested in the
discussion thread (e.g., what previous experience you have in emergency
management) [Due Friday].
Also, engage in a discussion with at least two others by responding to their bios
Prepare: 1) Identify an emergency management professional; 2) Become familiar with
how to create a presentation on Screencast-o-matic.com; 3) Ensure you have a
computer with a microphone and Java software in week 6.
Optional Prepare: Review the information provided by FEMA on how to Be Informed,
Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Get Involved
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