Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mr. Gisli Olafsson -- A True and Proven Crisis Leader

I am currently a student in the University of Washington Masters of Infrastructure Planning and Management (IPM) program.  This quarter I am taking IPM501, Comprehensive Emergency Management.  As part of this course one of our required readings is an excellent crisis leadership book by Mr. Gisli Olafsson entitled The Crisis Leader.

We were very fortunate to "virtually meet" Mr. Olafsson on an Adobe Connect lecture on July 29th where Mr. Olafsson took 90 minutes to highlight his experiences as an urban search and rescue leader including his experience as a team leader for Iceland's International Urban Search and Rescue team (ICE-SAR) immediately after the tragic earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.

Overall, Mr. Olafsson is a very compelling and experienced emergency response manager and leader with some excellent -- albeit tragic -- stories from his experiences responding to disasters around the world.  In his lecture he raised some excellent comments and ideas about the role of leadership during a crisis.  Some of the key ideas and comments he raised are captured below:

CL = Y + T + R

The equation above is one way Mr. Olafsson tried to explain what crisis leadership includes and entails.  The terms are first interpreted as:

CL = Crisis Leadership
Y = You
T = Team
R = Response

In summary he used this equation as a way to help capture some key aspects of personal leadership.

Y = You

You need to know yourself -- you need to know how you react under times of stress and crisis and how you deal with events -- including those events with substantial amounts of death and destruction.  You need to understand your emotions, fears and how to deal with these psychological arrows so you can be an effective leader.

Mr. Olafsson pointed out that key to the "You" aspect is to realize that you need to trust your team and their capabilities in order to control and even block your fear.  You need to be prepared for the task at hand by knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.  You also need to be physically and psychologically fit to endure the long hours and stressful conditions.

T = Team

Paramount elements for leadership success includes being resilient (also referred to as "Semper Gumby" as a reference to the very flexible cartoon character).  Secondly, you need to always be preparing through planning and exercising.. 

Mr. Olafsson noted that as a rule of thumb from a World Bank document on Natural Hazards Unnatural Disasters that for every hour or preparation spent you can expect to save six hours of effort; similarly for every dollar spent you can expect to save six dollars.

You want to build your team so that you are a "...leader of leaders..." where the team members are empowered to not only do their job but also to fill the role as a leader as required for the situation and based on their technical specialties/expertise.  Don't be a micromanager but lead your "leaders" so they are effective and the job gets done.

R = Respond

Response to a crisis is a key reason why you are at the disaster.  But, you are surrounded by many challenges ranging from the disaster itself to the weather to the debris field to the emotional survivors and even to the smell.  First you need to focus -- block the external stimuli and do your task at hand.  Secondly, take advantage of the intelligence and help that can be provided by the local population affected by the disaster.  Apparently FEMA in the U.S. refers to this concept as "Survivor-centric Response."

Responding requires a team with solid morale.  As noted in Chapter 25, "Team Morale," Mr. Olafsson states, "No matter which way it starts out , one of your crucial roles as a leader is to ensure that you keep morale high, even during the most difficult times.  Your ability to do that depends on a number of things including:
  • Your rapport with team members...
  • Your ability to read others...
  • Your ability to understand how the situation is affecting people..."


If you are a leader of any sort -- but especially one placed -- or potentially placed -- into an emergency situation or worse yet a disaster, I would highly recommend you take time to read, digest and contemplate the excellent and field-proven advice offered in this book by Mr. Olafsson.  As a 40+ year leader myself, I found his advice to be "...right on..." and useful for my professional and personal leadership roles.

Mr. Olafsson's website is:  www.thecrisisleader.com and he can be followed on Twitter @gislio


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FERC Requires Changes to NERC CIP-014 - Physical Security of Substations

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR)  that proposed to approve CIP-014-1, Physical Security (PDF), with two modifications.

The NOPR did find that the proposed CIP-014-1 standard "...largely satisfies the directives in the (March 7, 2014 FERC) order.  However, the Commission proposes to direct NERC to develop a modification that would specifically allow governmental authorities, including FERC or another appropriate federal or provincial authority, to add or subtract facilities from an entity's list of critical facilities."

FERC does note in their announcement that they only expect the addition/subtraction of substations to be exercised only "rarely."

The second proposed modification from FERC directs NERC "...to revise wording that it believes could narrow the scope and number of identified critical facilities.  Specifically the NOPR seeks comment on the Commission's concern that NERC's use of the phrase 'widespread instability' rather than 'instability,' as stated in the March order, could create ambiguity since the term 'widespread' is not defined."

The NOPR also requests NERC submit two informational reports.  The first report would have NERC analyze whether CIP-014-1 should be applicable to additional types of facilities beyond substations.  The second report would have NERC provide analysis on grid resiliency exploring what can be done beyond CIP-014-1 to maintain reliable operation of the Bulk Power System when faced with the loss or degradation of critical facilities.

Crescendo of Activities Focused on Physical Security of Substations

In addition to the quick response by FERC when Pacific Gas & Electric's Metcalf substation was physically attacked in California on April 16, 2013, there have been several meetings and analyses produced examining how the industry should respond to physical attacks on critical substations.  For instance at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) summer meeting in Dallas on July 16, 2014, they passed a resolution on physical security of electric grid (PDF).

Overall, an excellent summary of the current situation regarding physical security concerns for the electric grid is the June 17, 2014 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report Physical Security of the U.S. Power Grid: High-Voltage Transformer Substations (PDF) .  This report is an encyclopedic review of the current state of physical security concerns and issues related to the larger transformers and substations.

A parenthetical observation from this report is on page 8 of the report regarding physical movement of the large transformers in an emergency.  The paragraph noted is cited below:

Within the United States, transportation of HV transformers is difficult. Due to their size and
weight, most HV transformers are transported on special railcars, each with up to 36 axles to
distribute the load. There are fewer than 20 of these railcars in the Unites States rated to carry 500 tons or more, which can present a logistical problem if they are needed in a transformer emergency. Some specialized flatbed trucks can also carry heavy transformer loads over public roadways, but the few such trucks that exist have less carrying capacity and greater route restrictions than the railcars because HV transformers may exceed highway weight limits.

Expect More Discussion in the Future

With the recent announcement from FERC, the very recent resolutions from NARUC, the tragic events associated with current wars in Europe and the Middle East, it would not surprise me if there are more conversations regarding the physical protection of the electric and gas grids.