Strudel & Bratwurst: Christmas Time in Chicago

Strudel and bratwurst…sounds like names for twins or a set of dogs. Or it’s the delicious meal I enjoyed at Chicago’s 15th Annual Christkindlmarket, a German Christmas festival nearby my hotel.  The festival attracts American, German, and other vendors from around the world as they offer an assortment of handcraft items. There are nice items to be viewed but I think the real treat here is the delicious food to eat. There were a number of food vendors offering an assortment of desserts, beer, and meats.

Chicago at night during ChristmasI’ve spent the past week in Chicago at the annual FEMA Risk Analysis Directorate conference. Our stay at The Drake Hotel brings in FEMA employees from headquarters and the regions along with FEMA contractors. This year the dialogue revolved around Risk MAP and how this program will be implemented throughout the nation. The days were filled with excellent discussions about identifying flood risk, collaborating with communities, developing strategies, and most importantly, implementing strategies in the community to reduce risk and save lives. This is much of my bread and butter of what I do with FEMA, though I usually focus on all natual hazards.

Skype photo of familyI’m looking forward to an early flight tomorrow to be back with Laura and my kids. Each evening we chat on Skype when I travel. It’s always an entertaining time trying to connect with everyone as Autumn wants to stand or eat, Ethan runs here and there, and Laura trys to orchestrate everything. Her and the kids have all been a little ill this week so I’m hoping to head home to give her much deserved rest.

Chicago Photos (Blackberry Camera)


Laura and Autumn had the pleasure to join me on a business trip to Chicago last week. After being with FEMA for a little over year, spending 50 nights on the road, and traveling almost 40,000+ air miles, it was nice to have family come along for the ride. Chicago was our destination because the annual FEMA Mitigation Planners Workshop was held here this year.  This was my second visit to Chicago this year, Laura and Autumn’s first ever, and it was a great visit to the Windy City.

“But wait! Where was Ethan?”

Continue reading “Chicago.”

Emergency Management Institute (EMI)

Emergency Management Institute (EMI)
Emergency Management Institute (EMI)

I’m spending the week at the Emergency Management Institute in Maryland. EMI is the national emergency training center for FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration. It’s a beautiful campus located in Emitsburg, just a few miles from Gettysburg, PA. This is my first visit to Maryland since my old punk band played in Baltimore in July 2000.

Emergency Management Institute - 4My training is focused on using a GIS based program titled HAZUS-MH to analyze spatial data and use it to inform the development of a risk assessment in a hazard mitigation plan. HAZUS takes in the building inventory, including location data and building costs, runs a model depending on the type of hazard and its intensity/location, and provides an analysis of what damages may occur or people injured. It’s a powerful program with a variety of uses in emergency management.