Emergency management is really a fairly new profession. A formal education system is now being developed that will over time change the face of who we are as professional emergency managers. The role of professional journals and even the popular press is a critical one in keeping our existing emergency management professionals and ancillary supporting disciplines informed on best practices in emergency management. I enjoy writing about my experiences and ideas on the topics of emergency management and homeland security. I encourage you to also share what you know with others by writing for and about our profession.

Published Articles“Disaster Zone” Column in Emergency Management Magazine Op-EdsLetters To The EditorInternational Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Columns

Published Articles

“Disaster Zone” Column

Eric now writes a column for Emergency Management Magazine called “Disaster Zone .” See below for the direct links to each article.


Opinion: Surviving future disaster depends on how we plan and build today

Disasters of all types have dominated the national and international news in 2023. There have been earthquakes, floods, wildfires, extended heat emergencies and other human caused disasters that come from neglect of our critical infrastructures. Our disaster future here in the United States and the Pacific Northwest is tied to what, where and how we build in the future.

Opinion: Our property insurance crisis has been a long time coming

Disaster resilience is a popular term these days when it comes to all types of disasters. It can mean different things to different people. In practical terms, it can be defined as disaster mitigation. That means doing what you can to prevent or reduce the impact of a disaster when it occurs. More specifically, it means choosing where, what and how to build in the future. Do you invest the extra 2% of the cost of a building to make it more disaster-resilient?

Opinion: If we wait for infrastructure to fail before fixing, it’ll be too late

Our critical infrastructure in the United States is falling apart. We have not made the investments in maintaining and replacing our roads and bridges. The strategy at all levels of government appears to be “Fix on Failure” when the infrastructure finally fails. Deferred maintenance is the most common solution used in not addressing the problem. (Puget Sound Business Journal, September 11, 2020)

Opinion: We can’t wait for a grand plan to save our economy

The economic recovery from all the impacts of the coronavirus is an imperative for our nation. Governments across the United States need to take action when and where they can to enable businesses to resume economic activity when and where it is safe to do so. (Puget Sound Business Journal, May 1, 2020)

Trump is unfit to lead on COVID-19

The onset of the Coronavirus COVID-19 has quickly highlighted the need for competent leadership at all levels of government. Nowhere is the leadership vacuum more prominent than at the national level.  President Trump is a totally unfit to lean in this moment of national crisis. (Crosscut, March 2020)

Tough times ahead for Seattle-area businesses

As I write this the United States and the world are facing the biggest disease challenge of more than a century. The Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 has just been declared a world-wide pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). I wrote the linked op-ed due to President Trump’s innate inability to lead in a crisis, which I explain in the op-ed. His reputation in tatters, he is the wrong person to lead in a time where trust is a critical component between a leader and the people they lead.

Coronavirus reminds us to stress test our disaster preparedness

The onset of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV has highlighted how quickly a new disease can appear and have major impacts. Businesses’ best preparedness measure is to have a current business continuity plan (BCP) that addresses both infrastructure damages from disasters like earthquakes, but also addresses epidemics and pandemics that can occur without notice.  (Puget Sound Business Journal, February 14, 2020)

Twenty years after Y2K, preparing for the next major disaster takes a backseat

What made Y2K special was the fact that we had a specific date certain that we had to be prepared for computers to roll over to the Year 2000. We don’t have that firm deadline for other disasters, so people and organizations can procrastinate about really becoming disaster resilient. Those businesses and governments with good leaders will become better prepared to deal with future disasters based on the time and resources they invest in the effort. If you care about your people and the long-term health of the community, do something now.   (Puget Sound Business Journal, January 10, 2020)

Don’t be Oblivious to Risks

Risks are inherent to being alive in our modern world. While our ancestors might have been concerned about being eaten by wild animals, we warn the children of today about crossing the street, the dangers of drugs, binge drinking, stranger-danger, and the like. If only we could get adults to think twice about looking for dangers before physically locating or relocating their homes and businesses.

Don’t Fire FEMA Administrator, Brock Long

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is one of the smallest federal agencies. However, it has an outsize role when it comes to disasters. History has shown that having a competent and experienced emergency manager in the top leadership position is key to the success of the agency and its ability to deliver services. Retaining Brock Long as the Administrator is a top priority for state and local emergency managers.  (Emergency Management Magazine, September 21, 2018)

How do we protect elections? Look to King County

The election system of the United States has been designated as part of our  national critical infrastructure.  King County Elections is a great example of one local jurisdiction doing everything possible to protect the integrity of the ballots that are cast and to build trust in the results of the elections they administer. (Seattle Times, September 17, 2018)

Olympia’s indifference to earthquake prep could kill us all

An earthquake early warning system could save many lives. Other nations have them operational already. The United States has not yet implemented a warning system. The State of Washington is doing nothing to make seismic safety a priority.  (Crosscut op-ed, January 31, 2018)

Opinion: Build trust first, then merge economic development groups

There are many obstacles to building regional coalitions. One of the big ones is a lack of trust between people and organizations fostered by bad behaviors in the past. This op-ed speaks to how joint planning can be the first step in establishing a working relationship and in the end, trust. (September, 2017)

Western Washington not immune from wildfire risk

As the wildfire season heats up, homes and businesses are burning across the West. The threat of wildfire extends into “urban forests” that exist in the neighborhoods of Western Washington. (Seattle Times op-ed, July 18, 2017)

Do you have an earthquake relocation plan? You should

Most people don’t realize how we live on the extreme edge of “just in time” delivery of almost everything we use today to sustain life and work. One big earthquake and the weaknesses and lack of redundancy in our Central Puget Sound transportation system will be revealed. People and businesses will leave!  This op-ed appeared in the Seattle Times. (April 7, 2017)

Washington dawdles as megaquake looms

Seismic safety is a journey, not a destination. However, to get started, someone must take the first step towards doing something proactive and positive. This op-ed calls attention to all the risks, and the lack of any actions being taken. It appeared in Crosscut. (January 3, 2017)

The Port of Tacoma is an Invisible Government

Transparency requires more than just words. Governments everywhere are claiming they are transparent, but one only needs to look at their operational behaviors and how they deal with bad news to determine if they are really transparent. It is one thing to have stated values, it is quite another to follow them. While this op-ed is about one such government, others should take note of their current troubles and how they got there. This op-ed appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune. (March 25, 2016)

The real lessons from the Fizzle in the Drizzle

It was the middle of October and a windstorm of “historic proportions” was forecast to hit Washington State. Then–it didn’t blow hard, the lights did not flicker in most places, and people after taking precautions didn’t see the reward from having done so. This then is what I wrote about in an op-ed to Crosscut and the lessons they and we should learn from the event. (October 21, 2016)

The Port of Tacoma is an Invisible Government

Transparency requires more than just words. Governments everywhere are claiming they are transparent, but one only needs to look at their operational behaviors and how they deal with bad news to determine if they are really transparent. It is one thing to have stated values, it is quite another to follow them. While this op-ed is about one such government, others should take note of their current troubles and how they got there. (March 25, 2016)

Don’t Rob Funding for “Next Generation” 911 System

Dedicated funds are established for specific purposes. These funds make inviting targets to be raided by budget staff and legislators.  This has happened in the past in Washington State. With increasing budget pressures it could happen again. These funds will be needed to build out a new Next Generation 911 system. Taking these funds from their intended purpose is highway robbery.  (January 8, 2016)

What Would Kickstart the Northwest’s Earthquake Preparations?

The New Yorker Article, The Really Big One got a great deal of media attention.  But, will anything change?  Will people and organizations be moved to invest in disaster mitigation and preparedness?  It is highly unlikely that anything meaningful will be accomplished because of people’s attention span and lack of engagement on the topic of disasters.  They have to be personally impacted before being moved to action. This op-ed appeared in the Crosscut. (August 3, 2015)

Regional Compromise is not a Dirty Word

Regional action requires both large and small jurisdictions to work together. There are obstacles that get in the way of cooperation and indeed compromise.  This editorial addresses those issues. This op-ed appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal. (July 24, 2015)

Ports must work at maritime marriage

Congratulations to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma for finally agreeing to work together to preserve the maritime economic engine of the Puget Sound and the State of Washington. Their recent announcement to align their maritime container businesses is historic and should be applauded. The two ports have worked hard to avoid any talk of this new agreement being a merger. In fact, while it is not a merger of the two ports; it is a marriage of their two container operation lines of businesses. This opinion piece was featured for subscribers in the Puget Sound Business Journal. (November 14, 2014)

Living with risk: Yes, but don’t you love the view?

The average person doesn’t necessarily think about risk on a daily basis, which makes most people novices when it comes to understanding and calculating risk. There are many factors that make people accept risks that should give them pause if they really understood the odds. This article appeared on-line on Crosscut.com. (March 31, 2014)

Boston bombings make a case for drones, waterfront cameras

Supporting the use of technology to prevent and investigate criminal and terrorist activities would make our communities safer. This article appeared on-line on SeattleTimes.com. (May 1, 2013)

Trust requires more than government telling the truth

Governments like to parade accountability and outcomes. But they have to do more than delivering on selected results and telling a bare minimum of convenient truths. This article appeared on-line on Crosscut.com. (August 1, 2012)

U.S. must remain vigilant about homeland security with fewer resources

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, the early intense interest in outfitting first-responding agencies to ensure their readiness in the event of more terrorist attacks has waned along with federal resources. Guest columnist Eric Holdeman argues that everyone needs to adjust to keep communities safe. This article appeared on-line and in print in the Seattle Times. (August 18, 2011)

Killer Buildings Here at Home Are a ‘Predictable Surprise’

The tragedy of earthquakes, first in Haiti and now Chile, continues to be played out on our television screens. While most Americans look at this situation as being that of a third-world country, the risks that we live with today include some of those that have taken their deadly toll in Haiti.  This article appeared on-line in Emergency Management Magazine. (March 1, 2010)

FEMA Still Mired in ‘Know-It-All’ Mentality

The transition to the new Obama Administration presents an opportunity for changes to be made to FEMA and their priorities and methodology.  Eric has written an opinion piece on what the new FEMA could work on, starting with improved relationships with state and local partners.  This article appeared on-line in Government Technology, and in print in the winter edition of Emergency Management Magazine. (January 27, 2009)

Fix on Failure
When will you repair or replace the roof on your home? This is a very practical question and your answer can be very indicative of our national non-obsession with maintenance. (February 2008)

Destroying FEMA
Following the federal response, and the ensuing fallout, to Hurricane Katrina, there were many calls for changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. See Eric’s Washington Post Op-Ed on FEMA and the impacts to the agency and national preparedness. (August 2005)

Homeland Security Grants
A recent edition of the “Team Washington Homeland Security Update” contains an Op-ed that I wrote about how many Homeland Security Grants are stove piped to disciplines vs. having a truly regional approach.  Take a look and tell me what you think.  I know I’m dreaming!

Emergency preparedness: Is three days enough?
In December 2006 Western Washington was hit by a massive windstorm.  See this Op-ed on why three days is the “minimum” for preparedness with seven days, being really what is needed for major events in this region of the world.

The Case for Regional Collaboration
Barb Graff, City of Seattle Emergency Management Director and I took time to reflect on the anniversaries of Katrina and 9/11 and how we need to continue our tradition of regional planning and collaboration. This Op-ed was published in the Seattle Times on September 8, 2006.

Is your school prepared?
We often assume that schools are one of the safest places to send our children. But what about in the case of an emergency or disaster? How well prepared are the schools your children or loved ones are attending? Read Eric’s Op-Ed on just how you can help ask the right questions to better prepare the schools and ultimately protect your children.

Fixing FEMA
Following the federal response, and the ensuing fallout, to Hurricane Katrina, there have been many calls for changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. See Eric’s Op-Ed on just how and where FEMA should head into the future. (June 2006)

Are you ready?
What lessons can we really learn from the Hurricane Katrina response? Eric takes a look at regional planning to answer this question. (September 2005)

Worst cast planning – Thinking the unthinkable
Why should we as emergency managers do worst-case planning? Imagine a scenario, typically that is centered on a single type of hazard, and then to paint in words the worst possible picture of what we might be faced with. Read on to learn more of the importance of this type of planning. (August 2005)

Warning the public
What will it take to get you to evacuate a building during a fire, run to higher ground because of a tsunami or volcanic lahar, or “shelter-in-place” because a toxic substance is floating in the air outside your home? Learn why the answer is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. (June 2005)

Disaster movies are us
Where does our national infatuation with disaster movies come from? Even though my everyday business is trying to motivate people and organizations to do something to become better prepared for when disasters do strike, I have to admit I love to watch a good disaster movie. (February 2004)

Media and government: Can there be a partnership?
Read Eric’s op-ed on how in the post 9-11 world, the media and government must forge stronger relationships in order to adapt to new challenges in homeland security and emergency management. (January 2004)

TOPOFF Exercise – Gearing up for the “Super Bowl” of Homeland Security exercises
Homeland defense is a radically different concept from what the Boomer and follow-on generations of Americans have become accustomed to. Wars and issues of “national” security have traditionally been dealt with in the “other Washington,” with the military and organizations like the CIA leading the charge. See how TOPOFF 2 can be an opportunity for this “Washington” to kick off a new era of homeland security planning. (May 2003)

Nisqually earthquake retrospective
The Nisqually earthquake rocked Central Puget Sound in February 2001, registering a 6.8 magnitude and putting us through 40 seconds of strong ground motion. The ‘quake sent thousands of people in Western Washington diving under tables and desks, but why were things a ‘success’ for us? Read this op-ed, published just after the earthquake for more details. (February 2002)

"I have a passion for sharing information with others. One of the best ways to do that is to put your thoughts down on paper and allow others to agree, disagree, or debate."

Eric Holdeman