February 8, 2017

Your Urban Colouring Book

A great singer in her time, Sandy Stewart appeared on the Kraft Music Hall and many other TV shows to sing her hit “My Coloring Book.”  The song features a series of plays on colours.  There are the eyes who watched her man “as he walked away/ Color them grey.” There’s “…the heart that thought/He’d always be true/Color it blue.”  This tear jerker goes with orchestration by Frank Sinatra’s buddy, Don Costa.  The other songs had a colour theme too—Tangerine, “…she is all they claim/With her eyes of night and lips as bright as flame…”.          

Ms Stewart could be of use in helping to write today’s urban emergency plans.  Some of them seem fixated on colour-coding events, people, clothing, response, and such.  Birmingham for example has colour coding for the command structure for event management.  Gold is strategic, silver is tactical, and bronze is operational.       

In Mississauga, they have added coloured vests.  Leaving aside the notion that you might not want the world (or terrorists) to know you’re an emergency responder, you have to wonder why they bother.   Red is the vest for the Emergency Operations Centre Director and manager, and thus a great target for terrorists, mischief makers, or just lonely people who like talking to officials in an emergency.  Green is for command staff, orange is for the operations section, blue is for planning and yellow for logistics.  I suppose the logistics planners wear half of each colour or perhaps have a yellowy-blue vest.  Bluey-yellow would be for the opposite—logistical planning.  Or perhaps logistics is not subject to planning in Mississauga.  

But here’s where the fun begins in Mississauga, at least for me.  Grey is for finance and administration and taupe is for information technology (IT) support.  My wife and I have regular debates about what colour taupe is.  There may be a greenish-taupe, a beigey-taupe and a grey-like-taupe.  There may also be taupe-like-beige, and so on.  But I’ve never won this debate and have rarely worn the right outfit.  I bet they will be some fun during emergencies in Mississauga along these lines.   

On the black and white computer screen, Cleveland Ohio notes that much of its emergency plan is color coded for “convenience.”  Whose convenience is not stated.       

In Houston, the worst kind of emergency is red, followed by orange, yellow, blue, and green.  I guess like the stop lights we’re used to, green means you can go, and red means you can’t because there’s an emergency underway.   In Houston they also use numbers and may be describing their state of readiness and/or the state of emergency.  Tuscon uses this colour scheme too.

Over in San Francisco they have more and different colours.  I find this in their Regional Emergency Coordination Plan, Appendix C—REOC Situation Report Form SMES Situation Report (jargon is another topic).  Black is the worst situation with major assistance required, red (as in Houston and Tuscon) is pretty bad with assistance required, but it’s not the worst.  Yellow means you’re under control, green is resolved.  But then there are two other categories which are below this and thus apparently less concerning.  Grey is unknown, which might actually be more concerning than resolved.  Finally Blue is closed—as in the file is closed, I suppose.  I also suppose it’s closed because it’s resolved—a bluey-grey.

But this black must be a different black that’s used in triage in Kansas City.  Kansas City’s black means you’re dead.  You’re also dead in Houston when that color is used in triage.  Dead might mean the file on you is closed, but that would be blue, resulting from a lack of oxygen, and you might still be alive.     

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