Thomas V. Robertson, Ph.D – Director, TIEMS North America Region

Air Date: 2-13-2015 | Episode: 356

This week we welcome Tom Robertson who directs the North America operations of The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS), where he founded the TIEMS USA local chapter…

Full Description:

This week we welcome Tom Robertson who directs the North America operations of The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS), where he founded the TIEMS USA local chapter. He is Technical Manager for TIEMS in the European Union ASSET Program, which is developing improved, participatory approaches to pandemic response. He is also leading the TIEMS initiative, Disaster Resilience Establishment in Vulnerable Societies (DREVS).

Tom is Founder and Principal at Thinking Teams, an international consultancy to leaders and

Thomas V. Robertson, TIEMS

Thomas V. Robertson

organizations seeking high performance teams dealing with complexity, uncertainty, and risk. His clients include BAE Systems, The European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, and The Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies. He is active in the Oregon Organizational Development Network’s Community Consulting Program, which specializes in making not-for-profit organizations more effective.

Tom earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, where he did research in bioengineering, communications, and artificial intelligence. At Bell Laboratories he developed new techniques for monitoring and trouble-shooting system failures. He performed and led advanced research and development in simulation, image processing, advanced computing, artificial intelligence, and systems engineering in roles including Associate Technical Group Director, BAE Systems; Director, Advanced Information Sciences Division at The Analytic Sciences Corporation; Director of Engineering and Chief Scientist at Lockheed Martin Advanced Simulation Centre; and Vice President/General Manager at Atlantic Aerospace.

 The Z-Man and I met Tom at the TIEMS Conference held at Purdue last year. We were impressed with the speaker lineup and the collaboration with the disaster restoration and demolition industries at what has primarily been an academic conference. LEARN MORE about TIEMS and large scale emergency response this week on IAQ Radio!

Z-Man’s Blog:

For the greater good

Thomas V. Robertson, PhD director of the North American region of TIEMS (the international emergency management society) was the guest on today’s episode of IAQradio. Radio Joe, Pete Consigli and I met Tom last year at the TIEMS conference which was hosted by Purdue University.

I suppose it’s only natural for us to think about disaster issues primarily on a local level and less often regionally or nationally. Natural disasters occur internationally and rarely does a week go by without TV coverage of an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, flood, volcanic eruption somewhere in the world.

Gold NuggetsNuggets mined from today’s episode:

  • Trained as an electrical engineer and through his work in the aerospace industry, Tom was drawn towards to organizing, leading and leveraging diverse groups to solve problems. Tom left the aerospace engineering corporate world for consulting.
  • TIEMS understands both the need and importance of bringing people together. TIEMS was founded for the purpose of sharing information: knowledge, experience & research and connecting people. TIEMS brings people together through conferences, education, working groups, and other initiatives TIEMS conferences started out emphasizing science and engineering, and now they also include the perspectives of practitioners, providers, and leaders in government, industry, and academia TIEMS goal is to make the world safer and more resilient to disasters. 30 countries are currently represented in TIEMS.
  • “A pandemic (from Greek pan “all” and demos “people”) is an epidemic of infectious disease that has spread through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide.” Wikipedia
  • Important lesson learned – while the European Union did significant pre-planning for a H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic; following a breakout of H1N1 flu implementation of the plans suffered due to poor communication. Side communication on social media included untrue rumors and conspiracy theories such as profiteering by big pharma, etc. that resulted in a loss in trust of government. Top down “do it for your own good” governmental management wasn’t trusted so now the EU has commissioned a consortium of 14 organizations to develop a better process that engages all the people and stakeholders to avoid an us versus them conflict.
  • TIEMS is studying lessons learned with Ebola. Another example of failed communication led to controversy over whether or not to quarantine medical personnel in the US who may have been exposed to the disease but weren’t showing symptoms.
  • While the science shows that the Ebola virus isn’t airborne, people feared the virus might mutate and be a problem. An example of “scientific facts versus personal fear.”
  • Science doesn’t know everything, but they can find out a lot. Through the process of discovery; science tracked the origin of the Ebola virus back to fruit bats.
  • Science demonstrates that vaccines are safe, however a small minority of people remain fearful of them. Unvaccinated people threaten human “herd immunity” which requires 95% participation for efficacy.
  • Tom has visited disaster sites, earthquakes in China and mudslides in Japan and looks forward to opportunities in frontline response.
  • Attendees of the 10th International Conference of the International Institute for Infrastructure Resilience and Reconstruction (I3R2) hosted by Purdue University were a mix of academia, government and industry. Attendees’ feedback on learning and interaction was very positive.
  • Portland State campus will host the TIEMS upcoming meeting, the event theme is “Emergency Management in an Interconnected World”. At the meeting participants from academia, government and industry will collaborate and network. Speakers will discuss: interdependence of global economy, energy interdependence, cyber security, weather, emergency management, security safe-guarding, risk management, etc.

Global Restoration Watchdog: Top Ten Shout-outs + One
1. Purdue University offers learning concentrations in disaster restoration and demolition. In 2015 and 2016 minors and majors will be available from their Building Construction Management (BCM) 4 year degree program housed in Purdue’s College of Technology.

2. The industry panel hosted by Purdue for the 10th International Conference of the International Institute for Infrastructure Resilience and Reconstruction (I3R2), was a collaboration of representatives from the demolition, disaster restoration and volunteer assistance industries.

3. Assembled a list of 30+ industry movers and shakers and sent them documents and information to encourage them to support TIEMS newly founded US Chapter and its inaugural Portland, OR Conference.

4.  Publicly thanked Jeff Cross, editor of Cleanfax magazine for coverage of the Purdue clean faxconference. Check it out at:

5. For the greater good. Recounted the story of several demolition contractors who responded and supported efforts at ground zero following 9/11 and some went bankrupt due to insufficient financial reimbursement.

6. Reminded everyone that the work of the disaster recovery industry and its various sectors is more than demo, damage repair and restorative services. The industry plays a larger role as it fills a societal need to disaster victims who at a vulnerable time need sound advice and trustworthy service providers.

7.  The contractors who derive their livelihood from filling this need in an ethical and cost effective manner require timely payment for their services.

8. Because in the bigger picture, they not only provide a tangible service to distressed and often the downtrodden victims, they “Restore Peace of Mind!”.

9. Making it Better is a Promise and the motto for Restoration Industry Association members as stated on its home page.

10. Although the National Demolition Association may not have those words on its home page that spirit existed in the hearts of the NDA contractors who help make it better in NYC after America’s most horrific attack on its Homeland!

11. Links to the home pages for RIA, NDA and All Hands Volunteers (AHV) can be accessed from the Cleanfax link.


  • TIEMS has launched an E-Learning educational initiative. Strives to connect US educational programs to those in other countries. Seeks multiple academic partners.
  • Learn more about TIEMS at

Today’s music: “Help” by the Beatles

Trivia:  Name the early 19th century natural disaster that claimed the most lives of any natural disaster in US disaster?

Answer: 1900 Galveston Hurricane

Galveston Hurricane, September 1900

Galveston Hurricane, September 1900

 Z-Man signing off