IDCE Opening Addresses Promote Public-Private Partnership as Essential to Disaster Management
Aside from being more plentiful, major disasters are wreaking more havoc than ever before, more than a federal government, any nation’s government, can address effectively by itself, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate.
“It takes a team and our job at FEMA is to build that team,” Fugate sounded the theme of public-private partnership on the opening day of the first International Disaster Conference & Exposition, January 17-19, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
“There is no one person or agency that can be in charge and make all the decisions in a major disaster,” Fugate said in his keynote address titled, “Private Sector Resources in the Emergency Management Plan; the Public-Private Partnership,” an appropriate kick-off for this first major global gathering of public and private sector professionals from all disciplines of disaster management.
Conference attendees came from 28 countries, making this a truly global meeting, and appeared to be split evenly between government and private industry executives. In addition to addresses from Fugate, First Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and Drew Sachs of Witt Associates, a public safety and crisis management consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., presentations, the day also featured an expert panel on business continuity, multiple breakout sessions and the opening of the first IDCE trade show featuring more than 165 companies with the latest innovations in disaster management products and services.
“The private sector is changing, Fugate said. “Businesses are no longer passive. They’re not waiting for an authoritarian voice to tell them what to do. They understand that if they don’t get back up and running they will lose their customers to their competitors who do.
“We made the assumption that the government has the solution, but the private sector has left us in the dust.”
To illustrate, Fugate explained what he called the “Waffle House indicator.” He noted that in working through disasters in various areas, FEMA noticed that the first businesses back in operation after a disaster were typically Waffle House restaurants.
“If we got into an area and the Waffle House was open, then it wasn’t that bad. You keep on moving. If you get there and Waffle House is not open, then it’s bad. Stop there and go to work.”
According to Fugate, the team of collaborators on disaster planning and response should also include the public.
“We used to think of the public as a liability. We tended to think the public would be running around overwhelmed and in panic. But what we found is that they help each other out; they take care of themselves and their neighbors. We found that your first responder is often your neighbor. They are a resource, so you have to figure out how to bring them into the team.”
First Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge echoed the need for public and private to partner in disaster management in his subsequent conference address.
“Nine-eleven taught us that we can’t do it alone,” he said of government initiatives.
“It taught us we had to do things differently and certainly better.”
According to Ridge significant improvements have been made in emergency management since nine-eleven, including communications programs such as a national platform for incident management now in use in all 50 states.
“We are far better prepared at the state and local level than ever before,” Ridge told his audience. “Ever since nine-eleven, the emergency community has been on top of their game. But the business of preparedness is day to day, constantly looking for vulnerabilities and gaps, and how to improve your ability to prepare and respond.”
In particular, Ridge called for the U.S. Congress to pass federal legislation to create a broadband public safety network.
“After 10 years of debate, it’s time to implement it. This is critical infrastructure.”
The International Disaster Conference and Exposition (IDCE21012), to be held January 17-19, 2012, at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, will bring together emergency management, homeland security and disaster industry professionals from the public and private sectors around the world to share lessons learned and forward thinking regarding the policies, procedures and best practices shaping disaster preparation, response and recovery, loss mitigation, business continuity and more. Conference speakers, exhibitors and attendees will share the latest knowledge, technologies and techniques toward the common goal of minimizing the loss of life and property in future catastrophic events. Industry professionals can register to attend IDCE2012 through the IDCE website at www.internationaldisasterconference.com.