The 2009 Governor's Hurricane Conference ended today, Friday, May 15, 2009. I flew to Ft Lauderdale from Tallahassee for the Conference on Wednesday and returned today. The depressed economy and equally depressed tax receipts cut down on the number of exhibitors by about a third and by the number of attendees by about half. I usually come for the entire week but this year I cut it short.
Nevertheless I found the Conference to be very educational and useful. I enjoy hearing from the counties and the very real emergency management problems that they have to deal with. Lee County gave a very good presentation on the flooding they endured from Tropical Storm Fay, and the 500 migrant workers and their families that they had to shelter for over seven weeks. Their response to the situation was a textbook operational displaying all the right cooperation and coordination that so often does not happen.
The big news for the week, and much discussed at the Conference, was Craig Fugate's confirmation as the FEMA Administrator and Ruben Almaguer's appointment as the Interim Director of Emergency Management for the state. In the General Session on Wednesday afternoon Joe Becker, Vice-President for the American Red Cross, said the Washington, D.C. was about to experience Hurricane Craig. I said, and still believe, that Craig is going to change FEMA or get fired.
I met an interesting gentleman, Keith Loeb, who was a former Special Forces Master Sergeant. He had owned a company that established kitchen sites in disasters, primarily for responders and firefighters. I discovered that Keith helped established the base camp for 1,000 persons in Hancock County, Mississippi in September 2005 after the impact of Hurricane Katrina.
"I stayed in that base camp," I told him.
We both marveled that we had spent that much time there and didn't remember seeing each other. To be honest, it was three and a half years ago and there were a lot of people there.
We also discovered that we were both in the Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center last September during Hurricane Gustav. We didn't remember seeing each other there either. Maybe we're both not very observant people.
I do remember that he is a very big man and that I wouldn't want to get into an a heated argument with him.