Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 2 at the National Hurricane Conference

The first order of business for the day was a Mass Care Rap session. Our friend Lynn Crabb, the lead for Mass Care at Red Cross Headquarters, volunteered or was volunteered to lead the Rap Session. As usual, I had no shortage of opinions nor the willingness to express them. The session was well represented by the voluntary agencies: Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Baptists. FEMA Headquarters and Region VI were also there.

The initial and major topic was Administrator Fugate's announcement that he wanted the nation to develop a mass care strategy. An 18 person council was formed to fulfill this task, but has yet to meet. The council is made up of individuals involved in the mass care community and of the community at large (academia, private sector, children, etc). The first task of the council will be to assemble a "compendium" or catalog of resources that the principal nongovernmental organizations have available at a national level.

Another task will be to compile for the edification of all an explanation of how mass care resources are assembled at the local, state and national levels in response to a disaster. Here I brought up what I think is the greatest issue for mass care nationwide - the lack of mass care capability at the state level.

To address this shortfall FEMA has developed (with my assistance) a state mass care coordinators course. I will be one of the instructors for the pilots of this course in Atlantic City, NH the week of May 2 and in Tallahassee, Fl the week of May 9. Once this course is completed and available to the other states we can begin to address these capability issues.

After the Rap Session we heard from Bill Read, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and my favorite speaker, Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator. Craig emphasized the importance of getting elected officials at the state and local levels involved in the upcoming hurricane exercises. That way they can practice making the very difficult evacuation decisions under great uncertainty.

Craig also brought up the importance of using social media to get the "word" to the public so that they can make the right decision when facing the uncertainties during an oncoming hurricane.

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