This has clearly been one of the best National Hurricane Conferences that I have attended in the last decade. The presentations that I have attended have been high quality and with timely topics. The presentations, plus the opportunity to interact with professionals around the country, make this an excellent conference for emergency managers.
Curt Sommerhoff, the Emergency Mangement Director for Miami-Dade County, gave an outstanding presentation on the county's sheltering program and a new program that they are piloting for FEMA. This pilot involves identifying faith based and community organizations that provide some kind of service in a disaster. This is a perfect example of Craig Fugate's Whole of Community concept. Craig says to "plan for the real, not for the easy."
Mark Askey, FEMA Mass Care, talked about the beginning of the discussion towards development of a national Mass Care Strategy. FEMA, the Red Cross and the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are going to lead the effort. Look in the near future for VOAD to publish a web site where everyone can first, know about this effort and second, have an opportunity to contribute to the development of this strategy.
I rushed back from lunch to listen to Marcie Roth, FEMA's functional needs guru. This is a controversial topic, and Marcie gets to travel around the country telling emergency managers what they don't want to hear. She had some breaking news: FEMA will soon release an Information Bulletin on how jurisdictions can apply for Homeland Security grants to meet their functional needs requirements in general population sheltering.
Many emergency managers are still in denial about how we must change our operational procedures to meet with this federal guidance. Others have moved beyond Denial and are mired in Grief about the whole thing. Others, like me, have passed beyond these two stages and have arrived at Resignation. We know we have to do it, we just don't know how.
Eventually we will get beyond this issue and move on to another. The planning effort we have undertaken in Florida will get us there, just not by the start of this hurricane season.