Sunday, April 20, 2014

The 2014 National Hurricane Conference

The 2014 National Hurricane Conference is over and now I will have to wait until next year in Austin, TX to see all my mass care friends again. Actually, that's not true, since the Florida Governors Hurricane Conference is in 3 weeks and the National Mass Care Exercise is the week after that. April and May has abundant opportunities for the renewal of mass care friendships.

There was something missing from the 2014 NHC. As Gregg O'Ryon, Vice President for the American Red Cross, pointed out to me, the NHC wasn't helped by the movement of the GHC from Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando this year. The result was 2 hurricane conferences with 4 weeks of each other and both in hotels within spitting distance of each other on International Drive.

There was a drop in the number of Red Cross people at the NHC. The Florida Red Cross people will all be going to the GHC. There also seemed to be a shortage of Femites at the Conference (although Craig Fugate made it and gave a good speech). I could understand the shortage last year because of the sequester but we needed more FEMA mass care people at the conference. I think the reason for the continued absence of FEMA people is the lingering effects of last year's IRS Conference scandal. Getting approval to attend a conference if you're a federal employee is a giant pain in the you-know-what.

A big piece of what was missing at the NHC this year compared to the last 2 years was the absence of a hurricane impact the previous season. The 2012 NHC was filled with enthusiastic North-easterners detailing their newfound knowledge and wisdom gained from battling Tropical Storm Irene. At the 2013 NHC some of the same North-easterners returned, somewhat chastened and wiser, to recount their struggles with Hurricane Sandy (I refuse to call it a superstorm).

The big event last year was the floods in Colorado. We would have all benefited if we could have gotten some people from Colorado to talk about their sheltering issues and maybe some Red Cross people to give us a report on how their new Disaster Relief Operation structure worked out.

But we couldn't invite them because the disaster wasn't a hurricane. There's something wrong with this picture. We had Salvation Army people from Oklahoma at the NHC, and they haven't had any hurricanes there in a while, or maybe ever.

What we need at the NHC, or at least the mass care portion of the NHC, are training and workshops on the latest techniques and best practices in mass care, regardless of whether the techniques and best practices  were learned in a Rocky Mountain Flood or the National Mass Care Exercise.

I think the mass care community might be able to do something about that.

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