Emergency Officials from Nation's Top Cities Huddle in Houston

Harris County is host to a big city emergency managers meeting. The Learning and Exchange Forum is sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government. Attendees share ideas and experiences in responding to disasters. Houston Public Radio's Pat Hernandez has more.

The Learning and Exchange Forum brought emergency managers from major metropolitan areas including New York, Boston, Chicago, as well as Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle. Lynn Jennings, executive Vice President of the Washington based Council for Excellence in Govenrment, says it's the mission to act as a point of continuity for the big city emergency managers.

"Someone from Miami-Dade might worry about hurricanes, Chicago might worry about having the tallest building in the United States, New York City might worry more about terrorism attacks, but there are common elements to all their work in terms of mitigation, response, preparedness and the like and we share best practices on that. So, we move from city to city so that people can see how they business in their city and how they coordinate efforts in their city as well."

While the Council has been engaged in Homeland Security Initiatives the last five years, Commissioner Joseph Bruno with the New York City Office of Emergency Management, says he wanted to know more about Hurricane Preparedness here in Harris County.

"Houston and its evacuation plan is very interesting to us. We are at risk for hurricanes, for example, and we are very interested in the way that they organize their evacuation plan. Also in the way they designate zone for potential surge. We also have that in New York City. Our numbers are bigger but the immediacy for them is even greater."

Another topic he's interested in is sheltering as the Big Apple could easily have upwards of 3 million people move off a zone. Earl Zulke, Deputy Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for the city of Chicago, says The Forum is an excellent opportunity for big cities to find a common link in responding to a disaster.

"It's realizing the significant issues that we all face. People look at terrorism as obviously being one of those issues. But we have to look at natural disasters, we have to look at political issues like terrorism. We also have to look technological issues like power failures, transit system failures, things like that. So, there's a wide spectrum of issues that we have to try to address."

The Council on Excellence in Government strives to build a network of big city emergency managers and to share best practices on lessons learned. Participants will be eager to hear from outgoing FEMA Admnistrator Paulison and what to expect during the agency's transition.

Pat Hernandez, Houston Public Radio News

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...