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MCNY at 2013 Emergency Management Summit

May 28, 2013

By: Obiano Huntley

MCNY was well represented at the 2013 Emergency Management Summit which was held at the Hilton Hotel on May 1st. Students, educators and alumni were edified by presenters who spanned leadership from local and federal agencies responsible for ensuring the safety of New York City. Among those whose contributions interested the audience of over 200 like-minded professionals the most, were those by Joe Bruno, Commissioner of the New york City OEM; Salvatore Cassano, Commissioner of FDNY; Rick Searfoss, a former NASA astronaut; and James King, a former director of Kenyon International Emergency Services, a company which provides disaster assistance and relief services in mass casualty situations.

Commissioner Bruno gave an overview of his participation and experience in leading NYC OEM before, during, and after Superstorm Sandy. Credit was given to the Citywide Incident Management System (CIMS), which was instrumental in maintaining structure and accountability in the operations and in the various agencies that responded to the cascading events. Credit was also given to the men and women who monitored and managed hazards and features associated with the storm which exceeded projections. These ranged from the 14 feet storm surge, to the 20,000 calls per hour 911 operators handled, the 600 million gallons of water which infiltrated infrastructure, the 2 million cubic yards of debris generated from the storm and the massive outages which nearly crippled sections of the city. Commissioner Bruno was particularly thankful for the lessons learned which potentially can be applied going forward; the impediments being availability of funding and the time available, especially with the impending hurricane season. Our capabilities to more accurately predict storm surges because of storm bearing will allow for resources to be more efficiently deployed and mobilized, and directed to areas that are in the most dire need of them.

Commissioner Cassano of FDNY gave a similar account but was adamant that the foundation for the city’s ability to respond to the massive event that was Sandy, was laid in the months following 9/11. The tremendous work Incident Management Teams (IMTs) did in accessing and dispersing supplies and equipment proved to be invaluable. Though the fire department’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was depleted to 9% availability during Sandy because of the escalation of events, there were successes reported and the overall performance was aided by the IMTs, emergency managers and first responders. Commissioner Cassano called for more coordination with utility companies and pre storm evacuation of hospitals and senior homes.

Mr. Searfoss, who gave the keynote address on his experience as a career astronaut mainly focused on his four elements of leadership: perspective, purpose, program and people. These elements were integral to his success as a leader with NASA and he urged those in attendance to be considerate of others while keeping the mission of the entity they represent in mind. Packed with stories about various missions he was intimately involved in, Mr. Searfoss’s presentation was captivating and provided a view of management more administrators should emulate.

The presentation by Mr. King Kenyon International Emergency Services similarly included advice and teachings from an immensely experienced emergency manager. The lessons to be learned from past mistakes relative to the local and federal government’s response was stressed, with attention directed to a few cases Mr. King responded to. From his experience during 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to Sandy, the means by which the bodies or the deceased are taken care of can have long lasting ramifications if not done in a pragmatic and sensitive manner.

The Emergency Management 2013 Summit proved to be fruitful and its growing popularity evidenced by the huge turnout shows that next year’s installment will be even grander. Supplemented by the breakaway sessions which covered topics as cyber security, disaster planning and communications in emergencies, the event allowed for the representatives from the MCNY community to be kept abreast with current and future trends.

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Posted by Ali Gheith in Disaster Central. Comments Off on MCNY at 2013 Emergency Management Summit

Ali Gheith is the Director of MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management at Metropolitan College of New York.

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