Preparedness symposium encourages Whole Community to work to achieve success together

Preparedness symposium encourages Whole Community to work to achieve success together

Images from the DEMA 2016 Preparedness Symposium

“What actions do we need to take today to ensure Arizona’s future success?” This question posed by Wendy Smith-Reeve, Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) guided close to 400 participants at DEMA’s Preparedness Symposium.

The Symposium gathered the Whole Community  to converse about challenges and opportunities in Arizona with an end goal to develop a strategic plan illustrating how Arizonans can reduce the impact of emergencies and disasters on people, property and the environment.

The event’s focus was three-fold: to empower Arizonans to prepare themselves, as well as support our vulnerable populations; to understand the crippling effects of Cyber Security  and Counter Terrorism; and to protect Arizona’s Natural Resources.



“Arizona serves a diverse population each day. Many people can take care of themselves, but they simply lack the initiative, or skills to see that their basic needs are met before disasters occur,” said Smith-Reeve. “We need to empower these people to take action. We also have a population with varying levels of needs and we must take the appropriate actions to support Arizona’s most vulnerable populations (including the homeless).”

Dr. Jim DeLung kicked the day off with a conversation about the varying communication and learning styles of Arizona’s diverse population and generations. He enthralled the audience with his knowledge and humor and shared the differing ways generations learn, motivate and communicate. To be successful, he suggested identifying the best way to talk to someone, not everyone receives messages in the same matter.

During the afternoon breakout, the attendees addressed the challenges of leading the Whole Community to understand the risks and hazards and how to take the action to prepare for those risks and hazards.

“We discussed current initiatives that are working well and what types of actions we are asking our citizens to take,” said Will Schulz, Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) Deputy Director. “We acknowledge the variety of steps and strategies from the various members of the Whole Community, and considered the possibility of consolidating and/or aligning outreach efforts to make the preparedness message more consistent and impactful.”

Participants identified opportunities to collaborate: simplifying  messages (more pictures, less words), identifying a trusted spokesperson to be the face of a comprehensive campaign, focusing efforts on a program delivered to school-age children, using real-life examples, utilizing social media to reach the younger generations, a competition for communications majors at colleges to develop campaigns, and the use of apps.



“Our natural resources are finite, yet most people give no thought to them throughout the day.  They trust that the water will come out of the tap and the air they breathe is free of pollution,” Smith-Reeve said. “Our global climate is changing. What is that projected outlook for Arizona?  Our population center is only going to continue to grow which will affect water supplies and air quality.”

Dr. Nancy Selover, Arizona State Climatologist, Dr. Nalini Chhetri and Hana Putnam engaged the audience in a conversation about how understanding our diverse climate can help us be better prepared in the future. 

The afternoon breakout group was asked to prioritize what natural resources were in need of urgent action and the top three resources of chosen were water, clean air and forests.

“We discussed each of these three resources in detail,” said Anthony Cox, ADEM’s Assistant Director, Operations/Coordination Section. “For water, we came to a consensus that educating younger people (as young as first, second and third grade) about water use and conservation could be an effective strategy for creating a culture that is informed about local water issues.” 

Air pollutants such as dust (PM10), ozone, and smoke (PM2.5) were of great concern to the group. “Suggestions regarding how to deal with these issues were centered on communication, collaboration, and proactive regulation,” said Cox. “Participants thought holding a meeting where farmers, developers and other air quality stakeholders could meet and discuss regulations, compliance, and ideas on how bettering air quality could benefit the community.” 

The group discussed how drought and wildfire contribute to difficulties in maintaining forest health. Collaborations with county, state and local officials in addition to local property owners were considered the most important step for making decisions on what should be done with a particular landscape.



“Information systems are the backbone of both our national and economic security in the United States and across the globe. Our success as a state and nation depends upon this critical infrastructure functioning reliably at all times,” said Smith-Reeve. “Cyber security threats exploit the risks associated with the increased complexity and connectivity of these systems, which only places our nation's security, economy and public safety at greater risk.”

Bill Long, Arizona Department of Public Safety Inspector and Director of the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC) spoke to the group about the importance of securing information at work and at home, as well as on all electronic devices.

The Cyber Security and Counter Terrorism breakout group discussed identifying those who are targeting the community, what are they doing with the information, and what can the community do to harden and defend systems.

“We identified an opportunity to enhance the exchange of information between the ACTIC and the health community,’ said Wes Dison, ADEM’s Assistant Director, Preparedness Section. “The proper sharing of email/contact lists between the ACTIC and statewide hospitals and medical centers did not exist before this discussion, but was identified and corrected during the session. This was an immediate actionable take away from the symposium that will strengthen our security, information exchange and communications.”

Major General Michael McGuire, DEMA Director and Arizona’s Adjutant General of the Arizona National Guard closed the day with a reminder of our roles in helping our communities be prepared.

“In our disaster-adverse state, we don’t have a lot of experience with this type of adversity. Arizona is a community of rural meets urban, and that prepared for those in Yavapai County is different than for those in Maricopa County,” said General McGuire. “All of this begins and ends at the local level. You are the folks that are going to prepare the individual citizens of this state. You know better than me what your community needs.”