Summit emphasizes collaboration across borders and between private and public sector

Summit emphasizes collaboration across borders and between private and public sector

  • Salvation Army representative speaks at Statewide Whole Community Summit
  • Participants discussing at the Whole Community Resilience Summit
  • DEMA Director Wendy Smith-Reeve speaks at Statewide Whole Community Summit
  • Participants discussing at the Whole Community Resilience Summit
Statewide Whole Community Resilience Summit

The 6th Annual Whole Community Resilience Summit was recently held at the Salvation Army Southwest Division headquarters in Phoenix.    The focus for the annual Summit, collaboration, was exemplified throughout the event. The Summit was hosted by the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) and speakers represented national, state and county entities, and non-profit organizations. 

The goal of the Summit was to continue to build awareness and collaboration among organizations involved in disaster response and recovery with an emphasis on networking and education.  Whitney Hensiak, Arizona DEMA’s Voluntary Agency and Private Sector Liaison, organizes and champions this annual event and the ongoing work throughout the year. 

In her opening remarks, Hensiak described her goal for attendees as “gaining a stronger understanding of how every organization in attendance integrates into the response and recovery process, DEMA’s coordination of resources, and how vital each organization is to the process.”

Private and public sector partnership was a key focus. Lt. Gregory Mammana of the Tucson Police Department provided examples of partnerships which yielded effective results.  In Tucson, for example, the Police Department works with private corporations who own surveillance cameras that capture video on the sidewalks and roads adjacent to their location.  Some of these corporations are in higher crime areas. These surveillance videos have enabled police to identify and apprehend suspects more quickly. 

In addition, private sector companies generally have more robust budgets than public sector entities; effectively educating and partnering can open up funding for programs that would otherwise be out of reach.  Citing September 11, 2001, Lt. Mammana noted that $203 million was donated by a mere 216 Fortune 500 companies to support recovery. 

While reviewing takeaways from two large disasters, Lt. Mammana highlighted other key findings beyond the importance of private and public sector partnership.

9/11:  Police and fire had no formal communication process, resulting in lives lost among these groups.  Today, police and fire department agencies are working more closely to build collaboration, mutual respect and communication.

Hurricane Katrina: Many of the police, fire and other public safety teams lived in the areas impacted by the hurricane,Their families were at the same risk level as the rest of the community which delayed emergency responders arriving to work..  In times of disaster, public safety officials must have the resources to “take care of their families first; otherwise, they will not come to work.”

Tom Serio, Manager of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for Verizon Wireless, shared insight into the unique services the private sector provides.  Verizon Wireless has a Crisis Response Team, which can be deployed anywhere in the nation.  This team comes with equipment including, Cellular on Wheels (COW) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), which are traveling cell towers to support the increased calls in areas of emergency. The Generator on a Truck (GOAT) has been used by police, fire and others as a power source, a place to charge individual cell phones, and access the internet to inform loved ones know the individual is safe.  When safe to do so, Verizon Wireless opens its stores in the impacted community as a place for shelter, cell phone charging or any other need. 

According to Serio, “the community calms down when the lights come on,” emphasizing the positive emotional impact opening the stores has in supporting recovery.

Beyond private and public sector collaboration, the second key focus of the Summit was partnership across state lines.  Cheryl Nagy, President of Southern California VOAD, highlighted why state-to-state partnership is critical.  California, for example, is at risk for severe earthquakes, and depending on the size and extent of damage, residents could evacuate to Arizona and Nevada.  Plans between states focus on how an evacuation will occur, what additional support is needed on the highways, where evacuees will be directed, and who will provide support to ensure the receiving state is not overwhelmed and evacuees are not introduced to new risks during the process.

“I think there was great benefit to hearing from Southern California today,” said Wendy Smith-Reeve, DEMA Division of Emergency Management Director.  “Anytime we have the opportunity to learn from our partners in other states, we look to integrate and inform everyone in our system and our community.”

A special announcement during the lunch hour demonstrated the commitment to planning for such an inter-state disaster.  An “Arizona Wild West Mass Migration Exercise” was announced and will take place May 20-24, 2018.  This exercise will focus on a Southern California-based disaster causing mass evacuations to Arizona. 

After the summit concluded, the conversations and networking continued in the room, hall, lobby and parking lot at the Salvation Army’s headquarters.  Business cards, handshakes, smiles and appreciation were exchanged among attendees, and the two four-legged attendees (service dogs) got some well-deserved pats on the head. 

Attendees represented more than 50 organizations, including: Arizona Humane Society, Coyote Crisis Collaborative, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, faith-based agencies, fire departments, Boeing Corporation and HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response.