E-ISG Asset Intelligence’s UASI Conference Preview

The sixth annual UASI (Urban Area Securities Initiative) Conference is coming up, May 22nd-24th in Columbus, Ohio. This year’s conference, which brings together partnering UASI agencies and the private sector to discuss emergency preparedness strategies and emerging technologies, will be attended by keynote speaker, the Honorable Timothy Manning – FEMA’s Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness – as well as potential appearances by President Obama and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell (schedules permitting). The Intelligent Asset Manager sat down with  Mike McNutt of the UASI Conference to discuss the themes of this year’s conference, resource sharing and a little get-together known as the Zoo Social.

Intelligent Asset Manager: What are the key themes of this year’s conference and why are they relevant?

Mike McNutt: The theme of this year’s conference is: “see something, say something, do something – together.”  The idea behind the theme is to establish lines of communication between the different governmental hierarchies, from the highest-levels of the federal government to the first responders working in the field. As funding is being cut across the board, establishing strong lines of communication between federal, state and local communities is becoming increasingly important.

IAM: How does the UASI conference focus on larger urban areas and regional approaches to emergency management and Homeland Security?

MM: The focus is to integrate communities of all sizes by bringing together the greater national emergency response and preparedness community. Members from different regions across the country will come to together to educate each other on different techniques, strategies and technologies that are being developed to respond to any emergency scenario. The aim is to get everyone on the same page.

IAM: Who are the keynote speakers for this year’s conference, what are their respective areas of expertise and what organizations are they from?

MM: The Honorable Timothy Manning, FEMA’s Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, will be delivering the keynote address to the conference. We’ve also sent invitations to President Obama and Colin Powell and are expecting appearances from them depending on their schedules. We have an impressive list of congressman, generals and other high ranking military officials discussing issues of homeland security, state officials talking about things that are going on the local level, and FEMA administrators talking about what’s going on the federal level.

IAM: How will NIMS (National Incident Management System) compliance be addressed at the conference? NIMS describes a comprehensive preparedness cycle (planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating and responding) – how will each of those factors be addressed?

MM: NIMS is not a significant focus. However, NIMS guides every response scenario, so it’s a fundamental part of responding to emergencies and therefore it’s going to be in the background of every discussion. The topics of the actual discussions will range from leveraging social media to increase national preparedness to economic impacts on emergency response and tactical deployments to S.A.I.C. (strategic analysis information centers).  These fusion centers bring together a team of emergency managers and public officials from a range of different agencies and backgrounds, such as the FBI, public health, first responders and so on. These teams follow developing trends, analyze a mass amount data, and determine whether or not a situation is a credible threat to domestic homeland security.  The conference discussions will focus on how S.A.I.C.s process timelines, establish preparedness plans and develop response scenarios to these credible threats.

IAM: There has been a lot of talk about resource sharing and encouraging interoperability amongst emergency management organizations, specifically with respect to grant funding – how will this be addressed at the conference?

MM: One of the issues that has developed over the last few years in emergency preparedness is that funding is slowly being cut across aboard. That extends from the metropolitan level to state funding for emergency preparedness work – even DHS is being defunded. The focus at this point is: what we can do with the resources we already have at our disposal? We can’t let our guard down, but what can we do is share information, assets and resources. MMRS funds, which used to be an earmark fund for local responders used to purchase equipment for mission critical tasks, are being defunded – but we need to provide our first responders with the equipment they need to do the job. So clearly one of this year’s conference themes is how we can better share assets, resources and information against the backdrop of budget cuts.

IAM: What is the Zoo Social and what opportunities does it offer for conference attendees?

MM: Columbus is the 13th largest and fastest growing city in the country and a large part of this is because the economy has remained resilient despite the recession. The strength of the economy is due in large part to attractions like the Columbus Zoo which has been voted as the number one zoo in the country, beating out more-well known zoos like San Diego. The zoo is a major asset to the city of Columbus and the conference has rented the zoo for a large party featuring: hors d’oeuvre, cocktails, and live music.  In addition, the exhibits will be open and TV personality Jack Hanna, the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, will be introducing the guests to some the zoo’s animals. Transportation will be provided from the downtown hotels to the zoo and back.

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