Summit Tackles Topics of Recovery in Disaster Planning

Summit(1)If you consider the three phases of a disaster—prepare, respond, recover—the latter is probably the most challenging. That’s because after the storm has passed, the fires have been put out, and the roads are clear, there’s still so much work to do.

Recovery is a long-term process.  It can take months, even years.

The American Red Cross held it’s 5th Annual Disaster Preparedness Summit Aug. 21 in downtown Chicago where more than 200 leaders representing 85 business, government and community organizations gathered at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago , Gleacher Center so they can be prepared to partner and mobilize when disaster strikes.

The Summit focused on the recovery part in the disaster cycle, bringing together specialists who led recovery tactics in areas of infrastructure, economic development, transit, housing and human services.

Mike Foley, Chief Executive Officer North America Commercial and Regional Chairman of North America at Zurich, opened the Summit and emphasized resiliency in disaster preparedness, and the importance of multi-stakeholder coordination in disaster planning and recovery.

“Grounded in flood resiliency research, Zurich is collaborating with the insurance industry, business, academia, NGO’s and government organizations to develop strategies to drive resilience at the community level,” Foley said. “We believe Zurich and the insurance industry can add value to this discussion and work with the Red Cross to help communities understand and protect themselves from disaster risks, and in recovery.”

Here’s what other industry experts had to say.

Craig Hindman

Retired Executive Vice President, ITW

2014 Summit Co-Chair, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region Board of Directors

summit2Craig Hindman said this disaster preparedness summit helped foster the important networking of emergency professionals across a wide cross section of public and private industries.  Presentations of the old tried-and-true emergency response processes that are taken for granted were challenged with an open mind for a fresh approach.  The wide variety of speakers provided rare glimpses of their recovery efforts during actual disasters with hard lessons learned for all of us to take heed.  In the end, when disaster strikes, nobody is going to save us, we need to learn how to save ourselves.


Lane J. Roberts

Retired Chief of Police, City of Joplin, MO

summit3Police Chief Lane Roberts stressed the key to effective disaster preparedness boils down to three main concepts:  1) Stay in your own lane – this means emergency responders should only do what they are trained to do, and not overstep their bounds.  2) Reduce redundancy – this will help avoid wasting precious resources.  3) Get the government out of the way – government agencies are good at developing processes, but they should then get out of the way and let private businesses take over to get things done quickly.  Chief Roberts said non-profit organizations such as The American Red Cross are innovators and will do whatever it takes to immediately help those in need after disaster hits.


Tavares Williams

Community Emergency Response Manager, Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management


Tavares Williams wants residents to know that as members of the community, they have to be an integral part of the disaster planning process.  Residents have an inherent interest in disaster preparedness because they are: 1) direct customers of the services provided by emergency response agencies, 2) constituents of governmental and non-profit agencies, and 3) direct stakeholders in the success of the plan. Williams said residents should also ask: what about me?  Am I, my neighbors, and my family all included in the disaster planning process?  If not, then they all should get involved.


Jimmy Thompson

IEMA Region IV, Regional Disaster Coordinator

JimmyThompsonJimmy Thompson stressed we must collaborate and promote public and private sector partnerships in order to help in the long term recovery process no matter what the size of the disaster – big or small.  We need to emphasize to our partners that the recovery is not over when the disaster is over, because the infrastructure rebuilding will need attention for several years to come.


Earl Zuelke

FEMA Region V, Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator

15043986101_bbe4ffbc71_o (1)Earl Zuelke said when it comes to disaster preparedness, ask yourself – what can you do to lessen the impact of a disaster to your business, your community, and your own family.  First – think life safety.  Then – help the community recover economically, since Humpty Dumpty has to be put back together again.  The information on preparing for a disaster is available – you just have to act on it with a plan.  Unfortunately, the Midwest has one of the lowest percentage rates of the population who have taken the necessary steps to prepare for a disaster – this is primarily because this area of the country doesn’t have many major emergencies.  But we must get over the mindset that it won’t happen to us here, because disaster could strike when we are least prepared.


Harley Jones

Regional Chief Operations Officer, American Red Cross, Greater Chicago Region

summit 1Harley Jones (second from left) said disaster preparedness involves bringing the right people together including from government agencies, private companies, and non-profit organizations, and then making sure they are always thinking what they need to do in order to properly care for their employees, customers, and businesses. So if a disaster happens in their communities, these emergency responders will be better able to respond to victims in desperate need of assistance. It’s all about being ready to respond before a disaster happens, especially when you least expect it.


Story and Photos by Bob McCaffrey, American Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

More photos of the 2014 Disaster Preparedness Summit:




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