Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Proceedings of the Workshop on Preparing for and Responding to Disasters in North America

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Proceedings of the Workshop on Preparing for and Responding to Disasters in North America

Article excerpt

San Antonio, Texas

November 7, 2006

Lance Robinson, PhD

Battelle Corporation

On November 7, 2006 the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium (HSDEC), the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), and East Carolina University (ECU) sponsored a homeland security education and training workshop on "Preparing for and Responding to Disasters in North America." The workshop was hosted by the UTSA Institute for the Protection of American Communities (IPAC) at the UTSA downtown campus in San Antonio, TX. HSDEC is co-sponsored by North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command (NORAD-USNORTHCOM (N-NC)), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense for the purpose of facilitating the development of Homeland Security (HLS) and Homeland Defense (HLD) education in America's colleges and universities, and facilitating liaison between government and academia on government interests in the areas of HLS and HLD. The HSDEC program is administered under contract by the National Security Division of the Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio. Panelists included representatives from UTSA, ECU, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), N-NC, the Canadian Defense Academy, U.S. Army North, the Texas National Guard, and several Texas state and local agencies. The fundamental question at issue was what challenges face the three North American states in the event of disasters that cross state borders or that create conditions that put pressure on the inter-state borders. The three panels convened at the workshop addressed disasters of different character, but each of which could either affect both sides of a political border simultaneously or create pressures on political borders such as population migrations stimulated by disaster. The panels focused on natural disaster, as exemplified by Hurricane Katrina; a disease pandemic; and a terrorist attack.

Opening remarks by UTSA President Ricardo Romo set the tone for the workshop at the outset, declaring that "natural disasters do not know borders." As an example, he said that Hurricane Katrina did not choose a path to hit the state or location best prepared to handle the fury of the storm. Mr. Bear McConnell, director of interagency coordination at N-NC and representing the command, offered the observation that the three North American countries each had multiple streams by which to respond to disaster, and that academia offered an avenue by which to approach combining and coordinating those individual streams which have not as yet been effectively coordinated.

LTG Chuck Rodriguez, Texas adjutant general, delivered the keynote address for the workshop. General Rodriguez illuminated the dual nature of successful response in science and art, or, as he further elaborated, doctrine and wit. Doctrine provides the standard operating procedures from which wit and imagination can depart in response to non-standard situations. A second major consideration to account for in response situations, he argued, is the divergence between actual response times and perceived response requirements. The gap between first response and post-first response exists in the area of perception, if not in actuality. In many cases the actual response flows seamlessly, if less publicly, from the more public face of the first response. Among response tenets, then, the public face of response is extraordinarily important regardless of how well the preparation and response effort is progressing on the ground. Finally, Gen. Rodriguez described the organizational challenge facing state National Guard organizations in a joint, interagency, and now also multinational, response coordination environment. Texas is meeting this challenge by utilizing the NORTHCOM adaptive battle staff concept to achieve cross-cutting benefits instead of relying on a traditional stove-piped staff organization.

A second major presentation was delivered by LTG Robert T. …

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