Emergency Management Conference Highlights Lessons from Katrina

Article excerpt

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans last year, one of the local Wal-Mart managers broke into a company pharmacy and took drugs to distribute to the local community, Wal-Mart emergency director Jason Jackson said Thursday.

"She made a decision with the information she had to benefit her community; she didn't have time to call and ask for permission," he said.

Other companies would be wise to train their managers with leadership skills, he said, or "empowered autonomy - to make tough decisions in times of crisis."

Jackson led one of several presentations this week at a conference sponsored by the state Department of Emergency Management and the Emergency Management Association. Attendees discussed the role of homeland security and emergency management in preparedness, responses, recovery and mitigation efforts.

Department Director Albert Ashwood said Jackson's comments emphasized a valuable lesson: "It's very important for us in the public sector to partner with the private sector. Because that's where the commodities come from - the ice, the water, the needs of the individuals. And we need public-private partnerships established prior to the next event so we can make sure we get things done as efficiently as possible."

Homeland security funding and the status and future of the Federal Emergency Management Agency were among the top issues covered at the conference, Ashwood said, as well as "trying to prepare for the next Katrina, the next disaster that may hit Oklahoma. …


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