Conference stresses building partnerships

More than 700 people attended Citizens Corps Conference and discussed ways to organize before a disaster.

BY MONICA OLIVAS | WASHINGTON, DC | August 19, 2009


More than 700 representatives from local disaster response organizations, local government organizations and community leaders attended the National Conference on Community Preparedness earlier this month. Representatives came from all around the country and U.S. territories. Participants were from organizations of many different sizes, including federal organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state and county offices of Homeland Security to small local groups such as the City of Newport Beach Fire Department and the city of Cottonwood Heights.

The conference covered topics from Emergency Preparedness in Schools to Planning to Survive Nuclear and Radiological Events. The weeklong event also featured keynote speakers from FEMA, the White House National Security Staff, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

One session of the conference highlighted non-secular groups working with faith-based organizations. Governmental organizations that do not have a history of collaborating with faith-based disaster response organizations heard suggestions on how to initiate those relationships.

While many national faith-based groups already have relationships established with the Red Cross, national, state and local VOADs and others, groups on the city and county level can have trouble working with local churches. “It has to do with relationships, but it also has to do with partnerships,” says Reed Correll, who is with the Harford County (Md.) Citizen Corps.

Several of the attendees in the room asked how to initiate ways to work with local churches. Speakers stressed the need to build relationships before a disaster occurs. For example, including local churches in the emergency management team planning before a disaster strikes.

“When you are in crisis, when you are broken, it’s not easy to see through the haze,” says Peter Gudaitis, President of the Board of Directors, National Disaster Interfaiths Network.


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