Wednesday, January 15, 2014

UNO Co-Hosts IDCE National Evacuation Conference

UNO Co-hosts IDCE National Evacuation ConferenceSafe evacuation of the carless is a priority at the University of New Orleans Merritt C. Becker Jr. Institute and a point of study in the
UNO Urban Planning Department and UNO Center for Hazard Assessment, Response and Technology. UNO researchers brought their expertise
last week to a national conference focused on mass evacuation in times of disaster.

Urban planning and disaster mitigation and resiliency leaders from the University of New Orleans Merritt C. Becker Jr. Transportation Institute joined forces last week with international disaster planning experts to co-host a national conference focused on evacuation planning.

"Over 2,000 delegates from across the globe are sharing research, ideas and lessons learned about how to make our cities more resilient," said John Renne, director of the UNO transportation Institute last week. "Faculty, staff and student presentations from UNOTI and CHART are demonstrating UNO's international leadership in being a top research institution on such an important topic."

The International Disaster Conference and Expo National Evacuation Conference ran Jan. 7-10 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, co-hosted by the UNO Merritt C. Becker Jr. Transportation Institute, LSU and the International Disaster Conference and Expo. The conference focused on uniting the fields of transportation and emergency management to further advance and improve evacuation planning to accommodate the needs of all people before, during and after a major disaster.

The biennial conference brings together public and nonprofit professionals from around the world to address policy, lessons learned, best practices and forward thinking resulting in the mitigation of loss of life and property when catastrophic events occur, organizers said. This year's conference was designed to foster an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas surrounding a broad range of evacuation issues, particularly mass evacuations prompted by disasters.

UNOTI faculty and staff – John. L. Renne, Bethany Stich, James Amdal and Carol Short – worked together with the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute and the Gulf Coast Research Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency, both at LSU and UNO, to organize the conference, Renne said. Researchers from the University of New Orleans Center for Hazard Assessment, Research and Technology (UNO-CHART) also participated.

The conference brought together industry perspectives related to homeland security, emergency management, emergency response, disaster recovery, business continuity, resilience, global security and large loss/claims, among others. Speakers addressed a variety of evacuation issues, from lessons learned and new developments associated with Superstorm Sandy and the Boston Marathon Bombings to critical evacuation planning around nuclear power plants and evacuation for carless and vulnerable populations.

Renne, an associate professor of planning and urban studies at UNO and a national leader in evacuation planning, spoke about floods in England and a need for better evacuation planning. Renne served a fellowship last year as senior visiting research associate at the University of Oxford, where he performed some of his research.

UNO Professor of Sociology Pamela Jenkins, together with UNO-CHART researchers Maggie Olivier and Race Hodges and Kim Mosby, a doctoral student in Planning and Urban Studies, spoke to conference-goers about evacuation of the carless, a key issue in emergency management planning in New Orleans. UNO researchers Bethany Stich, James Amdal, Carol Short and PLUS doctoral student, Kyle Griffith, moderated several sessions.

Welcoming guests to the high-profile event on Wednesday was Tom Ridge, the nation's first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and former governor of Pennsylvania, who served as confernce co-chairman. FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino, gave the keynote address.

Retired U.S. Army General Russell Honore, who served as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the Gulf Coast, delivered a headline speech on Friday. Post-Katrina, Honore has authored two books: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save Youand Your Family from Disasters and Leadership in the New Normal.


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