Concurrent Session Descriptions

This is a TENTATIVE listing.
All content programming is subject to change and more will be added.*


Absentis Medio: Disparity in the Rural-Urban Divide in Disaster Readiness and Recovery”

Low-attention disasters are often localized events that do not garner regional or national attention, affecting mostly rural, isolated communities. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, low-attention disasters are most often identified by all or some of the following indicators: (1) disproportionately affected marginalized or chronically under-resourced populations; (2) high percentage of damage to housing; (3) insufficient community infrastructure or ability to develop or sustain recovery operations; and (4) no FEMA Individual Assistance declaration.

In disaster recovery, there is an unspoken disparity in the rural-urban divide. This workshop will share a new replicable and scalable disaster-recovery apparatus called “Project Home Grown” that reflects rural and low-attention community realities, the most basic of which is this: local folks are not only first responders in hard-to-reach rural areas, but they are also the critical players in helping communities hang on long enough, and prepare adequately, to see a realistic and timely response, and then facilitate a locally, driven recovery.


“Are We Prepared for the Potential Cascading Consequences of a Cyber Attack? Building More Resilient Oil and Natural Gas Pipeline Infrastructure

In recent years, pipelines have become increasingly automated with remote access and internet-connected devices to drive operations. While producing greater efficiencies in the delivery of these essential resources, the information technology and operations technology systems that underpin automation also present vulnerabilities that can be exploited by bad actors. According to the Department of Homeland Security, among the potential consequences of a successful attack on pipeline systems could be “explosions, equipment destruction, unanticipated shutdowns or sabotage, theft of intellectual property, and downstream impacts to National Critical Functions and, therefore, impact our national safety and prosperity.” Are we prepared for the potential consequences of such an attack? This session addresses will offer lessons learned and promising practices that can help inform the emergency manager’s role in preparing for and responding to such an attack.


“Building Resilient and Sustainable Communities of Color using a National Preparedness System Social Equity Whole Community Centered Approach”

Adopting social equity (SE) centered framework in emergency management will strengthen integrative emergency management and help build resilient communities of color.  Emergency management organizations have not embraced SE as an actionable dimension capable of providing effective preparedness strategies to enhance resilience within marginalized communities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Whole Community Approach is supposed to strengthen security, safety, and build resilience in an all-of-nation concept. This approach will not work while inequities exist within marginalized communities.

However, social disruptions are local therefore the responsibility rests on local jurisdictional governments to ensure assessments are performed revealing the equitable needs of the community in the event of a disaster.  Further, disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, the Flint, Michigan water disaster, and the COVID-19 response disproportionately impacted communities of color reflecting inequity within emergency management preparedness.  Further, proliferation of environmental injustices has increased all-hazard exposure in Black communities. Though the federal government has defined equity it is the responsibility of each subordinate jurisdiction to embrace a fair and equitable and distributive culture in emergency management. This can be accomplished by applying social equity criterion.


“Data is the Foundation for Building Resilience”

The session will present the progress that has been made towards creating a Trusted Data Sharing Environment for the emergency management community.   Speakers will provide updates and demonstrations of policies, processes and platforms being used to enable the whole of community to identify, access, manage, share, visualize, analyze, collaborate and coordinate activities to make data informed planning, response and resource decisions.   The audience will come away with information on new capabilities- some free and some cost effective – already in use as well as new ones being developed. It will also provide an update on the efforts to create a national governance structure as part of a Trusted Data Environment. Finally, it will come away with model practices and approaches they can use to facilitate data sharing in their own locality, county, state or region.


Enhancing Housing Resilience for More Equitable Communities”

Many states face dual challenges in ensuring a more resilient housing sector: hurdles in standing up a disaster recovery program, and gaps in near- and long-term actions that could lead to more resilient housing stock. It is also often the case that socio-economic disparities exist in the investment and allocation of resources to mitigate or recover damage to housing stock from disasters. This session will explore priorities and promising solutions to address these inequities and improve housing resilience.


“Hitchhikers Guide to Navigating Grant Funding Opportunities”

This facilitated discussion will explore how states can build capacity across communities and streamline the competitive grant funding to allow communities across the state, and specifically underserved communities, to fund resilience activities.  Currently, there is an unprecedented amount of federal competitive funding as a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. These programs, as well as other non-federal competitive funding sources such as private foundations & quasi-federal funders are also available directly to states, counties, local governments, tribal communities, nations & NGOs. However, the process to find, apply for and manage such competitions is complicated & time consuming.  Adding to this issue is the lack of analytic data related to grant applications & awards.  To ensure the fair & equitable distribution of grant awards, & to reduce duplication of effort, data analytics is needed.  Having such data would help target technical assistance to those communities that need it most by understanding who is submitting applications & who is & who is not obtaining funding.  Another obstacle for communities to access funding is the pre-requisite of planning & project design needed to access many grant opportunities. Short periods of performance often do not allow for adequate time for planning and project design. Even if a program will cover the planning & design portion of a specific pre-identified project, most programs do not cover the planning process & community engagement process needed to identify high-quality projects.


“Leveraging Federal Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Funding to Support Local Green Infrastructure Businesses”

Louisiana is slated to receive millions in disaster mitigation dollars. How can local governments use this funding not only to make their communities more resilient to flooding and other hazards, but support local expertise in green infrastructure design, construction, and maintenance, especially for disadvantaged, minority, and woman-owned businesses? This panel discussion provides a model from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s (NORA’s) Community Adaptation Program (CAP).

Through this discussion, presenters will explain how we have created a pipeline from educating new Green Infrastructure entrepreneurs, to starting new businesses, and finally to providing local governments with green infrastructure services. The panel aims to provide a template for other local governments.


“Power of Partnerships: Reaching the Unreached through Data- and Science-Based Training

Future climate conditions may bring unprecedented destruction with the loss of critical functions for many communities; this loss will be compounded for underserved communities already suffering with social vulnerabilities. FEMA is taking action with training and education solutions. Through investments in partnerships with renowned institutions, FEMA’s National Training and Education Division is developing training that closes the gaps between climate literacy and emergency preparedness, outlines social vulnerabilities and disparities associated with climate change impacts, and offers scenario-based planning to enhance learning. Join this session to engage with FEMA’s Charlotte Porter along with the University of Hawaii’s Dr. Karl Kim and Columbia University’s Dr. Tom Chandler to learn more about plans to reach the unreached with data and science based training using climate modeling and community data to help grow climate resilient communities.


“Practical Innovation in Disaster Preparedness and Recovery “

Low and moderate-income families are disproportionately impacted by disasters, but typically lack access to the needed financial resources to recover from damaging extreme events. They have little or no savings, can be denied post-disaster loans, federal aid is typically insufficient or very delayed, and traditional insurance policies are often unaffordable.  HUD, for example, is the most significant source of home repair assistance that vulnerable survivors can receive, but funds from HUD take at least two years to reach the first eligible citizens in disaster-impacted communities.  Without faster funding, low-income households can spiral into serious financial hardship and take much longer to recover. This panel presents solutions for speeding up disaster recovery through innovative finance models that are being piloted around the country, including: The Recovery Acceleration Fund; Funding fast emergency cash grants; Microinsurance; and more.


“Recruitment and Retention Strategies to Build Resilience in the Disaster Response Workforce”

Workforce shortages and skill mismatches challenge sectors across the economy and regions across the country to tackle a dual challenge of filling immediate workforce needs while building stronger, more consistent talent pipelines to sustain workforce needs in the longer-term. A number of occupations critical to disaster response and recovery have faced workforce declines in recent years, including police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and other responders. Shortages in this sector quickly have compound effects on the workforce, as current workers experience more rapid burnout and exit the field. This session will dissect the root causes of shortages in these fields and will explore innovative solutions being tested at state and local levels across the country.


“Raised Under Bad Stars: Tracing the Complexities of Creating, Transmitting, and Preserving a Culture of Preparedness among Disaster-vulnerable Communities”

The “culture” of disaster is something that too often goes unspoken, when it is one of the most important aspects of how we can establish and encourage buy-in for measures and programs for our communities. Whether you look at South Florida naming their local football team the Hurricanes; New Orleans musicians bringing back a Randy Newman song as a Katrina anthem; Indonesian lullabies that double as tsunami education; Japanese earthquake legends that are integrated into shelter signage; or any of the myriad international examples of operationalizing long-standing cultural elements, the art, music, and literature produced in the wake of disasters can tell us so much about how communities really function on the ground. More importantly, it can better inform how we build out programs and services that not only meet residents as they are, but recognize the existing practices–formal or informal–that allow us to better support them, rather than try to replace them. Recognizing the ongoing process of cultural creation, transmission, and loss and the role that community memory plays in maintaining it is crucial to our future, knowing how quick we are to forget.


“South Carolina Resilience Planning Update 

The Disaster Relief and Resilience Act (2020) directs the South Carolina Office of Resilience (SCOR) to develop, implement and maintain the Strategic Statewide Resilience and Risk Reduction Plan (Statewide Resilience Plan). This plan is intended to serve as a framework to guide state investment in flood mitigation projects and the adoption of programs and policies to protect the people and property of South Carolina from the damage and destruction of extreme weather events. The presentation will cover the planning process, vulnerability assessment, measuring resilience and developing recommendations for implementation at the statewide level.


“The Role of the 211 System During Disasters”

This presentation will show the role of the 211 system during disasters, and how organizations can use 211 services and data to assist themselves, their residents, and improve their situational awareness.

211 is a dialing code that anyone in the United States can dial to be connected to information and referral services and get emotional support.  In Louisiana, the State government uses the Louisiana 211 Statewide Network as its official source of information and assistance during disasters.  It encourages people to contact 211 to find shelters, sandbags, food distribution sites, and long-term recovery services.  VIA LINK provides the 211 service for Southeast Louisiana. During Hurricane Ida VIA LINK 211 assisted over 150,000 callers.

VIA LINK captures a large amount of data about the public’s needs, and how those needs vary by location, demographic and date.  The data is published on dashboards which are used by government agencies, nonprofits, and foundations to understand what residents are experiencing and how to allocate resources.  These dashboards are updated daily, and during storms they are the best source of real-time information about residents’ needs.


“To Repair or Replace? Centering Mitigation in Recovery”

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2013, Section 428 was added to the Stafford Act which authorized FEMA to implement alternative procedures for public assistance (PA). In 2016, FEMA piloted a new delivery model for PA, now commonly called the Consolidated Resource Center (CRC). These two major changes to the potential delivery of PA were made prior to the impact of Hurricane Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida. Many jurisdictions were impacted by more than one of these storms and had not fully recovered before the next one impacted the area. Further, many had outstanding PA claims from the prior storm, adding the challenge of determining what storm caused what damage. Unfortunately, the climatic patterns indicate the next major storm is not a case of if but when. Even with the implementation of the CRC and the 428 program, are we ever able to fully recover?

In this session, hear from a jurisdiction, their State Applicant Liaison, and their State appointed consultants about best practices, lessons learned and the ongoing challenges to recovery. Even though the 428 program is almost a decade old, it is still rarely used to support judications in recovery. Before the next storm hits, lets come together to discuss strategies to move away from strictly repairing to pre-disaster conditions to a mitigation-based recovery that enables our communities to be more resilient.


“Using Community Resilience Indicator Analysis to Ensure Equity in Resilience through Community Lifelines Services to our Vulnerable Communities”

This session will focus on a new approach to better coordinate and ensure essential community “lifelines” services are accessible in our most Vulnerable Communities. To ensure essential services in all communities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has defined seven Community “Lifeline” services needed before, during and after a disaster: (1) Safety and Security; (2) Food, Water, and Sheltering; (3) Health and Medical; (4) Energy (Power & Fuel); (5) Communication; (6) Transportation; and (7) Hazardous Materials. To assess the equitable distribution of Lifelines services in all communities, the FEMA community lifelines construct uses community resilience indicators to help communities design resilience strategies.  The indicators are inherent to the local community environment that enhance or detract from the community’s ability to prepare for, respond to, or recovery from a disaster. These indicators highlight areas where emergency managers can provide target outreach strategies to ensure equitable resilience across all communities. This session will provide whole community partners with information and resources to understand Community Lifelines and how to coordinate with entities by using Community Lifelines and incorporating Community Lifelines into their preparedness and response efforts.


Whole Community Preparedness with the Next Generation

It is paramount to the future resiliency and health of the country to build a culture of resilience and to develop whole community preparedness. Groups are often overlooked in traditional emergency management programs for public education and outreach- especially teens and children. But we have to start somewhere! I have started a Teen CERT program to teach community preparedness and resilience at a low-income and highly diverse local high school. These kids are from a variety of backgrounds, all of which have significant challenges. I’m teaching them basic personal preparedness, how to navigate basic emergencies, first aid, situational awareness, and the “whole community” perspective. We’ve done drills and tabletops that focus on everyday situations that they may encounter This is an opportunity to talk through some of the successes and challenges we’ve had with trying to start a Teen CERT program and trying to train these kids in basic first aid and personal preparedness. Working with teens is a challenge in and of itself, but it’s also been challenging to make the material relevant to them. ICS isn’t appealing to everyone! Modified tabletops have been successful, as showing them the “why” behind taking the time to learn relevant skills has been helpful. They learned basic personal preparedness  and are now learning some simple incident command principles and helping them see themselves as potential first responders, not just bystanders. My hope is to give them both those skills, and the possibility of a career path where they can make a difference.


“Wildfires: Burning Through State Budgets”

The rising cost and frequency of wildfires are putting pressure on budgets across all levels of government, fueling debates that could affect the dynamics of the disaster funding system.  This session would provide an overview of new research from The Pew Charitable Trusts highlighting the dual budgeting challenges stemming from growing wildfire spending – 1) adequately budgeting resources for the unpredictable costs of fighting and recovering from fires and 2) overcoming barriers to investing in cost-saving mitigation activities that could reduce risk and manage spending in the long term. Pew’s research found that current state wildfire budgeting practices are hitting their limit as shortfalls stemming from extreme fires have led states to overly rely on emergency funding outside of the typical budget cycle. Meanwhile, federal and state investments in cost-saving mitigation activities are growing, but key barriers persist to successfully implementing mitigation at the necessary levels to manage fire risk. Underlying both of these issues, states have an opportunity make more informed budgeting decisions by making wildfire spending data more transparent, accessible, and comprehensive.