A Common Language During Crisis

The Greater Houston Meta-Leadership Summit is the 26th in a series of gatherings across the country presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation. Barry Dorn with the Harvard School of Public Health came up with the idea. He says he's glad Houston was one stop during their tour.

"You have responded well to hurricanes. You've had significant stresses and in every community that we have studied where they have been stressed, it could be a flood in Fargo, North Dakota, a hurricane in Florida. Whatever it is, they raised the level of preparedness. Every event makes them better at what they do."

He says the object is to build a level of leadership in the community that may not be apparent in dealing with a specific event or disaster. During the summit, participants got to practice skills necessary for effective leadership during
emergencies and to minimize the disruption of commerce. Joni Baird is public affairs manager for Chevron.

"It's important that we work together with the community, so our processes align with the community with government (and) with nonprofits. We have nearly ten thousand employees at Chevron here in Houston. So it's important for us not only for us to have the business strategies, but strategies for our employees as well, to keep them safe in the event of a disaster."

There were familiar faces in attendance, but Fransisco Sanchez with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security, says it is the largest gathering he's seen of the three entities sharing ideas.

"As involved as we are, there's people in this summit that I've never seen met before, and that's always a good opportunity. You don't want to meet somebody during a time of crisis when you need to help them, it's always better to know them ahead of time. I think our community expects that, and that's what we strive for. I think it's a unique opportunity to get these many folks in one room. We do it every day, but not at this scale."

Nonprofits play a vital role in dealing with major disasters. Anna Babin, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Houston, knows the importance of building a better connected, more resilient community.

"I never thought I'd be in the disaster business, but some of my closest friends are in this business. And so we're getting to meet more folks, especially in the private sector, so that there's a great connectiveness, and a partnership when we move forward."

It is hoped that participants develop a common language when they meet, and learn to build a cohesive group that will move together and face emergencies as they come.
 

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