Emergency Officials from Nation's Top Cities Huddle in Houston

The Learning and Exchange Forum brought emergency managers from majormetropolitan areas including New York, Boston, Chicago, as well as Miami, LosAngeles and Seattle. Lynn Jennings, executive Vice President of the Washington based Council for Excellence in Govenrment, says it's the mission to act as a point of continuity for the big city emergency managers.

"Someone from Miami-Dade might worry about hurricanes, Chicago might worry abouthaving the tallest building in the United States, New York City might worry more aboutterrorism attacks, but there are common elements to all their work in terms of mitigation,response, preparedness and the like and we share best practices on that. So, we movefrom city to city so that people can see how they business in their city and how theycoordinate efforts in their city as well."

While the Council has been engaged in Homeland Security Initiatives the last fiveyears, Commissioner Joseph Bruno with the New York City Office of EmergencyManagement, says he wanted to know more about Hurricane Preparedness herein Harris County.

"Houston and its evacuation plan is very interesting to us. We are at risk for hurricanes, for example, and we are very interested in the way that they organize their evacuation plan.Also in the way they designate zone for potential surge. We also have that in New YorkCity. Our numbers are bigger but the immediacy for them is even greater."

Another topic he's interested in is sheltering as the Big Apple could easily haveupwards of 3 million people move off a zone. Earl Zulke, Deputy Director ofEmergency Management and Homeland Security for the city of Chicago, saysThe Forum is an excellent opportunity for big cities to find a common link in responding to a disaster.

"It's realizing the significant issues that we all face. People look at terrorism as obviouslybeing one of those issues. But we have to look at natural disasters, we have to look atpolitical issues like terrorism. We also have to look technological issues like power failures,transit system failures, things like that. So, there's a wide spectrum of issues that we haveto try to address."

The Council on Excellence in Government strives to build a network of big city emergency managers and to share best practices on lessons learned. Participants will be eager to hear from outgoing FEMA Admnistrator Paulisonand what to expect during the agency's transition.

Pat Hernandez, Houston Public Radio News

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