Hurricane Sandy overshadows Emergency Managers Conference

A meeting of the world’s emergency managers is being overshadowed by a potential emergency of epic proportions.

The International Association of Emergency Managers Conference begins tomorrow in Orlando and is scheduled to run through Thursday. And while organizers insist that attendance is largely unthreatened by Hurricane Sandy, local officials are starting to have second thoughts, given the storm’s uncertain path.

David M. McKernan, Fairfax County’s Coordinator of Emergency Management, has canceled plans to attend, and Ronald Gill, director of the Prince George’s County Office of Emergency Management, says the odds are he will remain home as well.

Montgomery County has two staffers attending the IAEM conference, but Director Chris Voss is remaining here. “We are fully staffed here for what's coming,” county spokesman Patrick Lacefield says.

The District has no plans to send anyone to Orlando, according to emergency management spokeswoman Robyn Johnson.

The theme of the conference is “Resiliency: Building a Better Tomorrow.” Those attending can attend workshops titled, “Recovery from Disaster: The Local Government Role,” “Mass Fatalities Incident Response,” and “Raw and Uncut: Experiences in Animal Emergency Management.”

Dawn Shiley, spokeswoman for the Falls Church-based IAEM, says, “We’re going forward with our event. … I’m sure there will be some people from the east coast who will stay home, but we don’t expect a huge number.”

The conference program lists more than a dozen workshops as “cancelled.”

Gill says he’s bummed to be staying home but understands he needs to be available to guide the county’s response to what forecasters predict could be a devastating storm. “It’s one of the only emergency management conferences at the national level,” he tells us.

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