If a disaster strikes, what roles do different organizations play in the communications and information chain?
That was the question Linda Daily posed to the crowd at the Bicentennial Commemoration of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812 last Friday at the University of Memphis
Daily, the director of United Way Worldwide’s 2-1-1 effort, was a keynote speaker at the conference. Daily said it is important that we ensure the communications chain is “solid enough to hold without breaking” in times of disaster.
The conference recognized the 200th anniversary of a series of New Madrid earthquakes that hit the Mid-South in 1811-1812. Speakers and panelists helped community leaders, residents, businesses, community organizations and faith-based organizations get ideas on improving communications during and/or after a disaster.
Earthquake researchers and seismologists predict there is a 25 percent chance of a New Madrid quake striking our area by the year 2040. If a quake the size of the 1811 disaster were to strike, it could gravely impact Memphis and the Mid-South region.
“There are so many different places where communication links can break,” Daily noted. “Our most vulnerable populations have the hardest time recovering during a disaster. Local United Ways that lead or partner in 2-1-1 networks determine their respective roles in times of disaster. They may be involved in volunteer and long-term recovery efforts, or involved in Community Organizations Active In Disasters (COAD) and Volunteer Organizations Active In Disasters (VOAD).”
In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission established 2-1-1 as the safety net to call if people needed help or wanted to give help.
“Some communities with 2-1-1 are heavily involved in volunteer management, while others use 2-1-1 for information and referral case management. But 2-1-1- operators all understand that no call needs to be left unanswered,” Daily added.
2-1-1 networks serve 87% of the nation’s population and many 2-1-1 networks have operators that speak multiple languages. Over 16.7 million calls were received by 2-1-1 networks across the country last year.
The conference was sponsored by the West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission and Mid-South VOAD in collaboration with the Shelby County Office of Preparedness/Homeland Security, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“When we first discussed the concept of a conference with the West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission, we knew we needed a broad cross-section of participants,” said Loretta Hurt, conference organizer and Project Manager/Emergency Management Liaison for United Way of the Mid-South. Hurt is also active with our regional VOAD.
Hurt added that one of the conference’s goals was to make people and organizations more aware of traditional and emerging communication techniques. She also noted that during times of disaster, the more people know about what communication tools can do, the better they can use them to get information they need about safety, food, shelter, and emergency care.
Michael Oppenheimer, General Manager of Clear Channel Entertainment and Media and Bryce Haugsdahl, President of United Way of the Mid-South served as honorary chairmen for the event. Oppenheimer provided opening remarks at the conference. Dewayne Benton (95.7 Hallelujah FM) served as Master of Ceremonies.
(Note: Another story about this conference will be published on the United Way News Center tomorrow morning. Loretta Hurt contributed to these articles.)