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Lessons learned from disasters topic of huddle

HURRICANE Katrina, the Slave Lake, Alta., wildfire, the 2011 Assiniboine River flood.

There are lessons to be learned from all these traumatic events.

And municipal and emergency measures officials from across the province will be going to school on these and other calamities at the 2012 Manitoba Disaster Management Conference beginning Wednesday in Winnipeg.

One keynote speaker will be former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, who was in charge as his city was overwhelmed by hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Nagin spoke to a national emergency-management meeting last November in Brandon.

"He was just so well-received that we wanted a bigger crowd to see him," said Don Brennan, a retired Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization executive who is chairing the Winnipeg conference.

Brennan said Monday more than 450 government, EMO officials and first responders have committed to attending the three-day event at Canad Inns Polo Park.

"We bring everybody together to network and to compare notes on how they handled things -- what worked and what hasn't worked," said Brennan, who now works as a disaster-management consultant in Brandon.

Also lined up to address the conference is Mark Missal, who helped fight the massive Slave Lake, Alta., wildfire. He lost his home to the fire and, as a town councillor, was involved in the community's recovery.

Brian Kayes, an official with the City of Brandon, will tell how the western Manitoba town coped with a record spring flood in 2011.

Manitoba hosts a provincial disaster-management conference every 18 months.

Brennan said a year-and-a-half from now, it's likely organizers will bring in an official who had to confront superstorm Sandy, which has ravaged the Eastern Seaboard.

Half a million people in New York state remained without power, and more than 800,000 were without power in New Jersey, a week after the storm, The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, 30,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers may need to be relocated.

Brennan said emergency measures experts will undoubtedly be studying the disaster and how officials responded to it.

"It's the only way that we learn how to handle things when it happens to us," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2012 B2

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