More than 700 emergency first responders from across the Department of Defense gathered in Orlando, Fla., March 7-11, 2011 for the 2nd Annual National Joint Defense Support of Civil Authorities Symposium hosted by Air Forces Northern. Attendees heard presentations from various senior leaders including the chief of the National Guard Bureau, deputy commander of U.S Northern Command, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s director. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano)
Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean (center), commander of Air Forces Northern, confers with Senior Master Sgt. Harmony Thomas (left) and U.S Coast Guard Lt. Commander K. Moore prior to the general’s opening remarks at the 2011 National Defense Support of Civil Authorities Symposium in Orlando, Fla. AFNORTH was the host for this year’s symposium that was held March 7-11, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano)
Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, chats with attendees at the 2nd Annual National Joint Defense Support of Civil Authorities Symposium hosted by Air Forces Northern in Orlando, Fla. During the symposium, McKinley stated, “We are all partners, and it is critical that each of you establish personal relationships with people and agencies who respond to disasters that happen to our nation.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano)
Lt. Gen. Frank Grass (right), deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command discusses USNORTHCOM’s role of responding to emerging disasters and the importance of synchronized efforts during major contingencies with attendees at the 2nd Annual National Joint Defense Support of Civil Authorities Symposium hosted by Air Forces Northern in Orlando, Fla., March 7-11, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano)
by Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano
AFNORTH Public Affairs
3/14/2011 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Disaster responders from across the nation converged in Orlando for the 2nd annual National Joint Defense Support of Civil Authorities Symposium hosted by Air Forces Northern to discuss better ways for federal agencies - specifically the military - to assist during man-made and natural disasters.
More than 700 members of all four branches of the armed forces - the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines - along with personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. State Department, and several other organizations listened to presentations by such dignitaries as the chief of the National Guard Bureau, the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, and the top administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In keeping with the symposium's theme, 'Strength Through a Unified Response,' many of the speakers took to the podium touting the importance of interagency partnerships and relationship building.
"We are all partners, and it is critical that each of you establish personal relationships with people and agencies who respond to disasters that happen to our nation," said Gen. Craig McKinley, NGB chief. "Applying that 'layered approach' to an emerging issue through a balance of civil and military support teams is crucial to being effective."
Vice Adm. Robert C. Parker, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, echoed the general's sentiments on partnerships.
"Sometimes, unity of effort trumps unity of command," said the admiral. "Building a foundation of trust prior to a crisis is the absolute key to our interagency relationships. In the military we're all familiar with the term C2 (command and control), but in DSCA operations, C2 should really stand for 'communication and cooperation.' Those two factors are the keys to our ultimate success during disaster response."
Throughout the symposium, attendees received briefings from various subject matter experts, ranging in topic from logistical support and funding to hurricane response and urban search and rescue coordination.
The keynote speaker, W. Craig Fugate, administrator of FEMA, emphasized the significance of using today's emerging technologies to better respond to an event unfolding minute-to-minute.
"When an event unfolds, the first question I pose to a governor, mayor or parish leader is, 'What can we (FEMA) do to get you up-and-running?' It is the most important question to ask communities impacted by a disaster," said Mr. Fugate. "Then we start relying on those who have cell phones or access to social media sites to relay information from the affected area, because quite honestly, no one has a better view of the situation than those who are actually on the ground in the affected area. It's a tell-tale sign and indicator of trouble when there is no cell phone service or Facebook traffic from an impacted area."
United States Northern Command, the combatant command for the North American theater of operations, has oversight over all DSCA operations that impact the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada and Mexico. When the scope of a disaster exceeds the response capabilities of local, state or federal agencies, USNORTHCOM may be asked to support relief efforts with personnel, equipment or other resources as requested.
USNORTHCOM's deputy commander, Lt. Gen. Frank Grass, discussed how important synchronized efforts are during a major contingency.
"We had several ground-breaking events occur in 2010 - the earthquake in Haiti, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even the emerging threats that are happening on our southern border," said General Grass. "It is crucial for us to take into account 'speed of response' when events like this happen. More often than not, catastrophic events are also no-notice events, which require us to be prepared on a moment's notice to assist the citizens of our nation as well as the lead agencies who respond to the disaster."
Symposium attendees were given the opportunity to participate in break-out sessions to discuss service-specific topics and network with fellow first responders.
"Air Forces Northern and the National Security Emergency Preparedness directorate were proud to host this year's conference, and I believe those who attended walked away with even greater knowledge and a more robust 'tool kit' to take to the field when the next emergency arises," said Rodney Simmons, NSEP director. "From the feedback I've received, we definitely met the intent of our 'strength through unity' theme. We're already looking forward to next year's event."