James Lee Witt Keynote Notes

Mr. Witt took the stage to share his ideas to participants on disaster management and response. Sharing some personal insights, he described how he became the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Former President Clinton.

Stressing that people and relationship building as the key to constructing public-private partnerships, he urged participants to prepare communities by having the identification of hazards and solutions generated from the ground up. Project Impact is an example of whole of community preparation that we, as a community, might consider to accomplish this task. The role of state and federal representatives in this type of organization is that of an organizer and support element.

He recalled the efforts he supported in Haiti, immediately following the earthquake. He cited how the partnership between Former President Clinton, Google and the private sector to secure and provide medical supplies to local hospitals was, despite the hardships, effective in making an on the ground difference. By funneling supplies, and by helping construct over 4.5 months, a government infrastructure partnering with the private sector helped provide structure and organization amidst the chaos.

He cited that the one thing we, as a community, do not do enough of is long term recovery planning and community preparedness/mitigation training at the local level. Especially in times of scarce resources, we must build capacity at the local level. This is the challenge of emergency management to help organize and manage.

Noting that we are at a time in history where events will need to be managed with less. Building codes, community training, capacity development are all keys in meetng the challenges of tomorrow. Taking the lessons learned from recovery remains essential in this task.

Make a Difference.