By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – The University of Oklahoma’s Resilience Development Institute (OU ReDI) has a professional training program scheduled for Sunday, October 18 through Thursday, October 22.
OU officials say the program is the first of its kind in the United States.
In an interview, Heather Reichert, executive director for ReDI, observed that “resilience” is “becoming a commonly used buzzword, so it’s important to focus on its reality. That is, the time a community or a region needs to recover from an event can be shortened by being ready, by planning to get through disasters or catastrophic events.”
Reichert continued, “What it comes down to is an ability to mitigate negatives from such events. This is the start of a professional development certificate program, not ‘just’ a recovery or disaster program.
Three tracks are incorporated into the training: executive, practitioner and professional. Reichert explained the concepts are “broader than emergency management. Leadership prepared and ready — from before an event, from the beginning of an incident or event, and then all the way through it. It includes thinking in advance about workforce, jobs, preparation.”
Some of the nation’s most respected and experienced professionals in preparedness, emergency management the emerging “resilience industry” will guide the discussion and instruction.
One program leader is David Dodd, recently named chairman of OU ReDI. He is Chief Executive Officer of DADCO Consulting, based in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has worked worldwide on resilience and recovery from disasters and disruptions, including in wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Another key player is Mike Ferdinand, a Special Projects Officer with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Ferdinand was deeply involved in programs after Katrina.
He has been a Long Term Recovery Coordinator for Louisville (Kentucky) and Winston County, coordinated a four-year $27 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and led a personal sustainability effort for nearly 1,000 single family dwellings along the Gulf Coast.
Crystal Klein is Oklahoma’s first woman to become a federally-certified Master Exercise Practitioner. A Tulsan, she worked in the aftermath of Katrina along the Gulf Coast with FEMA.
Klein was also part of the Clinton Global Initiative’s programs helping the nation of Haiti rebuild, assisting residents of a massive tent city in a heavily populated area. Among other publications, she is a co-author of “Disaster Preparedness: A Living Free Guide” (Penguin Publishing, 2014).
Reichert promised the certification programs will be focused on “goals and takeaways” that will be immediately useful for participants. Asked how such a program was developed at OU, she reflected there is substantial regional experience with “principles and expectations that emerge in response to risks.
“After all, we are number one in the nation for disaster declarations in Oklahoma. We are learning from things that have happened here, as well as after Katrina and New Orleans and Mississippi.”
Bottom line: “We are hoping to close the gap so that people do not have to reinvent the wheel each time something occurs.”
OU ReDI staff provided a detailed breakdown of Sessions over the five-day seminar this month.
These will include practical counsel on organizing and assessing community resilience, every day community processes, linking resilience planning to economic development, building organizations with resilience and recovery in mind, emergency management principles, incident command, post-incident recovery and the changing demands of response and recovery.
As the week progresses, other topics will include governance, the changing demands of response and recovery, planning and implementation, measuring risk and uncertainty, mapping opportunities, public and private funding, crisis leadership vs. “regular” leadership, strategic communications and planning exercises.
Among information provided by ReDI staff was this mission statement (in part): “Our intent is not to be prescriptive but to teach professionals in the industry the core knowledge they need to be successful in their career and the positively impact their communities. Since all communities are different, we want professionals to determine what is best for their communities and learn how to embed resilience in all their decisions and strategies.”
According to officials, “OU is the first organization in the world to offer a professional development certification on resilience strategies and tactics for application in the face of disaster.”
The OU ReDI event will be held at the Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel, 1 North Broadway Avenue. The event is a fee-based program. For more information or to register, visit the website, or telephone (405) 325-3136.