Once again, there was a successful International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Conference in Orlando, Florida last week, although there were some unexpected challenges. Like … Hurricane Sandy. Attendance was great, but many of the folks from the northeast couldn’t attend unless they got there early. and then they couldn’t get home.
Some great new features this year that can only going to make the IAEM conference better in the future. One was the Leadership Symposium, a pilot program designed to fill a gap common to many conferences – how to add value for those professional, experienced leaders who have seen it all. My personal favorite was the IAEM2Go 2012 app for the smartphone. No big, glossy, printed, multi-page program! Loved it! I used it the whole time to find locations, updates, maps, biographies, tweets. The links to the surveys were there, too. How many trees did that save?
The BEST feature, and the one that will make the most difference in the long run was the Crisis Technology Center. It was staffed by 12 “Techsperts” who were primarily members of the IAEM Student Region. They volunteered and then came to the conference early to attend the 8-hour NDPTC (National Disaster Preparedness Training Center) course on social media.
The Techsperts were there to help emergency managers transition into the world of emergency technology by setting up their Twitter accounts, building their Facebook page, or show them how to start a blog. They also took the time to explain cloud computing, crowdsourcing, virtual EOC’s, and radios (digital, analog and HAM).
“This isn’t just social media; it’s about all kinds of emerging technology,” said Alisha Griswold, who is with the Port of Seattle and the Chair of the IAEM Emerging Technology Committee (ETC).
Alisha said some of their visitors compared them to the characters on the CBS series The Big Bang Theory, while the Techsports were trying to avoid the stereotype and show them anyone can use this technology.
“There were lots of skeptics,” Alisha said. “It was really fun to get them up and running with a new Twitter account. They would get all excited.”
There were also attendees who really were already technically proficient and wanted more in-depth information. One of the popular topics was ‘image authenticity’ – how to verify whether or not images on twitter are real. Another was how to sift through the data that comes from using crowdsourcing to find that nugget of information that is really needed.
Finally, the conference this year was the exciting scene of an attempted coup. More about that tomorrow.