December 13 through 16, 2010, Max Khaytsus, George Sullivan and I had the privilege of attending the 2010 Urban Area Security Initiative Conference (UASI). Max and I also had the privilege of being sponsored by the North Central Region All Hazards Region. It is wonderful having members of O.M.E.G.A. be given the opportunity to attend these events and not have the burden of the expense of the conference impede our attendance.
The conference was a unique homeland security effort. It had a large number of agencies and partners from across the region, as well as national and international representation, pitching in to help support and participate in the conference. It was actually four conferences in one with the primary goal of bringing together emergency managers/first responders, healthcare professionals, business and critical infrastructure representatives and community preparedness and resiliency experts to share ideas on how to improve collective security. Organized by tracks to help subject matter experts share ideas within their areas and then through combined sessions with other tracks, the conference was a ground-breaking effort in information-sharing.
The keynote speakers were exceptional, but for my personal edification, if the breakout sessions had an Israeli presenter, I went to that session. I was never disappointed with the presenters.
Some of the memorable quotes:
1. On Suicide Bombers:
Question: We noticed that in 2008, there were over 1700 IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) detonating somewhere in Israel (Israel is about the size of New Jersey). That is about five or six times a day. Now in 2010, we see on the screen only 240 (once a day). What changed?”
Answer: We finished building the wall around Gaza. Now the terrorist have to go under the wall with tunnels, go over the wall with their missiles or go around the wall through the ocean (where our Navy is waiting for them). It now takes them longer to get to their targeted destination with a higher risk of detection and capture.
2. On Airport Security:
a. “Do you do profiling in your Airport Security?”
b. Answer: “Yes.” (with a shrug of the shoulder and tilt of the head)
c. Follow up Question: “Does it bother you that people may be having their civil liberties disrupted or impacted.
d. Answer: “The Terrorist have been the only ones complaining. Besides, it is more than just asking the questions. Our trained security observes the response to the questions. Since initiating this approach, we only had one hijacking from our airport in over 30 years.”
e. Question: “Isn’t your security screening easier because you have only one airport? (Ben Gurion International Airport)
f. Answer: Yes we have only one International Airport. But we are a small country with only 7 million citizens. You in America are 308 Million. I think the ratio is in your favor.
3. On using volunteers:
a. Question to the audience: Why don’t you use your volunteers more?
b. As all the heads of our served agencies turned their heads in unison in my direction: “What do you mean?” I asked
c. Statement: “When I came to New Orleans to retrieve Jewish remains from the damaged areas created by Hurricane Katrina, my team was the only volunteers there.”
d. Response: Because you were there for religious reasons and have a foreign accent, you were given more latitude than your American counterparts. For us in Colorado, we were very involved in Operation Safe Haven that provided a place of refuge for the hurricane survivors. In our organization, O.M.E.G.A., we not only provide our own communication, but we are trained in Incident Command System protocols, that allow us to interface with the Operations Command Staff with very little instructional overhead on their part.”
e. Speakers Response: “So you do use volunteers, just differently.”
f. Answer: “Yes.”
There were no punches pulled or excuses given at the conference. It was a great exchange of information from the experts (professional and volunteer) to the audience. And sometimes the audience and the presenter changed seats.
Bottom line, I had a great time!