Author Archives: George Sullivan

Homeland Security Conference Draws International Speakers, Hundreds of Participants, including O.M.E.G.A.

Denver, Colorado hosted an international panel of speakers from the Public and Private Sector at the Denver Urban Area Security Initiative’s Shared Strategies for Homeland Security Conference, from December 13th to the 16th, at the Sheraton Hotel.

700 attendees from disciplines such as Citizen Preparedness Groups, First Responders, Emergency Medical, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, Bomb Disposal, and more attended.  Tracks on Business and Critical Infrastructure, Community Preparedness, Medical and Public Health, and Responder Training had everyone who attended wishing the conference lasted longer, so they could hit all the sessions.

Especially informative were sessions hosted by the Israeli experts, since it is rare to have so many Homeland Security experts from that country in one place in Denver.

Domestic experts and speakers included Dr. Dennis Mileti, former head of the Natural Hazards Center with the University of Colorado, who spoke on Social Media and Public Warnings in Disasters.

SSHS with Dennis Mileti

Dr. Dennis Mileti, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado, Natural Hazards Center, presented a talk on Social Media and Public Warnings. He was very energetic and animated for the entire presentation.

Citing that for over a hundred years, our nation has funded psychology and sociology programs, many of which have studied how people react/are affected by disasters.  Using this data, we know how to issue public warnings.  The art of warnings is, in fact, applied social sciences.  The key to issuing warnings:

1) People are hard-wired in a particular way.  People’s reality has nothing to do with actual reality.  Reality is what people think.  In disasters, people think they are safe.  People do not perceive risk, nor do they personalize it. They actually think they are safe and in the absence of disasters, each day that goes by convinces them they are right.  How do you overcome people’s perceptions of safety?

2) Changing peoples perception in the warning process takes time to transit from ‘you are safe’ to ‘you are not safe and need to act.’  Primarily, people react to social interactions, not warnings.  Essentially, warnings spur the discussions, but actions are driven by interactions.  The key is “time”.

Other experts and dignitaries included FEMA Deputy Director Richard Serino, Region VIII Administrator Robin Finegan, and Mogen David Adom (The Israeli member of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies,) Director General, Uri Sacham.

For more information about this fascinating and informative conference, you can visit the Shared Strategies for Homeland Security blog at http://www.sharedstrategiesblog.com/.