Disaster Symposium Emphasizes Group Response

Experts Share Ideas on What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens

Sept. 17, 2009

Last week’s disaster preparedness symposium at UT Dallas included advice on what to do if you’re ever a small-town mayor playing host to nearly 7,000 unexpected guests.

In the case of Gander, Newfoundland – where dozens of trans-Atlantic flights that were aloft on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, were rerouted to land – the key was for the town’s 10,000 residents to all pitch in and help.

Ice hockey rink employees, for example, turned the rink into an enormous walk-in refrigerator for the perishable food that began arriving even before the first plane landed. Striking bus drivers suspended their labor action and returned to the wheel to get people where they needed to go. A town with 500 hotel rooms found sleeping space for everyone, taking over schools, community centers and people’s guest rooms.

“There’s no challenge so great,” concluded Gander’s mayor, Claude Elliott, “that it can’t be overcome if we all come together and each do our own small part.”

Elliott delivered the keynote address at the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Symposium, which was hosted by the CyberSecurity and Emergency Preparedness Institute at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas.

The symposium also featured a presentations by:

  • Dennis Schrader, former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Preparedness Directorate.
  • Dr. Ira Nemeth and Dr. Sandra Parker, medical directors of Dallas and Tarrant counties, respectively, on H1N1 flu.
  • David Erinakes, a policy adviser to the Texas Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation.

“The symposium focused on North Central Texas’s community awareness for emergency and disaster preparedness planning efforts with a blend of resources, knowledge, training, and skills necessary to respond to, and recover from all threats, hazards, and adverse incidents,” said Doug Harris, director of the CyberSecurity and Emergency Preparedness Institute. “This symposium also highlighted the collaboration of government and non-governmental organizations.”

One of only a handful of entities of its kind in the United States, the UT Dallas CyberSecurity and Emergency Preparedness Institute is recognized nationally for its role in dealing with cybercrime, information assurance and emergency preparedness.

The day began with a display of millions of dollars of emergency response equipment purchased by North Texas emergency response agencies in recent years, including a mobile feeding kitchen, a decontamination trailer, bomb squad equipment, a satellite communications trailer and a high-tech mobile command post.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Dallas office of the Consulate General of Canada, Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Safe America Foundation, Tarrant County, the Texas Homeland Security Alliance, the town of Gander and UT Dallas.


Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Doug Harris and Claude Elliott

Doug Harris (left) leads the CyberSecurity and Emergency Preparedness Institute. Claude Elliott described handling a sudden influx of visitors when the events of Sept. 11, 2001, forced jetliners to make unscheduled stops in Gander, Newfoundland.

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