Symposium Speaker – Dev Jani

Emergency Preparedness in a Changing Climate

What can industry, government, and insurers do together to protect people and their communities from the next disaster? This panel offers the opportunity to learn from a crosssection of stakeholders who will open up new approaches and thinking for your organization.

The following questions arose from the audience at the 2017 Campbell Institute Symposium. Unable to attend this year? Join us at the 2018 Symposium for more thought provoking discussions on the future of EHS.

 

Question: How to convince your executive team to invest in disaster preparedness if your business has not been affected in the last 10 years?

The need to develop and implement strategies which counter this issue of complacency is one of great importance for all whole community partners. Society tends to be reactive, not proactive, and emergency managers and public health practitioners invest their entire careers into the proactive realm. A good starting point is to conduct a hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA) which focuses on both low frequency and high frequency events, so that there is a full spectrum of threats to plan for. Even if an organization has not been impacted in the past 10 years by a major hurricane, it likely has, or will, be impacted by something smaller such as a power outage or a fire which would require business continuity plans to be implemented. By starting with an objective, data-driven HVA approach, you’re addressing threats which are credible and truly taking an “all-hazards” approach. Once the HVA is developed, follow that up with developing the business continuity plan and validating that plan through training (i.e. emergency management basics for senior leadership) and exercise (i.e. discussion-based table-top with senior executives on what the business continuity of operations timeline looks like).

Question: Dev, how can we bring these lessons to our own cities? Are there Homeland Security plans in place nationwide?

Absolutely – all jurisdictions will have crisis and consequence emergency management plans. The size, scope and scale of these may be dependent upon the type of jurisdiction and their individual vulnerabilities, but ultimately they all address the protection of life and property. From the federal side, there’s a great number of resources and templates available for organizations to utilize in their planning efforts. Additionally, I would strongly recommend that organizations reach out to their local emergency management agency for guidance and continued collaboration.

Question: Dev, since the new levee system is in place, has there been any thoughts into the next 10 years and will that system not contain a cat 3 or higher storm?

The upgraded flood protection system, formally called the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, provides a 100-year level of risk reduction. The importance of this is while it confidently provides reduced risk from surge that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year, it is a risk reduction system, not a risk elimination system. So, this essentially becomes a crisis/risk communications issue where it is still important for us to stress that mandatory evacuation orders should be followed regardless of the risk reduction system being in place. Just as there are models which show the system being resilient against major storms, there are other models, albeit a lesser number, showing that a rare combination of factors such as storm trajectory during weaker storms could potentially cause heavy storm surge to overtop the flood protection structures.

 

Dev Jani is the Deputy Director and Chief, Planning & Preparedness at the City of New Orleans – Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. He is responsible for managing four areas within the city’s homeland security enterprise: planning and strategic programs; training, exercises and evaluation; community engagement; and finance. Prior to joining the City of New Orleans, Dr. Jani held a variety of positions which spanned the fire, emergency medical services and collegiate emergency response sectors. He received a B.S. in Biochemistry from Stony Brook University and both a M.P.H. and Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences (focus in chemical exposure assessment) from the Tulane University – School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Jani’s research and professional focus areas include all-hazards preparedness and response, particularly of CBRN incidents, and the translation of this area into policy.

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