Getting the Most Out of Conferences

Technology will dominate our profession, so start learning about it.

by Eric Holdeman / November 17, 2019

The IAEM annual conference is starting very soon. Hundreds of emergency managers will be attendance. If you are like me and can't attend, there are other state emergency management conferences held around the nation. See below for my November Disaster Zone column for the IAEM Bulletin that speaks to some ideas on how to make the most of attending these events. 

How to Get the Most Out of Emergency Management Conferences

I have always enjoyed attending emergency management conferences. Learning something new during sessions, meeting people, networking and connecting with old friends are some of the key aspects of what makes for a successful event for me.

I admit to spending time either in the vendor area or in the hallways catching up with peers who I have not seen for a time. It is amazing what you can learn during the informal and social hours that are programmed into conference schedules.

I have found it interesting that not everyone is as engaged in the conference experience. Some emergency managers attend, just to get out of the office and have a way to travel “officially” at someone else’s expense. It is the social side of things, escaping for a round of golf, tennis, swim in the pool, or time in the casino which are the key things that they come to the event for.

Then there are experienced emergency managers who I find wandering the hallways who remark, “I didn’t find anything of interest in the schedule to attend.” They have “been around the horn” and don’t think that there is anything new to learn from the scheduled sessions. This then is the part I’d like to address in the remaining space of this column.

I expect that the conference sessions of today and the future will be covering or at least, should be covering many technological innovations that will impact our profession and the delivery of emergency management services.

Here is a short list of topics that would be appropriate to have at an emergency management conference:

  • FirstNet
  • Interoperable “digital” communications
  • 5G and the impact to communities
  • Drones in emergency management
  • Sensors for drones
  • Real-time sharing of video and other digital data
  • Cybersecurity and the emergency manager’s role
  • Counter-drone technologies
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) in emergency management
  • Impacts of coronal mass ejections (CME) to the electrical grid
  • Climate change impacts to our weather: nature, invasive species, disasters
  • Using blockchain to secure data

I expect that I might have missed a technology or two in the list above that will impact our profession and programs. If you think you know it all, learned it all and have nothing new to add to your quiver of knowledge and experience, think again.

We are living in an era of rapid technological change and it is incumbent on all of us to do our best to understand the technology and incorporate it all into our programs to the best of our ability.

Conferences of the future will be great places to learn, understand and apply what we have learned to make our communities and organizations more disaster resilient.

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