Through the U.S Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), emergency management professionals from the Philippines explored Emergency Preparedness, Disaster Response and Management in Pensacola from September 3rd-9th, 2015.
The group began their local professional program at Pensacola City Hall where Councilman Charles Bare welcomed them. Bare gave an overview of the city and offered insight into the history of Pensacola with a focus on the challenges present in Escambia County in regards to environmental concerns and natural disasters.
A variety of locals met with the group to compare notes and share expertise. At the Escambia County Division of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Elton Gilmore gave a tour of the EOC and highlighted the collaboration between various levels of local government, law enforcement, NGO’s and the media in order to prepare and respond to regional emergencies. Executive Director Greg Strader and Program Director Jonathan Diamond welcomed the group at Be Ready Alliance Coordinating Emergencies and emphasized the educational outreach efforts conducted at local schools that helps prepare people of all ages to quickly and effectively respond in the event of a disaster. Escambia County Assistant County Administrator Amy Lovoy then met with the Filipinos to discuss the county’s budgeting process for relief and restoration following disasters while Phillip Turner, a member of the Escambia County Stormwater Advisory Team (SWAT), gave the group insight on the significant recent flooding event in April of 2014 that resulted in widespread flooding, property damage, and two deaths. Mr. Turner also spoke about how the SWAT was created to mitigate future flooding risks.
In addition to their more formal appointments, the visitors also engaged in a community discussion with locals at Adonna’s Bakery where they got to know each other and shared experiences of dealing with hurricanes over coffee. They also enjoyed a visit to Fort Pickens and a dolphin cruise in Pensacola Bay during their free time and experienced local hospitality when they were hosted for dinners in the homes of Debbie and Mike Layton and Liz and Basil Yelverton.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council also recognizes and thanks volunteer facilitator Kim Rivera for accompanying the group to their meetings and for ensuring their time in Pensacola was rewarding.