In February, the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council welcomed a group of four officials from Turkmenistan as part of an International Visitor Leadership Program exchange focused on emergency preparedness and disaster management.
The group kicked off its time in Pensacola with a visit to Pensacola City Hall where Councilman Charles Bare and Mary Gutierrez welcomed them. Councilman Bare spoke to the visitors about local government structure, how the city has handled past emergency events and natural disasters, and how the city council can pass legislation to help with city resiliency. Ms. Gutierrez, an appointed member of the county’s Stormwater Advisory Team (SWAT), spoke about the major flooding event of April 2014 and why the SWAT was created to study ways to mitigate the future impact of similar events. Afterwards, Councilman Bare presented the visitors with certificates of honorary citizenship to the City of Pensacola.
Following this, the group met with Roy Wilkinson, a representative of the Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE). Mr. Wilkinson gave the group and overview of BRACE and highlighted its programs for improving community preparedness and resiliency in the face of natural and manmade disasters. After a downtown lunch, the visitors headed to the Escambia Emergency Operations Center where Elton Gilmore gave them a tour of the facility and spoke about best practices in emergency preparedness, management, planning, and response to disasters at the local level. The day ended with observation of part of a Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) session coordinated by Roy Wilkinson.
The next day, the Turkmen group headed to Santa Rosa County for a meeting on county-level emergency preparedness and CERT training with Santa Rosa County Emergency Management Plans Chief Daniel Hahn and CERT Coordinators Lou Green and Stephen Samaha.
Their final professional appointment in Pensacola was at West Florida Hospital where Emergency Preparedness Safety Officer Margie Hobbs led them on a tour of the hospital as part of a discussion on hospital emergency management planning and disaster response strategies.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks all who met with these international guests to share their work and culture.