In mid-March, the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council hosted a group of seven emergency management professionals as part of a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project titled “Effective Disaster Management and Emergency Response Coordination.”
Afghan government agencies and NGOs are dealing with natural disasters including flooding, landslides, droughts, and earthquakes in addition to the security threats that much of the country faces. Representatives from these agencies spent time in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Boise, Los Angeles, and Pensacola learning best practices and engaging in dialogue with their American counterparts.
The Afghans’ first Pensacola meeting was an official welcome at Pensacola City Hall with Councilwoman Sherri Myers. She shared the history of the area and gave an overview of the local experience with natural disasters and response.
During time spent at the Pensacola Police Department, Sergeant Jimmy Donohoe spoke about law enforcement emergency response protocols and cooperation with other emergency management agencies.
Assistant Escambia County Administrator Amy Lovoy met with the Afghan group to discuss county public funding of emergency planning initiatives and disaster relief.
BRACE representatives Jonathan Diamond, Seth Nelson, and Charles Palocy had an engaging meeting with the international visitors during which they highlighted BRACE’s effectiveness in forming partnerships and training citizens to increase community resiliency.
During a visit to Baptist Hospital, Vice President of Corporate Facilities and Support Services John Porter and Corporate Director of Safety, Security, and Environment of Care Eamonn Wheelock shared discussed hospital emergency planning and training.
The visitors’ final meeting in northwest Florida was with Santa Rosa County Emergency Management. Director Brad Baker, Emergency Management Plans Chief Daniel Hahn, and 911 Coordinator Kevin Howell gave the group an in-depth look into the work of the emergency operations center and partnerships with the community including CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training.
The trip wasn’t all business, however, as locals hosted the visitors for home hospitality dinners during one of their evenings. Many thanks go to Randle and Suzanne Carpenter, Kasey Jones, Judy Brooks and John Toole, and Liz and Leah Yelverton for being such warm hosts!
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks all who met with the Afghan visitors and ensured the success of this citizen diplomacy project.