Monday, June 7, 2010

Disaster Managment Seminar for the Provincia di L'Aquila

Professor Margherita Mori of the College of Economics at L'Aquila set up a meeting with the Privincia di L'Aquila on Monday June 7, 2010. We met at the Privincia office and met General Manager, Dr. Giovanni Di Pangrazio and Paola Garozzo and had a brief discussion before we were hosted for lunch prior to the seminar. After lunch, we went by car to the Provincia Offices for the Seminar. It was attended by a dozen managers and program chiefs from all different disciplines that were working on the recovery process since the earthquake. They were very interested in the recovery efforts post Katrina and the other hurricanes and had great thought provoking questions that showed the seriousness of their situation. All disasters are alike and all are different as we could see from the Hurricanes, the Oil Spill and the Earthquake. All require similar actions in recovery and all require different actions at the same time. During the discussion, we tried to look at similarities as well as the uniqueness of each disaster. They expressed strong interest in preparedness. Obviously there were warnings for the hurricanes but none for the oil spill or the earthquake. I stressed that the city and region must have a preparedness plan that can make the area resiliant eventhough you cannot make it less vulneralbe to an earthquake of the magnitude that they experienced. They asked for copies of documents such as evacuation plans, resiliancy plans and other documents that we have utilized in the past. Since the last major quake to hit L'Aquila was 300 years ago, they have nothing developed that is useable in this instance. Also, I told them that my observations and interviews indicated that they have done a lot of things correctly. For example, they got the University up and running with minimal downtime to keep the population in L'Aquila and keep the student body in the area. They also began immediately building earthquake resistant housing for people and students that lost their houses and apartments. They also got the hospital up immediately and have begun a major restoration project in the historic area, central city, the heart of L'Aquila. Unfortunately, they have not communicated well with the citizens and the citizens are not happy with the speed of the recovery (which is normal). I related to them the experiences of New Orleans (Katrina), Lake Charles (Rita and Ike) and Baton Rouge (Gustav). In disasters of massive destruction and crippled infrastructure, it takes time and money to recover. Other differences is the public / private investment in recovery and the insurance issues of both countries. Those attending from the Provincia represented Agriculture, Urban Planning, Legal, Public Services and Economics / Finance. Professor Mori offered translations and insight to the group also. It was a productive meeting and it was suggested by the Provincia that LSU and L'Aquila work on a joint Disaster Management Conference. I indicated that we are working on a joint agreement and this is being discussed.

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