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Crisis and Emergency Management

Boston & Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: November 3rd-13th, 2008

CEM group


Boston and Oklahoma City played host to a group of fifteen crisis preparedness policymakers from Ireland and Northern Ireland recently. The delegation included professionals from government departments, public health agencies, environmental agencies, public safety and emergency responders.  The visitors were in the United States to participate in a ten-day study visit examining issues central to emergency preparedness such as public policy strategies, inter-agency connectivity in training and response, crisis communication, and the effective utilization of volunteer responders. Program participants shared information with some America’s leading experts on and gained valuable insight into variations of practice at the different levels of government.  The study visit was designed and delivered by the Irish Institute at Boston College and funded through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Irish Institute’s mission is to support the peace and reconciliation process on the island through the provision of educational seminars and programs for public officials, business leaders, and educators. This is the tenth year in which their programs have received funding from the U.S. Government.


The Boston portion of the program began with two contextual seminars; An Overview of Crisis and Emergency in the United States at the Federal, State, and Local Levels with Paul D. Biddinger, MD, FACEP, Associate Director of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Director of Operations and Director of Disaster Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. The second seminar, on Rural Preparedness and Special Populations” was led by Mr. Josh Frances, MPH, Director of Emergency Preparedness for the Maine Medical Center.  The remainder of the week saw the Irish visitors meet with local, state, and federal emergency preparedness professionals including Mr. Rich Serrino, Chief of Boston Emergency Medical Services and Mr. Don McGough, Director, City of Boston Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security.  The group spent an exceptionally informative afternoon with FEMA where they received an extensive briefing on emergency preparedness, mitigation, and disaster response and recovery activities in the six New England states from Mr. Art Cleaves (FEMA Regional Administrator) and his colleagues.

Local preparedness measures were the focus of a morning spent at the Brookline Emergency Operations Center, where the group was hosted by Sgt Mike Raskin, Homeland Security / Emergency Management Coordinator and Mr. David O'Connor, Director, Cambridge Emergency Management Department.


Later in the week, Ms. Donna Levin, General Counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health met with the group to discuss altered standards of care in an instance of pandemic influenza.  The role of political leaders in coordinating the response to a public emergency was the topic of a session with Commonwealth of Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security Kevin M. Burke.  Secretary Burke oversees the Departments of Public Safety, State Police, Fire Services, and Correction; the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency; and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner and so was able to give a broad view of the Commonwealth’s multi-agency approach to any emergency.  The final meeting of the week saw participants visit the underground bunker and headquarters of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency where they had a question and answer session with Director, Mr. Don Boyce.  Also sharing his time and expertise at this session was Brig. General Thomas Sellars, Commander, Land Component Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard. The group was fortunate to be joined for much of the week by Mr. John Tommaney, Director of Emergency Management Services, Boston College and a former Director of Operations at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.


The second week of the program brought the participants to Oklahoma City where the lead-off meeting was with Sergeant Frank Barnes, Oklahoma City Emergency Manager.  Mr. Mike Murphy, Director, Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) joined the meeting and took part in a presentation on the Evacuee Support Shelter that Oklahoma City provided to Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Gustav.  At their next meeting, Mr. Kerry Pettingill, Director, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security led the group through different Homeland Security operations and equipment available in responding to major terrorist incidents. Mid-week saw the group visit the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health where they had a very engaging seminar on “Environmental Risk Assessment and Management in Crisis and Emergency Response” with Professor Daniel T. Boatright, Senior Associate Dean and Presidential Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health.  A second seminar brought the group to nearby Norman Oklahoma where they were hosted by the Center for Natural Hazards and Disaster Research at the National Weather Center.  The lecture was on “Preparing for Natural Hazards and Disasters with a Focus on Hydrological Concerns” and was given by Dr. Baxter Vieux, Ph.D., P.E., Presidential Professor, University of Oklahoma, College of Engineering, Director, Center for Natural Hazards and Disaster Research. The final meeting of the program was with Mr. Jeff Chalmers, Operations Manager of the Oklahoma State Emergency Operations Center who walked the group through the major renovations and modernization project that has completely renewed the State’s emergency communications hub.  This was of particular interest to the contingent from Northern Ireland, where there have been calls for similar renovations to the province’s one existing emergency management bunker.


To download a copy of the advertisement for this program, click here. 


For more information about the 2008 Crisis and Emergency Management program please contact the Irish Institute at or (617) 552-4503.