The 2015 Preparedness Summit began on Tuesday, April 14, with an opening plenary by Mike Walker, Senior Consultant at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Walker’s presentation focused on emerging threats that could have an extreme impact on the public health infrastructure of the United States and beyond. Walker noted the world is facing a far greater diversity of threats than any other time in history. Between climate change, extreme weather, terrorism, antibiotic resistance, and pandemics, public health officials have a myriad of complex threats to prepare for in their communities.
Walker emphasized that preparedness should be a national priority. More than 100 workshops, demos, and learning sessions taking place during the Preparedness Summit address the threats outlined in the opening session. All of these dangers have an effect on the population’s health. Even a cyberattack or solar storm has the power to cripple public health infrastructure. The Summit brings together professionals who are already making these critical investments in the country’s preparedness.
It is easy to feel that the world is facing a daunting amount of potential catastrophes. It is impossible for local, state, and federal governments to prepare for every threat. The opening plenary called upon Summit attendees to focus on building capabilities to improve community resilience.
The Preparedness Summit is the premier public health preparedness conference, and has been bringing together public health professionals for ten years. NACCHO has played an integral leadership role in planning the Summit since its beginning in 2006. NACCHO has worked with partners to share new research, tools, and resources to help attendees prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and other emergencies. This year’s Preparedness Summit brings together almost 1,800 public health professionals. Mike Walker’s opening presentation set the stage for the learning sessions, workshops, and town halls that will take place over the course of the week as attendees will work together to prepare for a world of emerging threats.
Other highlights from the day included appearances by Fred the Preparedness Dog. A three-year-old German Shepherd service dog, Fred is an employee of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and helps educate communities in his state about family and pet preparedness. Fred attended many sessions with his handler, Michael McNulty, who will be speaking at the Summit during a demonstration session on Thursday to provide attendees with the opportunity to learn more about Fred’s travels throughout the state of Kansas and around the world via social media.
The 2015 Preparedness Summit is taking place in Atlanta until Friday, April 17. NACCHO will continue to publish updates from this year’s conference. For those that are unable to attend the Summit, NACCHO will be releasing several podcasts with speakers from sessions at the Summit and conference attendees are encourage to live tweet about what they have learned during the sessions using the conference hashtag, #Prep15. Those in the Atlanta area can still register on site for the conference, which is taking place at the Marriott Marquis.