Plenary Sessions

The Future—Big Ideas to Strengthen the Hazards and Disaster Workforce

Monday, July 12, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. MDT

This opening plenary will focus on how the workforce we have can support and build the workforce we need. As climate change accelerates and disaster losses mount, our future depends on cultivating a well-trained workforce and ensuring that the resources and institutional structures are in place to address the social roots of risk, which turn natural hazards into human catastrophes. Panelists as well as participants will be invited to respond to this question: What is the one big change that would help strengthen our hazards and disaster workforce?

Burnout—Mounting Pressures and Workforce Shortages in an Age of Extremes

Tuesday, July 13, 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. MDT

Emergency managers, first responders, and healthcare professionals in the United States have been working in a continual state of crisis due to the pandemic and a cascade of climate-related disasters. These workers have faced enormous physical, psychological, and moral stressors as they have protected and served the public. Over 4,000 healthcare workers have died during the pandemic and emergency responders have been stretched to the limit and are reporting widespread exhaustion. Many agencies have turned to temporary workers or incarcerated populations to fight wildfires, clean up debris, and otherwise attempt to manage disaster. This plenary session will address issues of workforce burnout and worker shortages while also grappling with questions concerning society’s responsibility to support emergency personnel.

Sustainability—Harnessing Local Capacity and Context to Advance Risk Reduction Efforts

Tuesday, July 13, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. MDT

While much of the economic loss from disasters is concentrated in developed countries, more than 90% of all disaster fatalities occur in developing countries. This is one of the major environmental injustices of our time. Many emerging nations are also experiencing rapid growth, further exacerbating risk, but also creating an opportunity for safer development. This requires a long-term approach and involves investing in local capacity and engaging diverse voices. This plenary session will feature global perspectives from the team at GeoHazards International on staying ahead of disasters in underserved communities. Speakers will share key principles for sustaining risk reduction efforts by harnessing local capacity and leveraging local strengths and networks. This involves engaging people across the community spectrum—including youth—in life-saving hazards preparedness and mitigation programs.

Engagement—Community-Based Approaches to Expanding the Hazards Field

Wednesday, July 14, 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. MDT

Communities of color have long been identified as especially at risk to a range of disaster threats. This final plenary session will introduce a new model of community engagement focused on strengthening hazards mitigation by increasing knowledge, actionable attitudes, preparedness, and skills among historically marginalized groups. Speakers will address the challenges that are often faced in at-risk communities while underscoring the power and possibilities associated with deep community engagement.

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