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The World Conference on Disaster Management

Posted on 16th April 2015 at 14:10pm

The World Conference on Disaster Management Marks the 25th Anniversary As Global Experts Convene in Toronto Ahead of International Games
With an estimated 10,000 athletes and 500,000 spectators heading to Toronto in July for the Pan American Games, security is a priority. But are sufficient preparations and trained personnel in place to ensure the public is well protected from unwelcome events and their effects? Do guest countries have concerns about our safety and security protocols? How in-depth are the threat assessments and who is conducting them?
These are important questions to ask for any large event, say organizers of the World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM), which will welcome experts from more than 38 countries in Toronto, June 8-11, to discuss all matters related to disaster management, including security, terrorism, natural hazards, climate change, privacy breaches, cyber attacks, the Ebola outbreak and a host of other possible threats. Celebrating its 25th year in Canada, the global event focuses on developing best practices and creating solutions to meet global challenges – like hosting an international sporting venue – head on.
“Security forms part of a wider, integrated resilience picture that’s necessary when planning large events,” said WCDM keynote speaker Peter Power, a leading UK-based crisis management expert and consultant with Visor Consultants (UK) Ltd., who ran a London-based disaster management exercise ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games. “Serious food poisoning, water contamination, data loss, broadcast disruption and infrastructure collapse are all problems that must be anticipated through the lens of disaster management. Their origins might be human error or just accident, but what happens when a perpetrator (e.g. a terrorist) admits responsibility? The impact is still pretty much the same and that's what counts for short term events like this.”    
Lessons learned from the London Games include the need for an integrated command, co-ordination and communication (C3) architecture that involves regular security briefings, on-site pre-event exercises, and a tiered command system, said Power. As the budget for Canada’s Pan Am games continues to climb, WCDM presenter Alan Bell, president of Globe Risk International Inc., said the key question is not how much is being spent, but on what. “Have decision-makers considered the full spectrum of threats that the games face?” he said. “Have all threats been clearly defined and vulnerabilities identified? Or are they waiting for something to happen before they react? These are fair questions to ask.”
WCDM Conference Chair Paul Kovacs, executive director at the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, says the over-arching message about the need to prepare for disasters of all types is finally taking hold, both in Canada and on the global stage, where world leaders committed in March to working together to mitigate disasters through the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Devised at a 2015 United Nations event held once every decade, the framework outlines targets for disaster reduction, including the number of deaths and people affected, economic loss and infrastructure damage.
“Instead of spending so much time responding and rebuilding after something bad happens, everyone agrees we need to put more effort into being prepared and preventing things from happening in the first place,” said Kovacs, adding that the common theme is to ‘build back better’ following a disaster. “Disasters are growing in complexity, yet the common sense steps to prevent them remain relatively simple.
To mark its 25th anniversary, the World Conference on Disaster Management is offering deeply-discounted special anniversary rates. Highlights of the 2015 programme include:
  • The Rise of Lone Wolf Terrorism … is Canada Prepared? (Tuesday, June 9, 3:30-4:00 p.m.) Public vigilance is key to thwarting lone wolf terrorist attacks, but are Canadians educated enough in the wake of last year’s attack on Parliament Hill, and what can be done moving forward
  • How Can You Cope with a “Breach-a-Day?” (Monday, June 8, 9:00a.m.-noon) Just a few years ago, a data breach seemed like a ‘one-off’ event. Fast-forward to today – in light of recent events at Target, Home Depot, eBay and Apple to name a few – and breaches are becoming more common. What can businesses do to prepare
  • Integrating Climate Change and Disaster Management (Tuesday, June 9, 1:30-2:30 p.m.) Keynote Chris Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, will share new developments in his effort to bring together the climate change and emergency management research communities internationally.
  • Assessing Calgary’s Response and Recovery to the 2013 Flood (Wednesday, June 10, 4:40-5:10 p.m.) An experienced researcher with the Conference Board of Canada’s National Security and Public Safety team will share lessons learned during the response and recovery efforts to the Calgary flood
  • Top 10 Mistakes Made During a Disaster (Wednesday, June 10, 4:05-4:35 p.m.) When reviewing lessons learned from prior events, a pattern of common mistakes emerges. This session provides actionable steps to avoid them. 
In addition to an in-depth conference programme, WCDM also provides training and networking opportunities for emergency management, business continuity management, risk management, emergency response (police, fire and EMS), public health, IT disaster recovery, security, military, and government representatives. The industry’s top suppliers will have their products and services on display, such as: innovative aircraft technology from Zodiac Aerospace; property restoration solutions from Winmar; communication products for the oil and gas industry from TOG Systems; quality and safety services from Intertek; global solutions for health and safety from Intermedix; and, high-quality shelters, respirators, filters, personal protection and life support products from Immediate Response Technologies.
Sponsors for the anniversary event include World Title partner CriSys, and Platinum partners IBM and The Business Continuity Institute.
Programme details can be found at
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