University Relations and Communications

Are we ready for next time?

August 29, 2011



Kim Schweikert, Senior Programmer, MSU Billings Downtown 896-5888
Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County Commissioner, 256-2701
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Disaster preparedness conference takes a look at lessons learned from recent events and collaboration for the future


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — It’s been a year since a tornado struck the heart of Billings and left a path of disaster through MetraPark, only a few months since floodwaters ravaged communities in Montana and work still continues on an oil spill on the Yellowstone River.


But since each of those events, lessons have been learned and during a special conference in September, those lessons will be shared by county, state and national experts.


“Montana Ready: Disaster Preparedness 2011” will be held Thursday and Friday, Sept. 15- 16 at the MSU Billings Student Union Building.  The conference is being hosted by the Yellowstone County Commission and MSU Billings Downtown.  Sponsors include the City of Billings, CTA Architects Engineers, Hoiness Labar Insurance, RiverStone Health, the MSU Billings Urban Institute, the Montana Association of Counties, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. 


The cost is $75 per participant for individuals who register prior to Sept. 9 and $85 after Sept. 9. The registration fee includes all materials, a reception on Day One, and breakfast and lunch on Day Two. The conference has been pre-approved for Montana Association of Counties educational credits.


The conference is open to anyone interested and involved in emergency preparedness and is especially designed for county commissioners, city officials, policymakers, healthcare experts, first responders, insurance professionals and emergency communications specialists. 


Special guest presenter will be the Honorable Sally A. Heyman, Miami-Dade (Fla.) County Commissioner who is also a member of local, state, and federal Public Safety, Emergency Management and Homeland Security organizations.


Heyman was elected to the board in September 2002, after serving in the Florida House of Representatives for four consecutive terms. Prior to being elected to the Florida Legislature in 1994, she served as an elected council member for the City of North Miami Beach for seven years, and worked for the City of Miami and North Miami Beach Police Departments.


Heyman has an educational and professional background in criminal justice and law enforcement that includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Florida, a Master of Science degree from Nova University and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Miami. In addition to being a member of the Florida Bar, she holds state and national certification in crime prevention. She is a crime and loss prevention specialist and attorney, and has her own consulting firm specializing in premises liability and criminal victimization, and is an Adjunct Professor.


Heyman’s presentation will add context to the conference that also highlights the need for collaborative response in any manmade or natural disaster.


Officials say collaboration is most important in rural communities where local resources may be limited.  In a disaster, Montana’s health care industry, law enforcement, city and county administrators, elected officials, first responders and emergency services will bear the burden of caring for Montanans while the event is occurring and in its aftermath. 


To address those issues — and bolster the capacity to effectively and seamlessly work together — organizers developed a conference to address key issues that first-responders and policymakers have to understand. Critical information and invaluable insights from first-hand accounts of the June 2010 tornado will be shared for all emergency planners as well as other insights from the flood near Roundup as well as the recent Yellowstone River oil spill. Issues such as mobilizing resources, managing insurance and how to make the most of funding resources available will be addressed.


Through presentation of a variety of real and simulated events, participants will hear from local and national experts in the field of disaster management.  And they will have an opportunity to communicate one-on-one with responders from surrounding areas who may be a valuable resource in a disaster.


For more information or to register call 896-5890.