On behalf of the entire FEMA team, I want to thank everyone who participated in the first FEMA Think Tank conference call last Thursday, January 26, from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee (UWM). As you may know, nearly 650 people from state, local and tribal governments, the private sector, disability community, volunteer community and the public joined us on the call, and I was incredibly pleased that our conversation was so productive and engaging.
I began the Think Tank last year after hearing from a number of people – including emergency managers and college students – who had formed smaller groups to discuss innovative ways for improving the emergency management system. Among these groups was one started through the volunteer efforts of two UWM students – Stephanie Sikinger and Andrew Boese – with the help of their former intern supervisor, Desiree Matel-Anderson. I met Stephanie, Andrew, and Desiree last summer and was impressed by their work and enthusiasm. And that's why I asked UWM to partner with us and host the very first Think Tank conference call.
The Think Tank is meant to serve as a forum for disaster survivors, emergency managers, first responders, and others concerned about protecting and helping our communities during an emergency, to discuss innovative ideas on how we can improve the way we do business. The exchange of ideas on the online forum has demonstrated the innovation and perspectives the whole community can offer.
As I announced during the conference call, FEMA is in the process of implementing a few of the ideas that were submitted to the online forum. In particular, we are developing a Federal Disaster Externship Program as was suggested by Marya Domnik and Shai Cooper suggested, as well as Coffee Break Training Program, suggested by Nick Sloan.
The three ideas discussed during the conference highlighted the importance of the emergency management community regularly sharing information and best practices. I want to thank the three conference call presenters, Maggie Myers, Steve Swazee, and Anjana Dayal de Prewitt, for sharing their creative ideas on community mapping, incorporating preparedness in school curriculums, and the National Grid System. My hope is to continue identifying key actions items that can be brought back to FEMA and incorporated or developed into our programs. In fact, several of the ideas discussed in the Think Tank have already caught the attention of key FEMA leadership, including the U.S. National Grid System.
The next conference call will be held on February 17, and it will focus on the use of technology and social media in emergency management. I encourage everyone to continue to participate in the FEMA Think Tank by posting and commenting on ideas on the online forum, calling into the monthly conference calls, and following the conversation on Twitter at #femathinktank.
As I said during the call, the Think Tank isn't just a FEMA project -- it's a tool for us all to use to better serve the American public.
Again, thank you to all who participated in last week's call. I look forward to continuing our conversation, as we work together to better serve disaster survivors.