BILOXI, Miss. -- Cabinet officials from the Japanese government visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Biloxi Transitional Recovery Office (TRO). The delegation met with TRO chief of staff Alec Watson and program section chiefs to discuss emergency management methods and the experiences of the senior staff following Hurricane Katrina. The officials met previously with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency staff and toured their Emergency Operations Center in Pearl, Miss.
"This meeting and exchange of ideas will hopefully allow other nations to benefit from our work here on the Gulf Coast," said Watson. "Our organization is new to FEMA in size and mission, but the knowledge we can share about response and recovery operations is invaluable."
The officials were eager to discover the lessons learned by the people directly involved in the immediate response following the largest disaster in United States history and the current recovery focus of the TRO. Topics covered included disaster response communication and coordination, emergency housing, restoration of public infrastructure and the National Flood Insurance Program.
"We are honored for the opportunity to meet with FEMA staff," said Kozo Aoyama, president of the Urban Policy Institute of New York and consultant who also attended the meeting. "It's a great chance to learn what procedures we can implement for future disaster response in Japan ."
Biloxi was the final stop in a tour of FEMA facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana as the group examined FEMA's daily operations. The delegation included: Goro Yasuda, Counselor for Disaster Management; Masami Watanabe, Deputy Director for Disaster Response Operations, and Koji Matsui, Deputy Director for Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction. Three consultants accompanied the officials: Aoyama, Harumi Yashiro and Yuji Honda of Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd. Yukiko Henninger served as translator for the cabinet officials.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident, initiates mitigation activities and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters and other first responders. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.