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ODU/NATO Symposium On Hurricane Preparedness Today

With the Hampton Roads region sitting only a few feet above sea level and a potential for hurricanes and flooding, the 2008 Azalea Festival Symposium will take a critical look at all aspects of disaster preparation, likelihood, and response.

The symposium, titled "Katrina Over Hampton Roads: Are We Ready?" is today 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk.

Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation will co-host the symposium with ODU, which brings together military, academic and industry leaders from home and abroad to discuss disaster preparedness in Hampton Roads. In addition to analyses from policy makers and panel discussions with key executives, the conference also will feature workshops in key areas such as water and consequence management, protecting critical infrastructure and emergency response.

Conference speakers include Hon. Jay M. Cohen, Undersecretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security; Hon. Robert P. Crouch, Assistant to the Governor for Commonwealth Preparedness; Prof. Eelco H. Dykstra, M.D., Visiting Professor of International Emergency Management, George Washington University; Jan Franssen, Queen's Commissioner for South-Holland and Chairman of the Netherlands Flooding Management Task Force; and retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, former Commander, Joint Task Force Katrina.

The Hampton Roads area is the home to the second largest port on the east coast of the United States and the largest naval base in the world. The Netherlands, meanwhile, is one of the most low-lying countries in Europe and home to the port of Rotterdam, the largest in Europe. There is a long-standing common interest in this issue between the two regions, and both have experience, expertise and knowledge that can be shared to mutual benefit.

The Netherlands has centuries of experience in flood management and land reclamation, and they have become worldwide leaders and generated a booming industry in that field.

"In that sense, water represents not only a problem, but also an opportunity to the Dutch," said Prof. Eelco H. Dykstra, Professor of International Emergency Management at George Washington University and International Coordinator for the Dutch-American International Centre for Water and Emergency Management. He will be one of the symposium's keynote speakers.

"With a very dense and highly developed infrastructure, the Dutch have become more vulnerable. With 55% of their territory below main sea level, and 60% of the population living in that territory generating 65% of the GDP, the Dutch have had to shift the focus of their flood policies," said Dykstra.

The partnership between ODU and ACT is critical for Hampton Roads and for the Alliance. Bedford hopes the report generated in this symposium will be useful for all NATO nations as well as Hampton Roads and the Federal government.

"Combining what we do here as a university with what ACT has in place with concentrations on international policy and operations makes for a perfect match to bring these forces together to study something as complex as emergency management," said Dick Whalen, director of military activities for ODU.

"I think it can only help us to strengthen ties," said Dick Bedford senior symposium coordinator for ACT. "We're in this together, and it takes all of us to make it successful."

The symposium is by invitation only, but free and open to media. Visitors should enter through the 43rd Street entrance and check in at the registration table. Parking is available in the Constant Center garage, directly across from the entrance on 43rd Street between Hampton Boulevard and Monarch Way. For a complete itinerary and more information, visit the Azalea Symposium webpage on the ACT website: www.act.nato.int

For additional information from ACT, please contact U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Matt Gill at 757-747-3227 or pao@act.nato.int, or for more information from ODU, please contact Scott Lowe at 757-683-6394 or slowe@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: April 15, 2008

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