|October 13, 2009 - Nearly 200 public officials representing cities, counties and other public agencies across Tennessee from airport authorities to power and light companies will be in Knoxville next week to prepare for something they hope never happens in their communities – a disaster.
But, if trouble does arrive, they want to be ready.
The East Tennessee Purchasing Association’s Emergency Preparedness Conference will be held October 14-15, at the Crowne Plaza in Knoxville. The conference is designed to help government agencies get their contracting and record-keeping procedures ready now for a flood, tornado, or even a pandemic in their future.
“We’ve not had a major disaster here, but it could happen,” said ETPA President Linda Crabtree, a senior buyer with the City of Knoxville Purchasing Department. “We just need to be prepared to know how we, as purchasing agents, can support the emergency personnel, like fire and police, and other departments contractually and prevent as much downtime as possible.”
The conference is designed to give procurement officials and administrators a solid base of information about steps they need to take now to have all sorts of services ready to move in rapidly in the event of a crisis.
That’s important, according to Crabtree, because of the confusion that inevitably occurs during the first hours after a major calamity.
“If, for instance, I have a contract for tree removal I can get them in here right away, without having to wait,” Crabtree said.
The keynote speaker for the event is Andree M. Cohen, purchasing director for the City of New Orleans, who will present a program entitled, “Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.”
Other presentations will focus on topics like TEMA/FEMA reimbursement requirements, new legislation and emergency cooperative contracting.
Another subject that will draw a lot of attention is something that people might not think about during the immediate aftermath of trouble, keeping good records.
Crabtree said that solid documentation can save a city or other agency a lot of taxpayer dollars in emergency reimbursements from the federal government for the bills generated as a result of a disaster.
“It’s easy for a city to spend thousand and thousands of dollar and not get anything back from FEMA because it didn’t have a paper trail,” Crabtree said.
She added that no city or other government body is ever going to get reimbursed for everything but they want to get as much as possible to lower the burden on the citizens.
The ETPA, which includes members from cities and counties throughout East Tennessee, is hosting the event. The educational portion of the event is free for the registered public officials thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Tennessee Homeland Security’s District Two office.