Greatest minds in forecasting, natural disaster response converge in Florida

Natural Disaster Expo happening in Miami Beach Feb. 7 and 8

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Innovative thinkers in emergency response and natural disaster preparedness will gather in South Florida for the Natural Disaster Expo next week.

Just about anything that might help forecast, prepare or respond to a natural disaster will be on display at the Feb. 7 and 8 conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 

Leaders at FEMA, NOAA and NASA are among the keynote speakers, along with engineers, first responders, meteorologists, and volunteer groups who respond after earthquakes and tornadoes. The Natural Disaster Expo is broken down into five showcases: heat and fire, earthquakes, floods, storms and meteorology technology, each with experts to share lessons learned from costly disasters.

Antwane Johnson, FEMA Director of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), is among the keynote speakers. He oversees the integration of technology that alerts the public of incoming severe weather, missing children and other lifesaving messaging to communities across the country. It's a massive effort involving multiple other government agencies and working with local and tribal leaders and mobile wireless providers. 

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Johnson spoke to FOX Weather ahead of the conference from the FEMA Technical Support Services Facility. Weather radio noises and blaring alerts are a regular occurrence at the office in Maryland.

"We have various types of technology that would allow us to communicate that information to people, regardless of who they are, where they are, what they might be doing," Johnson said. 

While in Miami Beach, Johnson will speak to attendees about the alerting system toolkit launched with the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Office. 

"The tool kit is intended to assist our state and local partners, primarily those and emergency management and public safety organizations develop their policies, procedures and protocols that would lead to the timely dissemination of information about threats to public safety," Johnson said adding. "It's a very interactive tool that will step them through a number of steps that will allow them to generate all of the artifacts that are needed to build out a comprehensive alert and warning program."

Improving communication with the public is a key theme among the keynote speaks at this year's convention. 

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Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology manager Norman Speicher will also deliver remarks with Johnson about the new phase of emergency alerting. NOAA National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham will talk about developments informing the public before, during and after a tropical system.

He is also looking to learn from others at the expo. Johnson said one of his focuses is finding technology adapted to communicate information to people.

"We have a large population of people who have access and functional needs, and there are many technologies that are out there that can be adapted to meet their needs," Johnson said. "I'm looking forward to that opportunity to talk to technology providers. I'm also looking forward to learning about some of the developing trends in the industry, as well as the potential impact of future natural disasters, emergency response management and business recovery post-disaster."

The Natural Disaster Expo comes after 2021 saw numerous wildfires, devastating flooding and a string of deadly tornadoes in late December.

Johnson said every natural disaster offers a unique set of challenges and a learning opportunity to improve upon responses.

At the expo, vendors that provide every possible type of disaster-response equipment will be there, from water purifying systems, portable bathrooms, temporary shelters and debris cleanup. 

The event happens on Feb. 7 and 8, and free tickets are still available. 

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