LU Moment: Resilience and Recovery Summit | S3 Ep. 13

 

Shelly Vitanza:
Welcome to the LU Moment. Thank you for listening. I’m Shelly Vitanza, the Director of Public Affairs at Lamar University. Each week, we showcase the great events, activities, programs, projects, and people at Lamar University. The Lamar University department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to produce a series of graduate courses on engineering with nature. The aim of the three-course series is to introduce and explore the concept of engineering that takes advantage of natural environmental features, such as using oyster reef for surge protection or marshes to protect from hurricanes.

The engineering with nature course series is taught by members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers both to LU Engineering students as part of their degrees, but also to army engineers or other professionals for career development. In fact, everyone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering is encouraged to take the courses, even those who are interested in the subject but not necessarily pursuing a degree. To broaden the audience even further, all courses will be available in a hybrid model which allows students to participate remotely for the lectures. Pretty cool stuff. I just want to remind everyone that Gladys City Live is April 10th. We talked about it a little bit last week, on the LU Moment. This event gives visitors the chance to experience Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown like it was in its glory days.

So, on April 10th, you can bring the whole family and have fun like it’s 1901. Interacting with characters, shopping and just reveling in the time of extreme economic growth and development. For donations, visitors will receive 1901 money to spend throughout the city to purchase bandanas in the dry goods store, coffee samples from TexJoy and candy in the general store, ice cream, etc. and it’s just going to be a lot of fun. Of course, there are going to be reenactments, so visitors can witness scenes indictive of Gladys City in the middle of the boomtown era and we’ll just get a sense of what life was like during that time when oil was discovered at Spindletop. It’s a great history lesson for kids but be sure and bring the entire family. It is free. It’s April 10th from 10am to 2pm. The gusher will go off at noon and at 2pm. If it’s hot, you’re going to appreciate that. The Gusher is just water. Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown is a replica of the boomtown that grew up around the Spindletop oil field in the early 1900’s. It’s located on the Lamar University campus at U.S. 69 and Jimmy Simmons Blvd. So, check it out. It’s going to be a great day and aren’t we ready to have some events outside of our home and get out with our families and enjoy something different?

Okay, a group of multidisciplinary researchers from Lamar University is hosting the 3rd Annual Recovery and Resiliency Summit on April 9th. The virtual events features speakers from varying fields and welcomes all of southeast Texas to participate. This years’ summit is themed Recovery and Resiliency Summit: Recovering and Growing as a Community and we are going to focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters and catastrophic events. Organizers are here today to talk to us about this event. Dr. Jim Mann, associate professor of LU’s criminal justice program and Paul Latiolais, director of the Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship. I’m sure I mispronounced that.

Paul Latiolais:
It’s close enough.

Shelly Vitanza:
Alright. You guys are co-coordinators of this event and bringing it to LU virtually. We’ve of course, done this in person before, but we are going to do it virtually. This is our second year and related to recovery and resiliency, disaster after disaster, but let’s talk about the real purpose of this event and really the benefit of continuing such an event.

Jim Mann:
Last year, we focused on lessons learned from hurricane Harvey. Since Harvey, we had talks on Imelda, toxic chemical explosions, the winter storm and the global pandemic.

Shelly Vitanza:
Yeah, the hits keep coming.

Jim Mann:
Our focus this year is recovering and growing as a community in spite of past and future adversity.

Shelly Vitanza:
Got it. Benefits of an event like this? What do we really gain from getting together and talking about these things?

Paul Latiolais:
I think there’s many different people involved. There are government leaders, there are health professionals, there are people doing research. There’s been a lot off development since the last summit to learn more, not just at Lamar University, but across the country, different organizations that really help us target better events. It’s the view of what’s happened so far. Really, more importantly, it talks about what’s in the future. How do we prepare for the next one? A big key to this is resiliency. So, uh, it’s devastating to go through some of these. We’ve been hit really hard, but at the same time, we have to look forward. It’s a big part of our life. I think we’ll have a better sense of confidence if you know what to do, what’s being prepared, and have some insight as to where to go to when an event is coming.

Shelly Vitanza:
I think a lot of us would just like to live in denial, thinking, this is not going to happen again, ‘we’ve had hurricanes now it’s somebody else’s turn or there’s a cycle and it’s only going to happen every ten years. We just don’t know, and we need to live in a place where we are prepared, and we can happen any moment.

Paul Latiolais:  
That’s the key: being prepared and informed as opposed to just not knowing what’s going on.

Shelly Vitanza:
So, let’s talk about the days events. Who’s going to talk? What’s the agenda and can you go through who’s expected to be there and what they’re going to talk about?

Jim Mann:
Well, it’s Jeff Branick and they are going to provide information about how the past storms and other, providing cultural restoration throughout the Gulf Coast. We are going to have a branch of speakers: Beaumont Public Health, National Weather Service, Entergy, Lamar’s economic and recovery, resiliency. We’ll also have people from mental health and social work, so we are going to cover a lot of different ranges of topics that relate to resiliency and recovery.

Paul Latiolais:
In addition, we are bringing in the regional director of the EDA which is the Economic Development Administration. They play a vital role in the recovery aspects: how to get people back into business, how to recover the economy. We’ll be speaking about what’s going on in the bistate region, which is Texas, Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Obviously Louisiana and Texas have been hit really hard with the hurricanes. There’s a lot of things that we’ll be talking about for the whole region. There’s a lot to talk about in our whole region, but we are zeroing in on what’s going on particularly in the southeast Texas/ southwest Louisiana area.

Shelly Vitanza:
It feels right now that we can kind of focus on lessons learned, right? We can kind of look at what went right and what we could have done better and move forward from that.

Paul Latiolais:
Right, we’ve had past speakers and discussions with, right? There’s industry here so if they get shut down, it’s a big issue. Understanding the prediction of weather, when to do the process, what to do and how to protect your employees is really important. So, there’s an even branch through this process as well kind of contributing to the contents of this summit as well.

Shelly Vitanza:
So, we have a panel discussion. What can we expect from that panel discussion? I was really interested to see Entergy on there. One of the things we always deal with is no electricity for extended periods of time. What can we expect from that panel discussion? And this is where I really see members of the community to be interested in plugging in and hearing.

Jim Mann:
Well, Entergy has done a lot to try and prepare for any kind of disaster. There’s so much to prepare for and you can’t stop the hurricane from coming. There’s going to be damages, so they are going to show how they do prepare for it, what their resources are, and making recovery as quickly as possible and provide some confidence in getting up and going again.

Shelly Vitanza:
Got it. Got it. Well, I’m real interested in that panel discussion. I think a lot of people will be. The different disciplines, that’s what I thought was so interesting too. I asked you, Dr. Mann, when we first met, you’re a criminal justice, how’d you get involved in this kind of thing? Why are there so many different disciplines involved in this and what’s the benefit of bringing in all these different characters in our community?

Jim Mann:
Well, natural disasters, they’ve just destroyed a whole range of community resources and I’m speaking for law enforcement. They play a critical role on responding to all kinds of natural and manmade disasters and they really provide a huge humanitarian service role during a disaster. I mean, they’re first responders. They go out and rescue, they reroute traffic around damaged areas. They do damage control and recovery centers. Do you know their routine? Things like picking up groceries and supplies and deliver them to areas that are unable to get them. They also will provide communication and other resources to areas that don’t have those resources, like radios and responders. They provide a huge role in terms of providing services for the population.

Paul Latiolais:
I see your point. There’s a variety disciplines here, so Jim did a great job of talking about law enforcement, which is something we forget about until it happens but there’s healthcare issues obviously that happen. There’s preparedness, there’s after recovery, there’s economics that you’ll learn how businesses recover and develop. Again, we try to look at it from both the pre-event, if you will, the event itself, and then what happens afterwards. It takes a whole cost discipline of approaches to understand what to do.

Shelly Vitanza:

Well, that brings me to the current disaster which is the global pandemic and healthcare in terms of (11:01). So, this is going to be a focus of a particular summit. So, tell us what we can expect from speakers who are going to be talking about it.

Jim Mann:
Our overall goal is to provide a center for resilience and recovery and hopefully that would result in a repository of information and it’s going to be available to everybody everywhere and so regardless of what information we have, we can share it with Louisiana, the rest of Texas, and the rest of the nation. Um, we know that New Zealand had a huge problem with earthquakes that had a lot of devastation and their response was to develop a countrywide network of resiliency and recovery. That would be something that we’d love to see again.

Shelly Vitanza:
That’s an excellent goal for this overall event to have a repository of information. It can be shared and possibly be a model for dealing with these disasters going forward. I want to circle back around and talk about the healthcare. I understand that we’re going to have people coming in talking about not only the physical effects of COVID-19, but the mental. I think that is so important because there are residual mental health issues that we are now seeing as a result of the COVID-19 and this day, we’ll bring workers in to talk about that.

Paul Latiolais:
The physical aspect is a natural part of it, but afterwards there’s a whole process of what happens. How do we even process to do this? So, it affects everyone, and I think it’s just important that we be prepared as a community and it’s healthcare workers to deal with that. We actually dedicated two discussion session on healthcare aspects of it, various types.

Jim Mann:
Not only the physical, but also the mental healthcare.

Shelly Vitanza:
Yeah, very important. Okay, who should attend?

Paul Latiolais:
I think anyone in the community obviously should attend. Certainly business owners and leaders, community leaders should be there, I think anyone involved in healthcare, anyone who’s caring for someone, which is a lot of us. I think, really, it’s an informative event. We try to cover a lot of different topics, a lot of different disciplines, but the overall goal is to be prepared and to know what to do after an event happens, how to recover, how to we depend on each other. We have some sources of where to go to help outside of this region.

Jim Mann:
People will be able to call in with questions.

Shelly Vitanza:
Oh, okay, so it’s interactive.

Paul Latiolais:
Yeah, so it’s virtual and interactive. A lot of community leaders will be here and will talk about their perspectives, so I think it would be a great event for anyone to attend.

Shelly Vitanza:
That’s perfect. We want people to register, so you go to lamar.edu and then you can just search recovery and they can register. So, what do you hope people will walk away with, what do you hope people will gain from this event overall?

Paul Latiolais:
I think, definitely a sense of being prepared for the next event and not living in fear of that but knowing what to do and hopefully get some resources of knowing what to do. Be ready for the storm if it comes up, being ready for the events with COVID-19, healthcare aspects, being prepared. You just feel better if you understand what to do ahead of time. I think a lot of us don’t know those resources. This is a way of bringing everybody together.

Jim Mann:
Yeah and providing confidence that you can get prepared.

Shelly Vitanza:
Perfect. We are talking about the recovery and Resiliency Summit: Recovering and Growing as a Community and it’s going to be on April 9th. It starts at 8am. And you can go to lamar.edu and search for Recovery and Resiliency and you will find the registration. It is free. We hope that everyone will join in the community. We appreciate you listening to the LU Moment. I’m Shelly Vitanza, the director of public affairs at Lamar University, the pride of southeast Texas.