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'Some unbelievable training': Macon-Bibb emergency management office attends international conference

The team went to the International Association of Emergency Managers conference last week in Savannah.

MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb County's emergency management department went international last week when they attended the International Association of Emergency Managers conference in Savannah.

In an emergency, seconds matter. The EMA office knows that well, so when things are calm, they look toward the future with some of their teammates worldwide.

"Setting up professional standards is something that we're working on," said EMA Director Spencer Hawkins. "This is just a great opportunity for us to get some unbelievable training from some great industry leaders."

At the conference, they learned about hurricane tracking, communication, and even self-care. Mental health was another big focus area. One of the newest topics at the conference was on the technological side.

"Several sessions on cybersecurity. There were several sessions on misinformation and disinformation, and how that can have a negative impact on what we're doing," Hawkins said.

Moranda Guy, the agency's administrative officer, went to the conference for the second time. She said this year's featured workshops more helpful for Macon-Bibb. Guy said her main takeaway is grant funds they can use to help religious groups provide shelter to people who need it.

"We can go through the applying process of applying for these grants. What they can use to help serve in a time where you might have evacuees who come in," Guy said.

Guy said they also learned about ways to partner with daycares and other child-care centers to help take the load off parents who work in emergency departments. She said that will be useful if there's ever another situation like a COVID-19 shutdown.

Another main point from the conference is that COVID-19 appears like it's here to stay. Hawkins says they'll work with local healthcare professionals to determine how best to keep people safe during the holidays.

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