Dozens of public and private leaders from Charleston, Gulfport, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn., met Tuesday to share information and find ways to make their communities better able to recover from a natural or man-made disaster.
It was all part of a new effort created after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and the city of New Orleans in 2005. The Community and Regional Resilience Institute is a first-of-its-kind effort to help communities prepare for, cope during and recover quickly from disasters. It's part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Southeastern Regional Research Initiative.
Tuesday's conference focused on executive leadership, the private sector, local government and local efforts to improve a community's resilience.
"I think it's the height of arrogance for any community to assume the rest of the United States is going to bail you out after a natural disaster," said Mount Pleasant Town Administrator Mac Burdette, who participated along with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.
Charleston was selected because the city showed resilience in recovering from the 1886 earthquake, and more recently from Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the loss of its biggest employer, the Charleston Naval Base and Shipyard, in 1995.
Gulfport was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, while Memphis is a crossroads located on a major earthquake fault.
Institute Director Warren Edwards said they ultimately plan to create a tool kit that will help communities across the country figure out what they can do to prepare themselves.
"Unfortunately," he said, "we know we will face many more disasters."