Conference Highlights Homeland Security


    GRAND RAPIDS — Nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the Great Lakes Homeland Security Training Conference and Expo in May, where Gen. Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, will be a keynote speaker.

    The May 8-11 conference at

    DeVos Place

    also is expected to draw as many as 150 vendors and exhibitors, said Jackie Hampton, executive liaison to Michigan State Police Capt. Eddie L. Washington Jr., deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security.

    The conference is aimed at local, state and federal first responders, law enforcement and fire department personnel, public health and health care providers, school administrators, emergency managers, and homeland security companies in the private sector.

    In fact, many of those companies will be among the vendors showing off wares at

    DeVos Place, Hampton

    said. Five West Michigan companies and organizations already are signed up as exhibitors, she said.

    Chuck Booth, general manager of Vision Technology International Inc. of Grand Rapids, said he’s interested in expanding into the homeland security market with his company’s video installations.

    “Since homeland security has come more to the forefront, the general public has seen a good use for video, and there’s broader acceptance on the public’s part of the right to have video in a public setting,” Booth said.

    Vision Technologies works extensively with stores and schools, but is looking to market to municipalities that are concerned about security.

    “We’re trying to just generate some deeper market penetration for us,” Booth said. “We feel it’s a good market for us. It takes our strength and moves it to a different venue.”

    In its eighth year, the conference has grown from 75 attendees to the 1,800 to 2,000 expected this year, Hampton said. The Michigan Department of Community Health’s Office of Public Health Preparedness, the Michigan Emergency Management Association and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are co-sponsors.

    “Every disaster starts out as a local emergency or disaster,” Hampton said. “What this conference will do is bring them together to talk about best practices and share information. Ultimately, the goal is that more of the citizens of Michigan be prepared, whether it’s a manmade or natural disaster. Number one, they need to be able to take care of themselves.

    “We host people not only from throughout the state but surrounding states, and we always have people from Canada,” Hampton said.

    Powell served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense, from 1989 to 1993. A four-star general, Powell retired after 35 years in the U.S. Army. He was secretary of state from 2001 until 2005.

    In addition to Powell, attendees will hear from:

    • Dr. David Markenson, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at WestchesterCountyMedicalCenter. Markenson, who worked as a paramedic while in college, is heavily involved with emergency medicine and pediatric emergency medicine at the local, state and federal levels.
    • Capt. Janet Odom, regional emergency coordinator, Federal Emergency Management Administration, for Region V, based in Chicago. Region V includes Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin
    • Pennsylvania State Police Major Jon Kurtz, who was involved in the Amish school shooting investigation last year.
    • Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. James Vance, who will speak on communications. He is an instructor of graduate studies in media relations and leadership communications at the FBIAcademy in Quanitco, Va. He spent 16 of 21 years in the military in national and international public affairs, retiring as chief spokesman and media strategist for the Marines.

    Hampton said other topics include mass fatality planning, preparing for pandemic flu, and personal preparedness.

    Conference attendance is $350. Exhibit space starts at $550. For more information, see on the World Wide Web.        

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