Disaster Recovery Summit warns against long term effects of oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Disaster Recovery Summit warns against long term effects of oil


By Elizabeth Vowell – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Workers are cleaning up the most obvious effects of the oil spill on beaches across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but a summit held in Long Beach warned people against the long term effects that aren't so easy to see. 

Around 200 professionals flooded the Long Beach campus of USM Wednesday with questions about what to expect as recovery continues. 

"What are we going to need to do as far as what are people going to need for help? What is the environment going to need for help? How is our entire community going to be affected and how are we going to get that help?" asked Salvation Army representative Shawna Tatge. 

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster Recovery Summit brought together faith-based and non profit organizations to help answer those questions by looking at past disaster recoveries, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

"We're trying to hear from them and discover what the needs are so we can design some kind of strategy to begin to meet these needs," said summit organizer John Hosey.

The summit included a keynote speech from Dr. Steven Picou, who is considered an expert on the Valdez spill by organizers. 

Picou said there are several steps when recovering from disaster. For natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina the recovery steps are Warning, Threat, Impact, Rescue, Inventory, Restoration and Recovery.  However, he points out that recovery from man made disasters is much different. 

"You have [four steps] Warning, Threat, Impact, Blame.  No one can be rescued, and how do we calculate a damage inventory? The damages up in Alaska to the ecosystem unfolded for 20 years and are still unfolding."

Organizers also raised awareness about the emotional stress of the disaster with speakers from Save the Children and Mississippi University Medical Center.

"First of all this is a marathon, this is going to go on for a while. So that means you have to pace yourself. Second of all communities have to stick together.  This has to be a collective long term ordeal." said Picou. 

Hosey said the next step is to assess the needs that were brought up and begin gathering resources.  Organizers said this process will eventually involve all the coast states. 

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