BIG GUNS: The 2012 International Disaster Conference & Expo’s educational component featured 58 sessions, networking events, a Mardi Gras Recovery Gala, and general sessions keynoted by big-name speakers—among them Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Louisiana has never been a state to go by the book. Instead of common law, it practices civil law. Instead of counties, Louisiana has parishes. And its politics are colorful, to say the least. In spite of that unorthodox sensibility (or maybe because
ofit), the Bayou State is also extremely resilient, surviving and recovering from two disasters of epic proportions—Hurri- cane Katrina and the BP oil spill—in just the last seven years. So when the team at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Cen- ter in New Orleans joined forces with Cumming, Ga.–based Imago Productions to produce the first International Disas- ter Conference&Expo (IDCE) this past January, it was some- thing of a perfect storm. Jimmy Mouton, Imago’s president, had tried launching a similar conference at the convention center — the National
“The idea [for co-ownership of the show] was born out of the center’s interest in better controlling its des- tiny in an ultra-competitive market.”
Disaster Reconstruction Expo (NDRE)—in June 2009, with- out success. “Though the goal was to present an event that would bring all sectors of the disaster cycle together in one show (preparation, response, recovery, mitigation), it didn’t materialize in NDRE,” he said.With the show hampered by a lack ofgovernment support as well as the economic downturn, Mouton notified the convention center of his intent to can- cel all future show dates. Tim Hemphill, Ernest N. Morial’s vice president of sales
and marketing, however, wasn’t ready to call it quits. “The [center] believed in the idea of the event as I did,” Mouton said.“We realized there was no show in the industry that cov- ered the entire disaster cycle—fromemergency management and homeland security to first response, business continuity, and resiliency—all factors that come into play during the dis- aster cycle. As we talked to people in the industry, we real- ized that all of these touch points were basically related, but they all had individual, silo shows. There really wasn’t a show for what we were trying to do.”
A Partnership Is Born Hemphill had a plan, as well as the resources, that would over- come the public-sector hurdle. He and Mouton explored a dif- ferent model for the show: co-ownership. “The idea was born out ofthe center’s interest in better con-
trolling its destiny in an ultra-competitive market,” Hemphill said. “We were looking for an opportunity to create a show with a permanent home in a need period, and the subjectmat-