Earlier this week I attended the NENA National Conference and Trade Show in Indianapolis. NENA is the National Emergency Number Association, an organization that strives to see that everyone in America has access to 9-1-1, that the government is aware of the issues affecting the industry and does something about it, and that 9-1-1 professionals receive proper training and recognition in order to provide quality public safety communications to their communities.
I drove three-ish hours from my home to downtown Indianapolis for the conference. The conference technically started Saturday and Sunday with pre-conference courses, but my employer didn’t pay for me to attend any of those. I arrived Sunday afternoon for some late-day events and check-in to my hotel. My room wasn’t ready when I arrived, so I went and checked in at Conference Registration and got my initial swag: a nice small zippered tote/messenger-type bag (big enough to hold my laptop if I so chose), a 9-1-1 rubber bracelet, a NENA pin and a Conference pin, as well as my name tag and lanyard and tickets to various events during the conference. Then I went and signed up for a tour of the Indiana International Airport AOC/EOC.
While I waited for the bus to arrive for the tour, I browsed the NENA sale table. They were selling various styles of shirts from previous NENA events at a discounted price, so I grabbed three t-shirts for my kids and a couple of shirts and a hat for myself. Then the bus arrived and I climbed aboard.
The Airport Operations Center/Emergency Operations Center at Indianapolis International Airport impressed me. State of the art sounds clichéd, but it’s applicable. Smaller in some ways than where I work, but larger in other ways. Nice place. Once the tour was over the bus returned us to the Convention Center. I made my way back via skywalk to my hotel and checked-in, had dinner at the nearby mall, and stayed in for the evening.
Monday I attended the First Timer’s Breakfast, since this was my first time at the National NENA conference. I’ve been to several State Chapter Conferences, but never the National. The breakfast included a presentation giving an overview of the conference and an introduction to the NENA board of directors. The eggs were dry.
The Keynote Monday consisted of a quite long introduction from the NENA President and several presentations of different things, then the Keynote Speaker: Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 “The Miracle on the Hudson”. He spoke about the importance of training. Good presentation. I also spent quite awhile Monday browsing the exhibition hall, speaking with vendors, and collecting swag.
Tuesday and Wednesday held the bulk of the conference activities, with all the different tracks available for various presentations. Some highlights from the different events I attended include:
-A presentation on renewing and reinvigoration your training program.
-A presentation on Europe’s 112 emergency number system and their challenges with new technologies.
-A presentation of the Virtual USA project from the Department of Homeland Security.
-A presentation from Ford about their Sync equipment.
-A presentation from On*Star about Advanced Automatic Collision Notification.
-A presentation on information available to public safety agencies from the Federal Railroad Administration.
-A panel presentation on Training Standards and QA.
-A presentation on dispatching and conducting incidents on or near railroad tracks.
-A presentation on conducting yearly competency verifications.
-A presentation on budget-minded training alternatives.
-The Trade Show itself with over 100 vendors.
-A banquet, an awards presentation, the NENA Board induction ceremony, etc.
I did a little volunteering during the conference as well. Indiana NENA had several times put out the call for volunteers to help out during the conference and trade show, and I offered to help.
I was told the total attendance, including about 800 vendors, and attendees family members was close to 2000. As I mentioned before, this was my first National NENA conference. The last “national” event I attended was PAXEast, which had almost thirty times that attendance, so I was kind of surprised by the “low” turnout. However, I was told that that number is normal.
While the conference was enjoyable, and the networking opportunities great, the one-hour sessions left something to be desired. I’ve attended several State Conferences as well, and have always come away with the same feeling. An hour-long session just can’t, normally, pass along enough information to be really worth the effort, it’s more of a tease (or a sales pitch). In fact, several times the presenters even said “this information is usually in a 4, 6, or 8- hour class but we had to condense it”. Based on that, I think from now on, I’m going to request my employer send me to actual training courses, and avoid “conferences” with hour-long sessions. I might do the pre-conference courses at conferences, those are usually 8-hour classes and the ones I’ve attended previously have been worthwhile.
I didn’t take pictures because I forgot my camera, and I forgot the charger for my cell-phone so I couldn’t use that either. However, Public Safety Training Consultants has posted an album on their Facebook page.
The 2010 NENA National Conference and Trade Show was June 5-11, 2010 in Indianapolis. I had a good time, brought back some good information (and swag), and re-connected with trainers and other people in the business that I haven’t talked to in awhile, but I doubt I’ll be going to these types of conferences again, at least not for the main attractions.