Five questions with the Authority’s first-ever emergency preparedness manager

On a shelf overlooking Marc Vincent’s desk, there’s a row of hats emblazoned with the insignias of GEMA, NYPD, the 1996 Summer Olympics Police, Lenco Bearcat armored vehicles and the latest – GWCCA Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Vincent,  who was appointed last October as the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s  first-ever Emergency Preparedness Manager, is indeed a man of many hats.

He’s an expert in homeland security, counter-terrorism, weather-related threats and natural disasters, risk management and contingency planning, just to name a few disciplines  – and a devoted runner.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Vincent, who started as a dispatcher and climbed the organizational ladder in the Authority’s public safety department from 1992-2005, before leaving to manage safety and  security operations at the nearby Georgia Aquarium prior to and during its opening. From there, he held various positions at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) beginning in 2007 before rejoining the Authority in October.

“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been close to the Authority,” said Vincent. “The Authority has always been near and dear to me. Plus, it was my quote-unquote first real job. When I came back here, it’s almost like coming home.”

During his first go-round with the Authority, Vincent wore multiple hats, handling crime prevention, emergency management and homeland security, and successfully wrote grants securing more than $1 million for homeland security projects on campus, and authored the organization’s original emergency operations plan.

As we observe National Preparedness Month throughout September, unConventional sat down with Vincent for a question-and-answer session and here are the highlights of that conversation.

unConventional | What does it mean to you to be the first person to hold the title of Emergency Preparedness Manager with the GWCCA?

Marc Vincent | I think there has been interest in creating a position like this for a couple of years, but that did not materialize. But the right set of circumstances evolved. I appreciate the challenge and everywhere I’ve gone – the Georgia Aquarium, GEMA – the position that I took was brand new. I like kind of blazing that trail, being the first to do it  and bringing order to chaos.

uC | It’s a scary world out there, with terrorist attacks happening at public assembly venues across the globe and domestic school shootings; how do we keep our customers and visitors safe, especially at large-scale events with so many moving parts?

MV | I’ve assessed literally thousands of businesses, private and public sector, in the state of Georgia during my tenure at GEMA, and the thing I advocate most is creating a culture of awareness among your workforce. If you can teach people what to look for, and how to respond and how to react during an emergency – whether it be natural or man-made – that’s the cheapest and most-effective insurance you can ever have as an organization. I think people these days, unfortunately, understand that we live in that world. So that’s why I think they are more patient. It  used to be you’d go to a public event and saw guys walking around with rifles, you go “oh my gosh, what’s going on?” But now it’s just very commonplace. We’ve started educating our workforce on what to look for and how to respond during an active shooter event – that’s what we rolled out first. Every Authority employee is going to be exposed to that training and raise that level of awareness.

uC | How did your experience working for GEMA, which is also a state agency, help you transition back to the GWCCA?

MV | GEMA prepared me well for this position because I wore two hats at GEMA. Homeland security and terrorism was my primary focus, but when we’d have a natural disaster, which is most often the case, I’d wear that hat. The threat of terrorism is real, and our campus is a target for terrorism, but the likelihood is much less than us experiencing winter weather, severe thunderstorms, or tornadoes for example.

uC | In your own words, what is emergency preparedness?

MV | Emergency preparedness is a cyclical process of developing plans for the most likely natural and man-made emergencies and/or disasters, training, exercising, evaluating, improving. This process is organization-wide and effectively creates a culture of awareness among all staff members.

uC | What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

MV | I’m a very avid runner. I’ve competed in several half-marathons – haven’t made it to a marathon yet; I’m still training on that. I really, really enjoy running. It brings me some solace, and I’m able to really concentrate and able to develop some strategic thoughts when I’m out there. It’s good for the soul. It kind of grounds me. Having said that, I call myself a runner, but I’m very, very slow. I’ve seen some ladies and gentlemen that can probably walk faster and beat me in these half-marathons. Although I’m slow, I’m still competitive.