World Games impact much greater than 11 day event

Jim Coker
Jim Coker

Today’s guest columnist is Jim Coker.

Birmingham hosted the World Games from July 7th to July 17th, 2022.

Was it worth the time and expense?

Many folks are celebrating a big victory for Birmingham.

Others are not quite so sure.

What might the impact ultimately be for Birmingham?

None of us really know, but there’s the strong possibility that Birmingham hosting the Games will likely save lives when we face our next natural disaster and it certainly will prepare us for our next high profile event.

I read with interest the two columns ComebackTown published following the Games.

One was positive and the other a bit more guarded because of the unplanned deficit.

I also viewed the comments on social media and the wildly differing opinions expressed on the value of the World Games to Birmingham.

No significant public safety incident

One thing we must note, and certainly not take for granted, is that the Games were held without any significant public safety incidents.

This is a tribute to the planning and training that was conducted over the five years leading up to the Games.

The World Games were last held in Wroclaw, Poland in 2017. The Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency (JCEMA) began planning for the 2021 World Games at that time. COVID-19 caused the dates to be moved to 2022. One function of a County level EMA is to assist with the coordination of training and planning for events; this happens on a frequent basis across the State of Alabama.

The governance for the Jefferson County EMA is the Jefferson County Mayors Association and Jefferson County Commissioners; together these make up the EMA Council. JCEMA is a free-standing County level agency; we report to the EMA Council.

More than 100 agencies–1,600 people trained

I consider EMA a great example of regional cooperation as the EMA staff serves all cities and towns in Jefferson County, as well as the unincorporated areas of the County.

The JCEMA was able to leverage the World Games to bring many types of training to Jefferson County for first responders, communications personnel, public works, health (including hospitals), transportation and members of the private sector.

The training included hazardous materials response, extensive training in the National Incident Management System/Incident Command, and specialized training for Public Safety responders.

The training was conducted at no cost; based on average class attendance 1,600 people were trained in advance of the World Games.

An additional important aspect is the World Games also gave agencies the opportunity to build and refine relationships; this included agencies from local, State, and Federal levels.

The lessons learned would not have been possible without the opportunity to engage at all levels. State agencies (such as AEMA and ALDOT) contributed heavily to planning and operations.

We worked with over 100 agencies of all types to plan and accomplish goals that were established in order to keep all aspects of the World Games safe.

We’re prepared for next natural disaster

I believe that what was accomplished by Public Safety will serve us well the next time we have a tornado, a flood, or another planned event.

The World Games event is now over; the training of first responders will serve Jefferson County for years to come during future events as well as our next natural disaster.

The value of relationships that were built and the opportunities to work together only strengthen our ability to serve our citizens.

Jim Coker served in law enforcement for 35 years, retiring in 2014 when he took the position of Director of the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a Master’s degree from Faulkner University. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a Past President of the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers. He is married to Lynne Coker, and has three adult children.

David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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3 thoughts on “World Games impact much greater than 11 day event”

  1. My experience of the actual games and venues was positive. My family went to three different venues: Protective Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies, Oak Mnt. State Park for wakeboard and waterskiing, and John Carroll HS for Ultimate Frisbee. We were please with how the venues were organized and run. Officials and volunteers seemed to be knowledgeable and pleasant. We would not have visited other venues if the Opening Ceremonies wasn’t so well organized….it made us eager to watch more.

    I am disappointed to hear vendors and musicians are not being paid. Small business owners or individuals can least afford to suffer financially.

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