The Constant World of Emergency Management

Hello! As this is my second blog post, here is a short recap about me. My name is Hannah Goldstein, I am a rising senior at Pitt, majoring in Political Science and Urban Studies, and pursuing a certificate in National Preparedness/Homeland Security. This summer I am interning virtually for the American Red Cross at their National Headquarters in the Resource Mobilization and Support Team.

Throughout my internship I was able to complete a number of networking calls. After my call with Pat Krebs, the head of the Red Cross’s Disaster and Spiritual Care Supervisor, she invited me to join a call with the Red Cross and the National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) about different religions and what their traditions around death were.

The Red Cross functions within the non-profit/humanitarian sector. Although it is not a government entity, it works closely with many departments within the federal government such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Transportation Securities Board (NTSB), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and more to provide humanitarian assistance and logistical support throughout natural and man-made disasters. They also collaborate with many non-profit partners for everything from funding, to feeding, to spiritual care. Since it is an enormous organization, it has a large bureaucratic component as well.

As the disaster world deals with events that are not daily occurrences, individuals working in the emergency management field must have a particular skill set when in the field.

  1. The first of these skills is communication. It is important that everyone be on the same page when everyone is working all over the country in various capacities on different projects. For example, at the Red Cross, every morning at 9 am EST, everyone in National Headquarters meets via Microsoft Teams to go over all the higher-level disasters, as well as regional updates, weather reports, and more. In addition to the headquarters-wide communication, each person in each department receives the same near-constant influx of emails on different topics (such as new positions in Disaster Relief Operations that need to be filled), which keeps everyone in the loop.
Every morning at 9 am I joined the National Synch call where we went over the weather for the day, any new Disaster Relief Operations, and every region spoke about new updates. As you can see, the American southwest is burning!!
  1. The second is adaptability. Since disasters happen all over the country and don’t happen on a 9-5 schedule, it is important that those in the field recognize that their work will not always be on a linear schedule and that they are able to move around to wherever is needed to best support disaster relief operations or the event at hand.
  2. Individuals working in the field also needs to be able to work in a fast moving environment. Particularly on the workforce/response side, responders are needed to be sent to disasters as soon as possible, so although there are large bureaucracies within these institutions, I have learned that when needed, the different departments within the emergency management sphere can work incredibly quickly to ensure all needs are being met.

So far, my biggest takeaway about the work-life balance in the emergency management field is that there isn’t any. Since disasters happen on their own time and the Red Cross functions as a near constant organization, weekends and post-work hours happen, but people working are always “on call.” This can be difficult if workers have children, other needs, or need a break. However, everyone I have talked to says that they go into this work because they love what they do and I think that is particularly inspiring.

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