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Disaster Central
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog

John D. Solomon Fellowship POV: Alex Theran

March 18, 2013



My time as a Solomon Fellow has been the most hands-on, practical and educational experience I have had in the course of my training in emergency and disaster management. Since beginning at the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response (OEPR) within the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), I have been asked to contribute substantially to a number of projects across multiple divisions. For my first few months at OEPR, I worked directly for DOHMH planning staff, compiling research, notes and ideas about DOHMH’s objectives in planning for response to threats from biological agents and working with other agencies. I met weekly with senior planning staff, along with my mentor, Erich Giebelhaus, to discuss strategy and overlap between several related projects.

When Hurricane Sandy was approaching New York City, DOHMH had a partial activation, and I stayed late that Friday night to receive just-in-time training and serve as a Desk Officer to the Planning Section Chief who oversaw many aspects of the DOHMH emergency response. Over the weekend and into the next week, my intern colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also fellows) and I alternated shifts in the agency’s emergency operations center. I had the pleasure of working with the amazing women who run the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Well after the subways had been shut down and Zone A evacuation was ordered, we worked late into the evening helping to staff shelters with medical personnel. That night, the head of the MRC offered to drive me home in her personal car. She was incredibly sweet and encouraging, and played the latest album by her children’s rock band all the way back to Brooklyn. I was amazed and impressed at how dedicated and professional this group was throughout the response.

In the weeks after the storm, I was invited into the field to hand out N-95 respirator masks to home owners gutting their houses in the Rockaways. I also acted as a note taker for many hot washes, where members of different ICS sections and working groups described their experiences responding during and after Sandy. At the time, I was just completing my Masters in emergency and disaster management, and it was an incredible opportunity to observe the entire life cycle of this disaster.

Right now, I am working with the OEPR Evaluations group writing post-disaster survey questions and learning about how important data collection is for emergency management. While I don’t wish the devastation that this storm brought on so many people, many of whom are still recovering, I couldn’t have been happier to ride it out with the emergency managers and planners at DOHMH.

I am grateful to the Solomon Family, FCNY, OEM and DOHMH for making these experiences possible for the other Fellows and me.

Alex Theran is a Fellow at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She is enrolled in Metropolitan College’s MPA program for Emergency and Disaster Management, and also has taken FEMA independent study courses, and attended New York State training courses on operations of the New York State Emergency Operations Center.

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Posted by Ali Gheith in Disaster Central. Comments Off on John D. Solomon Fellowship POV: Alex Theran

Ali Gheith is the Director of MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management at Metropolitan College of New York.

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