Disaster response in a new setting: a classroom
The second deployment to Alabama helped solidify her calling to disaster response. “I saw that the logistical side of things could be a much broader path, and I realized ‘I want to know what path that is,’” she said.
After returning from Alabama, Nina researched options for finishing her undergraduate degree and landed on the Homeland Security Studies program at Tulane University in New Orleans. A few months later, she finished her second service term in the WCC and headed off to Tulane University.
After a deep dive into emergency management curriculum — including an in-depth study of the effects of Hurricane Katrina — Nina moved back to the West Coast and secured an emergency management coordinator position with PeaceHealth, a hospital system based in Vancouver, Wash.
She put her experience and new degree to use, building an emergency management program for the two hospitals in Southwest Washington. A year and a half later, a colleague from the hospital emergency management field contacted her about a management position at Providence Health & Services in Portland. She hopped on the phone to learn more, and a month later, started her emergency manager position.
Expanding her skills, with a nod to AmeriCorps service
Nina’s team at Providence St. Joseph Health is in charge of emergency management plans for six hospitals and more than 100 clinics and acute care centers. Typical projects include developing full-scale exercises to demonstrate preparedness, including staff training, and building a disaster equipment cache for the region she serves.
She also develops protocols regarding how hospitals manage medical and trauma surge capacity — when patients occupy all beds and services might need to be scaled up to meet the demand. To prepare for mass casualty incidents, Nina designs and leads exercises like “15 ‘till 50,” where the hospital has 15 minutes to prepare to receive 50 incoming patients.
Looking back, the days of waking up at 6 a.m. to meet her WCC restoration crew in Renton provided pivotal experience along her vocational journey.
“In school, and more so now, I found that I knew what I was talking about because I had done it. Applying for jobs and school, I could say I had two years’ work experience in this field, in a supervisory role,” she said. “That was absolutely a leg up in the job market.”
Fast forward to 2019: WCC deploys to Iowa
On July 8, 2019, 10 WCC AmeriCorps members and three crew supervisors deployed to Fremont and Mills Counties in Iowa, to support communities after devastating flooding in spring 2019. Members are spending the month assisting homeowners and operating a disaster response center. Keeping safety a top priority in summer heat, teams are taking turns hydrating and resting, and donning protective Tyvek suits to conduct mold suppression and remove water-damaged material from affected homes.
Five of our WCC crews are designated disaster response crews, though any crew has the potential to deploy. Our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) provides disaster services in Washington and beyond, assisting communities after fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, oil spills, and more.
Apply to WCC today
Do you want to gain hands-on environmental experience, build your résumé, and make a difference in your community? WCC is currently recruiting for the 2019-2020 AmeriCorps service year! Learn more and apply online: www.ecology.wa.gov/wcc.