April 28, 2022 — The future is looking bright for emergency management as female high school students from the five boroughs were welcomed to New York City's Emergency Management Department to participate in its inaugural HERricane NYC program. The program is designed to encourage young women in grades 9-12 to pursue careers and leadership roles in emergency management. Women are underrepresented in the emergency management field but are disproportionately impacted by disasters according to the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management (I-DIEM). HERricane NYC was a weeklong session hosted during school break on April 18-22, 2022, at NYC Emergency Management's headquarters in Brooklyn.
HERricane NYC brought together 16 high school students to explore careers in emergency management while developing their professional and leadership skills, to ensure successful career development. Throughout this experience, participants received hands-on developmental training in personals skills like resume building, confident introductions, personal branding, and networking. The students also learned many aspects of emergency management including, incident command system, moulage, individual and pet preparedness, and much more.
"I joined the program because I thought it would be a good opportunity to see everything — because I love helping people," said Melany Walker, a freshman student at John Adams High School. "My parents help a lot of people. My dad is a firefighter [and] my mom works for the NYPD. And they found out about the program and talked to me about. I thought it would be cool to be a part of it."
NYC Emergency Management was fortunate to partner with members of The Sabeti Lab at the Broad Institute of MIT, Harvard, and The Colubri Lab at University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School to bring Operation Outbreak, a public health outbreak response simulation to HERricane NYC. Throughout the week, the students utilized a mobile application and Bluetooth technology to simulate the spread of a virtual pathogen, culminating with a discussion on the simulation results and public health preparedness with the scientists behind the application.
"I didn't know they were going to give us insight to everyone here and meet important people like the Commissioner and the Chief of Staff," said participant Faith Park, a sophomore at Townsend Harris High School. "I would've never had that experience elsewhere. Another interesting thing is we got to do hands-on activities like making Lego's and building spaghetti towers [for a team-building activity]."
NYC Emergency Management organized lectures that featured guest speakers from NYC Emergency Management and partner agencies, including the New York City Fire Department, New York Police Department, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to discuss their expertise and how it all fits into the emergency management field. The young women of HERricane NYC also met with NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol, First Deputy Commissioner Christina Farrell, and other executive staff to learn about their roles in emergency management.
"Through a multitude of personal and professional development activities, HERricane NYC encourages students to pursue a career in emergency management, while also preparing them for success in any field," said NYC Emergency Management First Deputy Commissioner Christina Farrell. "We are very proud to bring the HERricane program to New York City and bridge the path to the next generation of women leaders in emergency management."
HERricane is a national program by the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management (I-DIEM). Rebecca Baudendistel, director of public warning at NYC Emergency Management, decided to bring the program to New York City after being a guest speaker at HERricane Arlington, which was created by the Office of Emergency Management in Arlington, Va. Although the original launch date of HERricane NYC was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program garnered so much success that it will become an annual event at NYC Emergency Management. There is no cost for students to participate in the program.
"This program resonates with me personally because I wish it existed when I was in high school," said NYC Emergency Management Director of Public Warning Rebecca Baudendistel. "I started my career as a 20-year-old woman and it was daunting, so I am grateful for the opportunity to help other young women find their place in this field. I have worked in emergency management for ten years and working with these students was without a doubt the most fulfilling week of my career."