Author | Joseph Gross
It is one of the most common questions of small talk when meeting someone for the first time, an icebreaker. “What do you do?” is something I am always asked whether sitting in an airport terminal, walking around a conference, or just sitting at the bar.
It is supposed to be a simple question with a simple answer. But if you work in the field of emergency management, you might find yourself in the same situation as me when answering this basic question. For me it starts with a deep breath, then the elevator speech in an interaction that usually goes something like this:
“I work in emergency management, specializing in disaster recovery.” Then, I pause for a second as I notice the other person(s) making that awkward head tilt like a confused dog. “I am a private consultant that specializes in maximizing disaster recovery efforts. My company makes sure David is on even ground with Goliath and the little guy can get every rock off in the fight.”
At this point the conversation can go two ways. Option 1, the person has no clue what I am saying and/or doesn’t care and replies with a quick “oh, ok” and moves on to the next topic. Or option 2, the person is intrigued but is still a little unsure as evident by the lingering dog head tilt. I go on.
“The company I work for, CDR Maguire, is a full service engineering firm with an emergency management division. We offer a wide range of services such as developing plans, designing and implementing exercises, and post disaster recovery services. That’s the part I specialize in, everything from debris operations to infrastructure projects to procurement and reimbursement.
“There are only so many hours in a day, and those hours can be filled quickly in the wake of a disaster. Meetings, documentation, policy, data gathering, and other disaster-related activities get piled on an already busy schedule of day-to-day operations. Entities at the local and state level do not have the capacity to handle their regular 40-hour workweek with an additional 40-80 hour workweek on top of that. This is where we come in. This IS our “typical” 40-hour workweek, and we augment with their staff working side-by-side to lift some of that burden so they can focus their efforts on the more urgent and important matters.”
Now I take my second deep breath because this is my favorite part of the conversation, the part that makes me proud of what I do.
“I am an accountant without an accounting degree, a lawyer without a law degree, an engineer without an engineering degree, a therapist without a psychology degree. I am an Emergency Management Consultant. I wear a lot of different hats, sometimes at the same time, to ensure my client and their community maximizes their recovery – not only fiscally, but emotionally, too. My job is to not only look out for the client’s best interest, but to do everything in my power so their community has all the resources and tools they need to bounce forward following a disaster.”
This is usually the point in the conversation where I would politely stop talking about myself and find out what that person does. If they say they work for FEMA, the conversation is usually over right then and there… kidding, maybe.
No one man can move a mountain. It takes a village to raise a child, and so forth. The same is the case in emergency management. Though my colleagues and I are armed with the tools and industry knowledge to be able to make a split second decision if need be, it takes a whole team to be able to complete a successful project.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not an accountant but CDR Maguire has staff that are certified specifically in disaster-related finances, policies, regulations, and procurement. I am not a lawyer, but CDR Maguire has lawyers and legal advisors for situations that require their expertise. I am not an engineer, but CDR Maguire has teams of engineers on staff. I am not a therapist, but – well actually we don’t have any on staff that I know of – we are trained and have experience as case management workers in assisting businesses, individuals, and families in what may be the most emotional and trying periods of their lives. My role is to be the grease, to help our clients, through the most challenging times with the specialties they need.
Over the past few years, CDR Maguire has grown as a company and as a family. I like to think it is because we can wear so many hats. I like to think we take a family approach like a mom and pop shop, not only for the employees but for the clients as well. I like to think it’s because we are cutting edge, utilizing new technology, innovative approaches, and taking emergency management to new levels, such as the first ever community fragility study. Maybe it’s all of these; maybe it is none. One thing I do know is when I get to that part in the conversation that I tell people I am an Emergency Management Consultant, I have a huge smile on my face because I love what I do and the company I do it for.
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