Angela Devlen has worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) along with years in the private sector doing business continuity (BCP/DRP). She brings these two passions together in her current roles at Caritas Christi Health Care in Boston and the Business Continuity Planning Workgroup for Healthcare Organizations (BCPWHO). She writes also for the Big Medicine web site.
1. Tell me about you
I’m reminded of my first column for Big Medicine where I shared my response to the editor Hal Newman when he invited me to be a Big Med columnist.
"...as a single mom of a five-year-old girl, working in emergency management in healthcare, with a background in private sector BCP/DRP...but started out as an EMT...not to mention my little side projects such as BCPWHO and gender issues in disasters [there is a feminist hiding not so deep inside me] and my passions for mountains, wine, cooking, gardening...well, one could argue I'm a little scatterbrained. I like to call it passion for life."
I am very fortunate. I make my living by bringing my past experience and my life’s passions together. My latest passion is a venture in which I am joined by a small group of fascinating women that I am very excited to work with. We are working with international partners to address the consequences of disasters and violence on women and their families at the grassroots level-an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Our website launch will be announced soon. Until then, I can be contacted directly by anyone who is interested in learning more.
2. You've been in the emergency management field for 15 plus years. How and why did you get started?
My dad is a firefighter. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I fully realized and appreciated what an impact he has had on not only who I am but also what I do for a living. I was still in high school when I would borrow my dad’s first aid and emergency response manuals so I could read them. By the time I was 16 I was certified as what was then called an Ambulance Attendant (later known as an Emergency Medical Technician) and worked for two ambulance services. I was also involved with the Search and Rescue Team and was a Red Cross Disaster Action Team member.
3. So, tell me about your job, exactly? What do you do?
I currently have the privilege of leading the emergency management program for Caritas Christi Health Care. We have 6 hospitals in eastern Massachusetts. I work with staff across all the hospital departments to improve our level of preparedness in the case of any type of event that results in an emergency affecting the hospital or the communities we serve. This is done through lectures, disaster drills, collaborating with public health and public safety agencies, and documenting emergency management plans. Some examples of the current projects we are working on include pandemic planning, weather related emergencies and hazardous materials events, including terrorist related events.
4. How does being in emergency management as a profession influence your home/personal life? Do you have cases of water in your basement? What advice would you give to us to be prepared?
Being in this profession definitely influences my personal life. I have also benefited from it although it is a combination of my profession and my personal interests. For example, I have a backcountry stove, freeze dried food and a bunch of gear to keep us fed and warm if we lost power for an extended period of time. Having enough water is essential. The Red Cross and FEMA have a document that provides great information on what families need to be prepared. If you want some creative ideas such as using your hot water tank in the event you don’t have cases of commercially bought water, this is the document for you.
I would add that I recognize not everyone has the means to stockpile to prepare for a disaster, I recommend you establish a plan with your family and leverage what resources you do have. I can’t stress enough how important being self-sufficient is to your safety.
5. Should there ever be a disaster (god forbid), how could a blogging network like BlogHer be of assistance?
In 2005 I lost my home to a fire. Since then I’ve viewed the aftermath of disasters differently. While I appreciate and recognize the important work that is done in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, I have found most people don’t realize that the recovery period is the longest and most difficult. It is then, when the media coverage has passed and interest has waned that the assistance is needed most. I certainly would not discourage blogging network from assisting in some way in the immediate aftermath—that is when you’ll get people’s attention. I would however, encourage any blogging networks to assist in such a way that it is sustainable and will extend into the recovery period.
6. I know you're a working parent, how do you balance demanding work like this with child rearing?
The best and worst thing about my work is it is a 24/7/365 type of job. As a single mom I need to be creative. First, my employer is amazing. I have the support I need to juggle my role as a mom with a demanding meeting schedule, whether it is occasionally working from home, doing conference calls rather than face-to-face meetings or bringing my daughter to the office. However, I recognize that privileges are granted based on performance. If I need to be working at 11pm to meet deadlines because I went to work late so I could do something important with my daughter, I am happy to do so. I have been given the tools I need to have that flexibility, so I don’t mind the odd hours. I encourage all working parents to ask for the flexibility they need. You won’t know until you ask. However, the caveat is you need to earn that flexibility and honor whatever agreement you make with your employer.