Diversity within Emergency Management: A Discussion with the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management

What we’re talking about

Diversity in America has become the leading headline in recent weeks due to events around the country. How diversified is emergency management – and how does that impact treatment and distribution of resources? In this podcast we are joined by representatives from the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management for a candid discussion on equality within our industry. In addition, Tidal Basin CEO Dan Craig will conclude the discussion with a special announcement about a new diversity scholarship opportunity.

The Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management was founded after cofounders Chauncia Willis and others experienced varying levels of racism, bias, and inequality within the emergency management sector. Personal bias can impact how emergency management programs are implemented at the local level, especially for underserved areas. The organization aims to increase community resilience, especially for underserved communities, through diversity and inclusion for equity in emergency management. Tidal Basin CEO Daniel Craig demonstrated a commitment to I-DIEM’s mission with the announcement of a new student scholarship program supported by a donation of $5,000 each from Tidal Basin and from Mr. Craig.

Tidal Basin’s donation will be supporting a new student scholarship program named in recognition of Lt. General Julius W. Becton, Jr., the first minority to serve as FEMA Director from 1985 to 1989. The Julius W. Becton-IDIEM Student Scholarship Fund will support diverse students in the field of emergency management.


(0:02 – 0:32) 

In this episode of Disaster Recovery Roundtable, how is the current climate in our country contributing to the discussion and the need to promote diversity within emergency management? What can be done to encourage students to enter the field? What role can corporate America play? Our guests are from the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management. This is Disaster Recovery Roundtable, a platform to explore, engage, and educate the emergency management community. Our topics are timely and relevant, intended to promote the exchange of ideas and best practices. 

(0:32 – 0:40) 

Now, here’s your host, Greg Paget. And thank you, Steve Henderson. Welcome to Disaster Recovery Roundtable. 

(0:40 – 0:59) 

In this episode, we are examining the current climate in our country and the need to invigorate the discussion for promoting diversity in the field of emergency management. Our guests are from the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management, a nonprofit founded by CEO, Chauncey Willis. We’ll also be joined by advisory board member, Ellis Stanley. 

(1:00 – 1:14) 

Chauncey has over 20 years in emergency management within the local, state, federal, and the private sector, most recently helping to start the Emergency Management Program for the city of Tampa, Florida. She’s also served as the previous president for IAEM Region 4 for the Southeast US. Welcome, Chauncey. 

(1:15 – 1:39) 

Thank you, so happy to be here. And we are also excited to have Ellis Stanley, who has an equally impressive resume. Ellis is the managing partner of Ellis Stanley Partners and has more than 40 years of emergency management experience with leadership positions with Hammerman and Gaynor International and Dewberry, and also serving as a general manager of the Emergency Preparedness Department for the city of Los Angeles, and serving as the emergency management director for the city of Atlanta and Fulton County. 

(1:39 – 1:50) 

Welcome, Ellis. Thank you, Greg, delighted to be here with you today. As we kick off this conversation, let’s start a little bit about the background of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion. 

(1:50 – 3:00) 

What was the catalyst that started this organization? The catalyst for beginning the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion and Emergency Management, IDM, as we call it for short, we wanted a way to address the existing issues that are prevalent within emergency management. And these issues and challenges are mainly tied to a lack of diversity, a lack of representation, as well as in many areas, there just isn’t an opportunity to express cultural diversity within our organizations in emergency management. So my co-founder, Curtis Brown, and I, we’ve been recipients of a lot of the discrimination, the bias that exists within the field but also we’ve seen our communities, underserved communities, communities that have been marginalized, we’ve seen where those communities have been impacted by unconscious bias and also by intentional bias. 

(3:00 – 3:47) 

One of the things that I’m sure Ellis will mention as well about me, one of the things about me is that I really want to take action and not just provide lip service and talk about what I’m going to do or what should be done. So we decided to create an organization that would address a lot of these challenges faced by women, by people of color, by those individuals and groups that are typically marginalized within the emergency management enterprise. And so we got together and we came up with the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management as a solution. 

(3:48 – 4:04) 

And Greg, if I could add to that, Tansia is, I think, being a little modest. Tansia was involved as I had been involved with the International Association of Emergency Managers for quite some time. We’ve had committees, we’ve had working groups, offices, et cetera. 

(4:05 – 4:40) 

And there was a lot of talk, as you might understand, in an organizational structure. And Curtis and Tansia wanted to actualize and actually move the needle, wanted to do some things. And that’s one of the reasons that IBM really got kicked off, to take some of the research that’s going on and apply it to the world we live in and actually make people see that there’s opportunities to benefit from the diversity that we live among. 

(4:40 – 4:51) 

So she’s being a little modest. She put all that talk into action and they created a fantastic organization. Thank you, Ellis. 

(4:51 – 5:28) 

I appreciate that. From an implementation point in emergency management, why is diversity so important when you’re trying to manage a program at say the local level or a regional level? For my 44 and a half years in emergency management, one of the things I’ve learned is the way you make your job successful is actually know your community. For 40 of those years, 30 of those years, most emergency managers would get their job and they probably never leave the office. 

(5:28 – 5:49) 

They would never go into the field. They would never understand the culture of their community. They wrote plans based on what they had learned in school, what they’d learned in the books and not really bring a round table and that round table being the whole community together to understand the good and the bad of the community. 

(5:50 – 5:54) 

And I shouldn’t say bad. It’s not a bad. It’s the community. 

(5:54 – 6:21) 

Understand the community in a way that you understand when somebody object to something, why are they objecting? And it could be that they’re only offering alternatives to a solution that you think you had. So it’s important that we understand how different cultures receive information. It’s important that we understand how different cultures process information. 

(6:22 – 6:44) 

It’s important that we understand what actions people are gonna take and how are they gonna get that information to take those actions. So it’s a needed tool to be able to move emergency management forward in the future. And I would completely agree with that. 

(6:44 – 7:21) 

I think the field of emergency management is missing an opportunity, which I’m hoping at this point, they’re starting to realize that we actually have a moment in time where we can create real change. Our communities are not as resilient as they could be. And that lack of resilience is perpetrated, is fostered by a lack of diversity, inclusion and equity in emergency management. 

(7:22 – 8:05) 

When we have structural systems of injustice, structural racism, when we’re dealing with the issues that may be uncomfortable to talk about, we have to understand that each of us carries with us a certain level of bias. And so when we don’t address these issues, we apply that bias to our decision-making. And when you’re a local emergency manager, as Ellis said, you need to know your community so that you can develop policy and programs specific to that community that will enhance their level of resilience. 

(8:06 – 8:44) 

When you’re biased in your decision-making, when you are not addressing the issues of bias and racism and whatever level of bias you want to mention, our communities suffer. And those communities are typically the ones that are the most vulnerable. And so it just creates a cycle of under-resilience where the resilience quotient is very low. 

(8:46 – 9:01) 

And we don’t want to continue that cycle. We want to interrupt it and increase community resilience, particularly in our underserved communities. The way to do that is through diversity, inclusion and equity in emergency management. 

(9:02 – 9:25) 

Both of you have experience working for both the public sector and the private sector. Is there a difference from one or the other when we look at diversity and the need for diversity within emergency management? You know, you can look at that a number of ways. A lot of the disaster recovery firms lack diversity and they don’t appear to be that inclusive. 

(9:26 – 9:59) 

I’m hoping that our organization will assist in providing some perspective on hiring diversity and creating inclusive cultures. In the private sector, you know, I think there is a lack of diversity because it’s not required. And I would like to really see that when you’re working in diverse communities, you’re providing diverse people to perform those services. 

(10:00 – 10:33) 

I think that really impacts the way the outcome is received within the community. So the difference that I can see would be that, you know, private sector firms are much more straightforward. You don’t see as much overt racism or gender bias, but I’ll tell you this, I’ve had my share of experiences with discrimination and bias in the private sector. 

(10:34 – 10:44) 

Stay with us when we come back. We’ll continue our discussion on promoting diversity within our industry. And a little later, we’ll hear from Tidal Basin CEO, Daniel Craig, with an important announcement. 

(10:44 – 11:00) 

Stay with us. You’re listening to Disaster Recovery Roundtable, available on your favorite podcast provider and on our website at tidalbasingroup.com. And now back to your host, Greg Paget. And welcome back. 

(11:00 – 11:24) 

We are talking with members of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management, CEO, Chauncea Willis and Advisory Board Member, Ellis Stanley. And Chauncea, you were about to tell us about an unpleasant experience that you had while working as a consultant in emergency management. I can remember working in Albany, Georgia on a public health contract many, many years ago. 

(11:24 – 11:43) 

And I had trained a team and brought them in. And I got a call from Virginia and they said, Chauncea, the client said not to bring the colored girl back. Well, the team that I had trained and brought down there was a team of white males. 

(11:44 – 11:54) 

And they said, we only wanna work with the guys. We don’t want the colored girl to come back. So here’s a situation where I’m managing a team. 

(11:54 – 12:08) 

I’ve trained the team. I’ve done everything I can do to make sure that the client has what they need. And all they see is the colored girl is interfering in their ability to work with these white males. 

(12:09 – 12:20) 

Why is she here? Get rid of her. So that’s just one example. There is a significant amount of discrimination and bias. 

(12:20 – 12:43) 

And it comes in all forms because it is just that way. It’s pervasive and it must be addressed. And the reason that that happened was because there was a lack of support from my company, but also there was just a lack of comfort with dealing with diverse emergency managers. 

(12:45 – 12:57) 

Well, Greg, I also wanted to talk about the government side of things too. And it kind of depends on where you are. When I was in Georgia, Georgia is a right to work state. 

(12:57 – 13:39) 

So as the leader, I had the opportunity to build a diverse team easier than I did when I was on the West Coast where you’re not only protected by civil service, but you’re protected by strong unions. However, I was able to build a diverse workforce by grooming people and having them prepared and able when opportunities presented itself. So there’s always limitations, but you also have to be crafty, I guess, enough to know how to do the things you need to accomplish the tasks you want to accomplish. 

(13:40 – 14:25) 

And foremost is to build a team that reflects your community. So there are private sector, you can hire fire easier in most cases than you can in government, but it’s that individual that has to be dedicated to changing the paradigm, dedicated to having a diverse workforce, dedicated to building a whole community. As we look forward, where do you think we need to go next? What needs to happen? From a short-term perspective and looking further down the road. 

(14:26 – 14:52) 

I think this is an opportunity for a major reset, if you will. It’s an opportunity for us to look at advancing racial equality and adapting and re-imagining the new operational environment that we live in. I think the goal would be advanced racial equality in the university in the process of adapting these new changes. 

(14:53 – 15:18) 

Recognize the positive roles and the value of equality in the university. And I don’t think people understand what you mean by when you say the value of it, because we’re all better when we all come together. We have to take advantage of this window of opportunity that COVID and the bigger dialogue of racial disparity has been placed upon us. 

(15:18 – 15:25) 

We really have to take advantage of that and use that move forward. Great points there. Thank you so much. 

(15:25 – 15:43) 

Now stay with us. When we come back, we’re gonna have a special announcement from Tidal Basin Group CEO, Daniel Craig. You’re listening to Disaster Recovery Roundtable, available on your favorite podcast provider and on our website at tidalbasingroup.com. And now back to your host, Greg Paget. 

(15:44 – 16:04) 

And welcome back to Disaster Recovery Roundtable. This episode, we have been evaluating the current state of diversity within emergency management, especially considering the current climate in our country today. Our guests have been CEO of the Institute of Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management, Chauncey Willis, an advisory board member and pioneer in emergency management, Ellis Stanley. 

(16:04 – 16:22) 

We’re now joined by Tidal Basin CEO, Daniel Craig, with a special announcement in recognition of our guests today and the work that they are doing in promoting diversity. Thank you, Greg. Chauncey and Ellis, our company has a long history of supporting the communities where we work, including in areas impacted by disasters. 

(16:22 – 16:53) 

Through our Tidal Basin CARES program, our philanthropic efforts have supported initiatives around the country. And as we remain committed to those efforts today, we are announcing our support to the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management and your mission in increasing representation of women and people of color in emergency management. To demonstrate our commitment to your cause, Tidal Basin is pledging an annual donation of $5,000 to support the scholarships for students with diverse backgrounds seeking career paths in emergency management. 

(16:54 – 17:32) 

In addition, I am personally donating $5,000 and challenging my fellow CEOs of other disaster management consulting firms to match my donation. This 10,000 annual donation is a small way of saying, thank you for your organization and its role in ensuring everyone has a seat at the table in this great profession that we serve. Finally, we wish to recognize the significant achievements of Julius W. Becton Jr. This scholarship will be named after Lieutenant General Becton in recognition of his accomplishments as the first minority to serve as the FEMA director from 1985 to 1989. 

(17:32 – 17:46) 

We hope the Julius Becton Jr. Scholarship Fund will provide the resources to help minority emergency management students achieve their career goals. Thank you. That is fantastic. 

(17:47 – 18:00) 

Oh my goodness. I thank you so much, Mr. Craig, for your generosity. The Institute is proud to say that we are committed to helping students from all backgrounds achieve success. 

(18:01 – 18:32) 

And we believe that this donation towards our scholarship fund will enable a deserving student to achieve that success in the field of emergency management. Dan Craig, this is Ellis Stanley from the advisory board. And I would be remiss not to accept graciously your kind generosity and to thank you for paying it forward, looking at what our future can be. 

(18:32 – 18:53) 

And if you and I now can collaborate to get all the other companies that we know that do the same thing, I think we will move the needle forward and we will help change the world that we live in. Thank you so much. You’ve been listening to Disaster Recovery Roundtable, a platform to explore, engage, and educate. 

(18:54 – 19:10) 

For more information on this episode, visit our podcast page at tidalbasinggroup.com. You can download previous podcasts, learn more about the programs we discussed, and suggest a topic for a future episode. You can also find us on your favorite podcast provider. This has been a Tidal Basin production. 

(19:11 – 19:11) 

Thanks for listening.