By Digital Communications Manager, Ashley Henyan
Fresh off her trip from meeting with Red Cross leaders in Singapore and Mumbai, we had the opportunity to speak with Los Angeles Region Board Chair and the Director of Global Crisis Management and Business Continuity for The Walt Disney Company, Andrea Davis, about emergency management, Red Cross volunteers, and her vision for Prepare SoCal.
LA TALKS: First, tell us a little about your experience with the American Red Cross and your role as the Red Cross Los Angeles Region Board Chair.
ANDREA DAVIS: Hands down, serving as Chair for the L.A. Region has been the highlight, not only for my personal volunteer service, but professionally as well. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to host The Inaugural Resiliency Academy, a county-wide resiliency conference that included emergency preparedness professionals from all different sectors throughout the region who had come together to explore ways to make our community more resilient. The Red Cross created the foundation to run with this new initiative and to be able to help lead the charge was the opportunity of a lifetime!
LA TALKS: Part of your job, as the Director of Global Crisis Management and Business Continuity for The Walt Disney Company, is helping to make sure Disney and its affiliates are prepared for any type of emergency, world-wide. What is it about emergency preparedness that you love?
ANDREA DAVIS: Emergency preparedness is very empowering. We certainly cannot control a bad thing from occurring but we can control how we respond and how quickly we can recovery from it. I started working in the field of emergency preparedness in 1999 and the first “crisis” I worked on was Y2K. While the world has changed a lot since then, and the type of crisis I plan for now might be very different, the foundation is still the same. If we invest time in finding engaging ways to empower people to focus on the basics of preparedness, we can change the culture of any organization. Asking simple questions such as, how do I get somewhere safe— inside or outside? How do I communicate when something happens? What resources do I need if there was an emergency situation— physically and emotionally? These types of questions, and even more importantly, the answers to them really move the needle on building a more resilient workforce and better prepared individuals.
LA TALKS: Recently, you had the opportunity to visit some Red Cross offices overseas. Where did you visit and what did you learn?
ANDREA DAVIS: Oh, what an amazing trip! I am totally re-energized and inspired by all the volunteers I met. I even had the opportunity to meet with leadership from both the Singapore Red Cross and the Mumbai Red Cross. It was interesting to see how both offices engaged their respective communities slightly differently. Singapore focused on providing community health resources to the elderly population, whereas Mumbai’s focus was on providing health services to the remote and under-served populations throughout the city. The biggest similarity was the spirit of all the Red Cross volunteers I got to meet. For example, in Mumbai they showed me pictures of a recent campaign they had done for International Red Cross Day, which focused on providing medical services to over 70 homeless children. It was a day-long event where all the children received a free doctor’s check-up and access to other social services. The impact those volunteers made in each of these children’s lives was notable and really showed how the humanitarian spirit of the Red Cross can truly change lives. Now, I need to get myself back on the DAT roster to volunteer in L.A.!
LA TALKS: If there was one American National Red Cross program that you could introduce to other Red Cross offices around the world, what would it be?
ANDREA DAVIS: Well, I am certainly biased to the Disney/Red Cross pillow-case preparedness project but, the program I highlighted to both Singapore and Mumbai was Prepare SoCal. To me, it is hands down the best program for engaging all of a community’s resources and should be the model used to help prepare vulnerable communities for emergencies and disasters throughout the rest of the world.
LA TALKS: You are a role model for many of us who work and volunteer at the Red Cross in Los Angeles. Speaking now to some of our younger volunteers, do you have any advice for someone interested in pursuing a career in emergency management?
ANDREA DAVIS: Thank you, but I honestly think it is the other way around. Our youth volunteers inspire me every day. As far as advice, invest time in figuring out what you really want to do, what’s important to you then, go and get it! Match your passion to your skills, define your brand, and tell your story. The reason I love the field of emergency management is because it is so diverse— you can do operations, preparedness, planning, exercises or public information. The opportunities are endless and you truly have an opportunity to make a difference both at a micro-level (such as helping a family after a home fire) or at a macro-level (by sharing your experiences with the entire world). Something I always keep in mind is, all change starts with one individual who is brave enough to start it!
LA TALKS: Is there anything else you want us to know?
ANDREA DAVIS: Just a huge thank you to all of our Red Cross Los Angeles Region volunteers! You are amazing and thank you for supporting me as your Chair.