For our first "Staff Spotlight," we introduce you to Robbie Spears. He's an emergency planner here at EMD with a focus on planning and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Robbie is headed to Texas for two weeks to help his home state recover from Hurricane Harvey. He'll help manage shelter operations and help his fellow Texans recover from this record-breaking storm. We sat down with him to ask about his role at EMD and his deployment to Texas.
What do you do here at EMD?
I work in the Planning Division. I have responsibility for developing and maintaining our City's plans for hazards such as earthquakes, fires, or floods.
A large part of what I do is my role as the City's Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs (DAFN) Sustainment Coordinator. I work with Departments to review their emergency procedures and help them make sure their plans are inclusive of everyone in the whole community.
You're a native Texan -- what does deploying to help with the Harvey recovery process mean to you?
You know, I cant really imagine how anyone could look at the images coming out of Texas right now and not be affected, and its been great to see such a massive outpouring of support from all over the country. For me, it's incredibly personal. I was born in Missouri City, not too far from Sugar Land and within the Houston area. It's a little different when I can look at pictures coming from Port Aransas or Corpus Christi and I see the places I used to go for Summer vacation as a kid completely decimated.
I'm incredibly grateful to Los Angeles EMD and the American Red Cross for providing the opportunity to deploy and offer my skillset. A lot of people came together to make this happen.
How can people in Los Angeles help Texas and Louisiana?
In the last week, I cant tell you how many people I've talked to that have felt so helpless. I'm really lucky that EMD is allowing me to deploy for 2 weeks, but not everyone has that luxury. The thing is, this is going to be a long long recovery measured in years, not weeks. I would encourage people to volunteer with organizations like the Red Cross, to get training now, locally, so you can be ready to deploy in a few weeks or a month if you need to.
If you're going to donate, money is always best because donated items become a logistical headache for the locals to sort and deal with, however there are some good organizations accepting in-kind donations. Just make sure to do your research and go with well-established, community-based organizations so you can avoid scams.
What is one thing you want to see Angelenos do to prepare for disasters?
Something we're seeing a lot out of Houston is neighbors helping neighbors. Dispatch in Houston was receiving 75,000 calls for emergency service between during just two days during Harvey. Their normal call volume is 8,000 calls over 24 hours. We have to be prepared for first responders to be delayed 72 hours or more, which means being prepared to take care of ourselves.
Honestly, the best first step is to get to know your neighbors. In Los Angeles we can get pretty isolated, and so much of what makes a community resilient is the connections we have before a disaster. This is especially important if you have a disability or access and functional need, and might need some assistance during a disaster. EMD can help Angelenos prepare as individuals, families, and communities connect and prepare before disasters, so they can recover stronger after disasters.