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Todd DeVoe  0:00 

Welcome to EM Student and I’m really excited to have well Irene Conforti with me today. And I’ll tell you why in a minute. But I know we’ve been kind of hinted at some stuff. So I think this is an exciting day Irene Welcome to EM, student.

Irene Conforti  0:15 

Thank you for having me, Todd, I’m really excited to be here.

Todd DeVoe  0:17 

So, one of the things I always ask all my my guests is, how did you get involved in emergency management? And I think with you, especially here on the student show, I think it’s a really cool story. So why don’t you tell us your, your journey to where you’re at today?

Irene Conforti  0:32 

Sure. So I actually started my journey into emergency management by sort of the desire to work in local government, in Southern California when I finished college at the famous Cal State Fullerton, and go to Dayton Exactly. And unfortunately, I really didn’t find the kind of work I wanted to do and local government at the time, and I ended up doing insurance, which, you know, risk management is very similar to emergency management. But there are a lot of differences, clearly, and I really, I knew that I wanted to go to DC, I had done an internship program called the Cal State DC scholars, that got me out to DC as an intern when I was in school. And I knew that there were a lot of opportunities in DC and I got a job as an administrative assistant in DC with a consulting firm. And, you know, while I was doing the front desk type of work, I ended up also doing some of the project side of emergency management and I was doing a contract with FEMA, which at the time was called lessons learned information sharing. Now it’s called lessons learned and continuous improvement. And I am really grateful for that. I’m currently, you know, getting my Masters of Science, an emergency services administration from Cal State Long Beach, I’d like to note that I’m in Washington, DC, completing my degree online. It’s been about five years in the emergency management, disaster space. And I’ve mostly done it as a consultant for the federal government, primarily with FEMA, but I’ve also consulted for a few local governments and transportation infrastructure authorities as well. I’ve been really grateful for the opportunity, and I’m happy to be here on the program.

Todd DeVoe  2:29 

So what drew you to emergency management? I mean, right now, you’re having a lot of people when they’re in high school, saying, When I grow up, I want to be an emergency manager. How did you get drawn to this profession?

Irene Conforti  2:43 

Sure, so like I said, I was doing administrative assisting. And I saw the kind of work that my peers were doing. And it seemed like really meaningful work. And I think that if you talk to anyone who is in emergency management, they will tell you that they have a sincere interest and desire to make it easier for lives and property to be protected. And that’s a goal of mine. I think that one of the things that really drew me to the profession is that it’s meaningful work. And I think that there’s an intrinsic value in that. And that’s one of the reasons why I am interested in pursuing my masters in it, I want to continue to work at it. And there’s there’s always sort of a need to to gain best practices and look back at lessons learned so that the next disaster that happens, we’re a little bit better prepared.

Todd DeVoe  3:43 

Yeah, that’s always our goal to make sure that we’re better prepared for the for the next one. You know, I one of the concepts I really embracing and I’m teaching at Cal State Fullerton is the concept of disaster resiliency and the and the Resilient Cities now really kind of disappointed this week, to read that the Rockefeller Foundation is moving away from their 100 resilience.

Irene Conforti  4:06 

Yeah, I read that too. That’s really unfortunate.

Todd DeVoe  4:09 

Yeah, but I think it’s something that we should as emergency managers definitely embrace. And I think that’s something that we should be teaching, especially at the Masters level, you know, that the concept of the policy that should come through for cities, but, you know, well I digress a little bit. One of the things that I think is exciting, though, is that I interviewed Kelly McKinney, the author of The Moment of Truth. And Kelly, was, is on the board of directors for a Emergency Management High School in New York City. What do you think of that?

Irene Conforti  4:41 

That is phenomenal! I didn’t I didn’t know that. That’s really cool. What is that emergency management high school about?

Todd DeVoe  4:48 

It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a high school, where the kids are going to school, learning normal stuff, like math and English and whatnot. And then they concentrate on public safety and emergency management. And then, you know, I think it’s kind of cool. And with New York City, New York State, I mean, with, with their commitment to merge management, by creating a program at SUNY Albany, for emergency management, I think it’s pretty progressive there and that aspect of it, and I think we’re going to see some cool thought leaders coming out of New York, I’m hoping California can catch up to that.

Irene Conforti  5:23 

Right. And I think that it, it does speak to the EM student side of this podcast to just say that, you know, we’re always lifelong learners. And I think that there are, there’s a value in, in learning and in training, and that’s something that, you know, always been pushed by FEMA, whether it be in the Emergency Management Institute, EMI, Maryland, or the Center for domestic preparedness. And as you know, the AMA, having students as young as high schoolers getting interested in it is a phenomenal idea. And I think that it shouldn’t wait until the Masters level four people to realize that this is a career path. And it’s, it’s a valuable career path. It’s, it’s something that just like, you know, the dream to grow up and be a police officer to be a firefighter, all of all of those professions are, you know, valuable and amazing. And we need those, we need to value those those people in our communities as well. But you can also be an emergency manager similarly, and, and having it sort of structured as a profession to go into from the age of high school students is is really phenomenal that that sounds like a really interesting program that I’d love to learn more about.

Todd DeVoe  6:38 

Yeah, I think so too, and try to get the principal of the school on for sure. So a couple things here coming up. So I kind of teased it in the beginning of the of the episode, and I think it’s time to announce what do you think Irene I think? Let’s do it. Okay. So, as you guys know, I started the student podcast last year. So it was something I really was passionate about. But unfortunately, due to some things going on in my life, time commitments got in the way and we kind of put it on hiatus. And Irene reached out to me, and we’ve been talking and so she wants to get some more to management like we discussed and, and her but a few things I think are really there. And I said, You know what, I think we should have a current Emergency Management student, not just a professor, a current Emergency Management student in there. And I asked Irene if she would be the new host, the student and she accepted so Irene This is going to be your show that is your show. And I’m going to hand over the reins to the EM Student Programs Irene right now so Irene Welcome to your show.

Irene Conforti  7:43 

Thank you so much, Todd. I really appreciate it. I am so excited to be the host of EM student. And, you know, I still say definitely go out and listen to you know, EM weekly. There’s a lot of emergency management heavy hitters and current topics emergency management. But the EM student podcast, it’s going to be for anyone, obviously, who is a student of emergency management, but also anyone who is growing their career instructors, educators, professors, both in academia and in, you know, the professional certification programs, like EMI and the Center for Domestic Preparedness, the International Association of Emergency Managers as well. The podcast is also for anyone who’s seeking to enrich their emergency management background. You know, it’s really open to anyone who wants to learn some of the basics of emergency management, or anyone who’s sort of tangentially related to the field, let’s say first responders, urban planners, people who are interested in sustainability, servicemen and women, I’d love to hear from, you know, current and future elected officials who prioritize public safety. And I want to welcome any folks from anywhere, in any walk of life in any industry, because the more people who are interested in awareness of emergency management practices that are prepared, you know, our community, your family, the businesses will be as a whole. So welcome one and all to the very first EM student podcast with me is your host.

Todd DeVoe  9:15 

So I’m excited about it too. And I think that you’re going to, you’re going to do well, and I’ll always be here for you. So if you ever if you ever need me to come back on the show and talk to anybody, I’d love to come back on every once in a while. But I definitely want everybody to know that this is Irene show for sure. And I’m in the background, helping out a little bit here and there. But it’s definitely her show. She has some like really great ideas of what the direction of what the show is going to look like and sound like. You know, we’ve been talking here for a few months now and going forward and doing some interviews and whatnot. So, I know that there’s some cool stuff that’s coming around the corner. And also we’re not getting ready to announce this yet. But Irene and I are working on an initiative right now that’s going to be I think it’s going to change some some stuff here with emergency management and not change the profession, but the view of the public to what Emergency Management sounds like and what it looks like what do you think, Irene?

Irene Conforti  10:12 

Yes, I’m really excited. And I just want to really thank you and our production team for helping me get set up with this, because I’m really excited to have the opportunity to to host the program. But I’m also really excited about all the efforts that we’re doing to sort of formalize emergency management as a profession.

Todd DeVoe  10:32 

Yeah, I think that’s the I think I’m excited about that, too. Is that the formalizing part of it? That’s awesome. What do you think that your focus might be in the next say, you know, few months for the for the podcast, you want to share that?

Irene Conforti  10:47 

Yeah, definitely. So I think that my focus will be to have some folks who are sort of at the forefront of working toward a more sustainable, resilient community, in emergency management and in other disciplines that are related to emergency management and having sort of their take and their thought about the progress that we’ve made in emergency management and where they view Emergency Management going in the future.

Todd DeVoe  11:20 

That’s great. That is great. So outside of the podcast, what else are you working on?

Irene Conforti  11:27 

Definitely. So like I said, I’m getting my masters in emergency services administration from Cal State Long Beach. I am also a an animal foster with City Dogs Rescue/City Kitties here in DC. And I am pretty avid at yoga. Believe it or not and, I really enjoy that. And that’s, that’s kind of my story. That’s, that’s where I’m at right now.

Todd DeVoe  11:54 

Yeah, I need to do some yoga. I’m a little… I’m the opposite of limber. Not quite a stick.

Irene Conforti  12:01 

Right.

Todd DeVoe  12:03 

That’s cool, too. And I know that you’re renewing some, some writing as well. And so we’re going to see some of your pieces coming out here shortly, I suppose.

Irene Conforti  12:10 

Yeah, definitely. I really do enjoy writing. And I really enjoyed collaborating with you on on some of the writing and editing that we’ve worked on as well.

Todd DeVoe  12:20 

Yeah. And they always say there’s a book inside of you. And I think we’re working on doing some I wouldn’t call it a book, well maybe will be a book, but we’re definitely doing some some working on some leadership stuff for new emergency managers, huh?

Irene Conforti  12:34 

Yep, definitely. I’m excited about that. And a lot of the leadership ideas that you have really interest me and I’m excited about.

Todd DeVoe  12:44 

I think one of the the big points of the what we’re working on right now is the informal leader, right, because as when you first come out of school and you join an organization, you might not think you’re a leader, but but you really are, especially when you’re emerging management, and the communities that are looking towards you for decisions and ideas. So, so don’t forget, just because you don’t have the official leadership title doesn’t mean that you’re not a leader. So that’s, I think that’s the big concept that we got there.

Irene Conforti  13:14 

I definitely, definitely agree. And I think, also, it’s one of those things where when you’re a student, you might not have that perspective that you’re a leader, but you can ingrain leadership, ideas and principles into your everyday life and the way that you behave the way you interact with people. And it will end up translating into your professional life as well.

Todd DeVoe  13:39 

Yeah, I agree. What do you think? What do you think defines that? The informal leader?

Irene Conforti  13:46 

Oh, that’s a great question. I think that the informal leader probably have a lot of principles and integrity within themselves. That, you know, they hold themselves accountable. And they lead by example, because you might not necessarily have the title of “manager”, but, you know, if you show up and, put in the hours and put in the time and effort, that it really will end up being visible and will be a demonstration of leadership.

Todd DeVoe  14:25 

It’s good answer. So I know this is your show, but I’m still going to finish my interview with you. The  question I always ask during an interview. And if you’ve listened to any of the EM weekly podcast, you know this question. So what book, books, or publication do you recommend to somebody in the field of emergency management?

Irene Conforti  14:47 

Well, there are a ton of books in emergency management. And I always recommend Kathleen Tierney, and James Lee Witt as some authors that have some really fabulous publications, but one that I’m reading right now is by a gentleman named Jacob Green, and he has a new book called See Change Clearly: Leveraging Adversity to Sharpen Your Vision and Build Resilient Teams. And I think that that’s a really great book. And it’s, you know, not a difficult read, but a really profound, insightful read. So, I think that that’s one that I would recommend to people.

Todd DeVoe  15:28 

Yeah, Jacob Green. He’s been on the show before, and he’s also an emergency manager. So maybe, maybe we should get him on on the student show. What do you think?

Irene Conforti  15:36 

I definitely think that’s a great idea, Todd.

Todd DeVoe  15:39  

All right. Okay. So, here is the last question. Right? If you could speak to all the emergency management students in the world at one time, what would you tell them?

Irene Conforti  15:52 

I would tell them to find your niche because Emergency Management has a lot of generalists, and lot of specialists, but look, look to what your passion is that the industry itself needs more of you and is excited to have you and, you know, whatever your passion is, whether it be GIS, geography, you know, fire systems, floodplain management, any, any specific type of work that you have, and that you bring to the table. That’s a skill that we need, and we’re excited to have you as, you know, the EM student populace.

Todd DeVoe  16:33 

That’s awesome. Well, I was about to say thank you for being on my show. But thank you for letting me host your show today.

Irene Conforti  16:41 

Well, I am so happy to have you, Todd as my very first guest and I really appreciate all the encouragement and help that you provided to me along the way. So thank you, and thanks for listening to EM student and please feel free to share this podcast with a friend.

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