Holiday Message from COE -HSEM Co-Chair Curry Mayer

Moving into the second holiday season of a global pandemic and another New Year where there is a good deal of uncertainty, is no doubt not where we thought we would be this year. There are many things this past year that have given us much to still be concerned about for 2022, however, I feel there is also a lot that provides reasons to be hopeful. And at the risk of sounding Polly Anna, let me explain. Throughout 2021, we have seen and felt and understood like never before the power of connection. Being with others and sharing food, or coffee, or conversation is now celebrated and looked forward to (even in meetings!) and is mostly, not taken for granted, or considered ordinary. People hungered for in-person connection during 2020, and many were not able to connect with family or friends or be with loved ones who were sick or dying. That has changed. Even though there are still restrictions on in-person gatherings (mask wearing,
vaccinations, and small gatherings) we are together… savoring every minute and every occasion (even if it is a meeting). In-person experiences are a powerful thing that can change lives, start movements, and bridge differences between people, cultures, and political leanings. People being together has changed the course of history many times. The power of being together is celebrated! As it should be.

Another hopeful thing is that emergency management is being redefined (which is also an important thing). This redefinition will take some time before it is fully realized, however, I believe it will help people not familiar with what we do, understand that we are so much more than preparing for an earthquake, or writing a plan, or teaching a class. (Those are all important.) We are also problem solvers and community builders and we have shown this year the new ways in which we can be tenacious, flexible, and yes, resilient. The Emergency Management profession has an opportunity to expand our focus and show how all encompassing our reach is and how everything, absolutely everything, is connected to emergency management. Communities are resilient when they come together to solve problems and deal with whatever impacts them – and that is what emergency management is all about.

There is a new spotlight on mental health – and this is a good thing. Not just for those who work in public safety, but for everyone. Mental health is about overall health. Yes, we need more providers, and more insurers need to offer mental health benefits, but we are talking about mental health and advocating for mental health for everyone, like never before. Acknowledging that mental health affects the health of individuals, communities, the economy, and the nation. This will lead to powerful, positive change.

Workers rights! Who would have ever thought that a global pandemic would support workers having more power, demanding better pay and working conditions – getting those things! That is what 2021 brought!

So, when you consider COVID variants, the push for more people to get vaccinated, and how exhausted we all are, reread this short list of powerful, positive, hopeful things that happened in 2021. I am certain you could add to the list.

Curry Mayer
Co-Chair HSEM Center of Excellence

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