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At HERricane Arlington, girls call emergency response shots.

WHEN picturing the current face of emergency management, it is easy to imagine a workforce that is overwhelmingly white and male. Now picture the future of the field. In Arlington, Virginia, leaders are working hard to develop young women, particularly young women of color, as the future leaders of emergency management.

In its inaugural year, HERricane Arlington is a local day camp for teenage girls to learn the ins and outs of emergency preparedness, management and leadership. For a week in June, 24 girls worked toward the professional development, teamwork and stress management skills they can use not just in the emergency management field, but in any career they choose, said Lauren Stienstra, MS, CEM, senior manager for policy and research for Arlington County and the camp's organizer. By introducing young women to the field, Stienstra said she hopes to address its gender imbalance: Thirty-eight percent of emergency management staff are women; just 8 percent of directors in the field are women.

"This is a career not a whole lot of people know about and not a whole lot of people appreciate," she told The Nation's Health. "(Camp) is important for young women in the field, but also for the profession as a whole."

Buoyed by support from volunteers and inkind donations at the local, state and international levels, with local schools and businesses, as well as the American Association of University Women providing help along the way, HERricane Arlington tackled everything from personal preparedness to crisis communications, from incident command systems to public health and natural disasters. More than 60 adult volunteers and staff were on hand to help with popular challenges, including an Iron Chef-style cook-off with nonperishable food items from an emergency supply kit and a social media competition to see whose safety public service announcements got the most likes, shares and views on the county's channels.

The 24 campers also learned how to use fire extinguishers and participated in a community damage assessment exercise. Given a scenario of a derecho rolling through the county, the campers worked together to assess and map the damage of the storm, as well as calculate its financial toll on the community and present their findings at a mock press briefing, Stienstra said.

Though camp was just a week long, HERricane Arlington events will take place each month throughout the year. The girls will come back together for additional training in psychiatric first aid, volunteering and an escape room. The more the campers attend post-camp events, the more they qualify for prizes, including a college stipend. The post-camp events are called "the aftermath," Stienstra said.

As the camp aimed to improve gender parity in emergency management, it also aimed to improve diversity within the field. Stienstra noted that Arlington County officials helped to market the camp in vulnerable communities, which are disproportionately affected by disasters. Campers who needed financial assistance to attend camp were also given subsidies to make sure they had access to training. This improved the racial, religious and economic diversity of the camp overall, she added.

With testimonials from campers, their guardians and professionals in the field, Stienstra is hopeful that other communities can take the HERricane Arlington curriculum and use it to encourage local girls to pursue emergency management and invest in the future of the field. She will be presenting on the camp at the International Association of Emergency Managers annual conference later this year.

"From its inception and its naming, we have designed this for export," she said. "I hope there can be a HERricane Houston, Los Angeles, Norfolk."

And even if the campers who attended this year's HERricane Arlington do not pursue careers in emergency management, Stienstra says the camp still shows success. She said she believes the campers will take the skills they developed throughout the week and embody those values for the rest of their lives.

To learn more about the camp, visit https:// departments.arlingtonva. us/oem/herricane.

Caption: Attendees at HERricane Arlington learned the ins and outs of emergency management at the weeklong camp, designed to get girls interested in the emergency management field.

Photo courtesy HERricane Arlington
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Title Annotation:STATE & LOCAL: Issues at the state and community levels
Author:Wahowiak, Lindsey
Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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