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Meet the SMWG Members

Meet the Social Media Working Group for Emergency Services and Disaster Management (SMWG) members.

Dawn Brantley currently serves as the regional special needs planner for the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) in Virginia. She leads the district's 16 jurisdictions in preparing to support individuals with medical needs and functional disabilities during emergency and disaster events. She is also responsible for the Ready Hampton Roads outreach and education campaign which includes the ReadyHR.org website, social media, direct outreach, and public information efforts. Prior to joining the HRPDC, Brantley served as an emergency manager and public information officer for the city of Anchorage, Alaska. There, she used social media for multiple emergency response operations. Her programs to support individuals with disabilities in Anchorage were taught throughout Alaska, received recognition from as far away as the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region III, and have been duplicated in other jurisdictions. In addition to her HRPDC duties, Brantley serves on the Hampton Roads Transit Paratransit Advisory Committee, International Association of Emergency Managers Children in Disasters Caucus, and the International Association of Emergency Managers Special Needs Caucus. 

Mary Jo Flynn is the Emergency Operations Coordinator for Sacramento (California) County Office of Emergency Services where she is responsible for training, exercises, planning coordination, technology and social media. She served as the Emergency Management Assistant Director for the Anaheim Fire & Rescue Department between 2007 and 2015. Flynn has over eight years of emergency management experience including previous experience with: legislative and external affairs; recreation and volunteer management; and film and television development. She has a master’s degree from California State University (CSU) Long Beach in recreation administration, a bachelor’s degree from CSU Fullerton in English Literature and is an Instructor Trainer with the American Red Cross in Emergency Medical Response, Wilderness and Remote First Aid and Lifeguarding and has over 15 years of Lifeguard/First Responder experience. She currently holds a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) credential through the International Association of Emergency Managers and serves as the Chair of the Emerging Technology Caucus. Additionally, she serves as the co-chair on the Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, Virtual Social Media Working Group and is a consultant/trainer with the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center specializing in social media education for emergency managers.

Sarah Gamblin-Luig is the Communications Center Coordinator for the City of St. Louis Emergency Management Agency where she is responsible for public affairs, training, exercise, community outreach, mass fatality planning and serves as the Program Manager for the Community Emergency Response Team. She has been instrumental in implementing the use of social media in the Emergency Operations Center, as well as developing and managing numerous social media accounts for the city. Sarah also serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Emergency Management Association and has recently taken responsibility for managing the association’s social media program. In the past, she has assisted in the development and management of social media programs for the regional AllReadySTL preparedness campaign and BandTogether St. Louis, a local non-profit musical organization.  Sarah regularly participates in conversations on the Social Media in Emergency Management (#SMEM) hashtag and is actively working to increase the use of social media by emergency management personnel across Missouri. In April 2016 Sarah participated on the first ever social media panel discussion at the State Emergency Management Conference in Branson, Missouri. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Webster University.

Cat Graham is vice president of operations and cofounder of Humanity Road. She is an expert at leading large multinational digital response teams and social media exercises. She has contributed to the development of social media exercises for Arizona State University, Samoa Emergency Management, New Zealand Emergency Management, Florida Hurricane Conference, U.S. European and Pacific Commands, and the U.S. Navy. She has also served as coordinator for the Digital Humanitarian Network, a consortium of more than 20 innovative international volunteer and technical community organizations. Graham has deployed in support of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, and Sandy. She specializes in large and catastrophic events including earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, and storms. Examples of social media responses could be seen during recent disasters in the U.S., Philippines, New Zealand and Haiti. She has coordinated social media surge teams for the Maryland Office of Emergency Management, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the U.S. Navy, Chicago Tribune, Standby Volunteer Task Force, AmeriCares, and Tuscaloosa News. In 2012 for Hurricane Sandy, she deployed an award-winning citizen command center, bringing communications and coordination to 40,000 residents of Rockaway, New York.

Amy Greber is the social engagement director for the American Red Cross, overseeing the organization’s social media strategy and operations. Her experience with the Red Cross began in 2011 when she became the IFRC’s first social media officer in Geneva, Switzerland. There she focused on building online communications capacity in National Societies and raising awareness of the Movement's global humanitarian efforts. Before that, she worked on AARP's digital team in Washington, D.C., helping to shape the nonprofit's million-member online community. More recently she pioneered the role of social media director on Fannie Mae’s communications team, recognized by PRWeek as In-house PR Team of the Year in 2014.

Brandon Greenberg, MPA, CEM is a doctoral student at the George Washington University studying the intersection of technology and disaster management. He has more than 10 years of experience in emergency response and disaster management. Greenberg is the founder DisasterNet and regularly blogs regularly advises organizations and communities on the synergies between resilience, innovation, and technology. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the New York University Wagner School of Public Service and a graduate certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Public Health.  Greenberg can be found blogging at DisasterNet.co and tweeting @DisasterNet. He also runs the Disaster Innovation Newsletter that highlights innovative technology, projects and research related to disaster management, humanitarian response and resilience.

Alisha Griswold (@Alisha_Beth) is a nationally recognized preparedness trainer and disaster technologist.  She is founder and chair emeritus of the Emerging Technology Caucus for the International Association of Emergency Managers, a DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency- certified instructor for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, and a technical adviser to the Homeland Security Center of Excellence. A vocal proponent for evidence-based practices in her profession, Griswold's research on emergent online platforms has been published by the Journal of Business Continuity and Emergency Planning and in the text book “Disasters 2.0: The Application of Social Media Systems for Modern Emergency Management.” Her work as a disaster response volunteer was featured in the book “Changing the World on a Tuesday Night.”

Tamer Hadi is the Strategic Initiatives Coordinator for the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he is responsible for managing several technology projects that aim improve the agency’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. In 2012-2013, Tamer was responsible for creation and development of a Social Media Monitoring Team that has been integrated into the ICS structure of the agency and used during every emergency response. Over the past 10 years, Tamer has served as ICS Safety Officer (and currently as ICS Liaison Officer) in several agency responses including H1N1, Hurricane Sandy, Ebola, Legionnaires’ outbreak and Zika. Tamer has a master’s degree in Bioinformatics from New York University and bachelor’s degree in biology from the University at Buffalo.

Sara Hudson joined VSMWG in 2012, the same year she designed and launched the City of New Orleans' first-ever social media campaign and preparedness website, NOLA Ready. Two months later, she made history by coordinating messaging and updates to apprehensive local citizens and global audiences during Hurricane Isaac via @NOLAready and at ready.nola.gov. Today Sara is in the middle of managing the massive redesign and re-launch of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital website, and spending every moment not online reading real books, dancing to all the tunes, and spreading sunflowers in places that need happiness.

With more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, Tom Le Veque retired from the Arcadia (California) Police Department in April 2014, where he worked a variety of assignments including patrol, field training, traffic, investigations, Narcotics Task Force, SWAT, emergency operations center liaison and social media coordinator. He spent the majority of his career as a supervisor and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1991. In 2008, on behalf of the Arcadia Police Officers’ Association, Le Veque began his journey in social media. In 2010, his police chief recognized the value of law enforcement participation in social media and tasked him with creating and coordinating official, social and instant communication platforms for the Arcadia Police Department. He co-instructs a basic Social Media for Law Enforcement (SMILE) course offered through the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and has been a presenter or panel member on behalf of the California Police Chiefs Association, California Peace Officers Association, Southern California Public Radio, Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association, Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the SMILE conference series. He has authored and contributed to articles published by the Cal Chiefs News and the ConnectedCOPS.net website. Leveque was also the recipient of the 2014 Centurion Award for Excellence in Innovation, presented by the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County.

Named as one of the top 57 Pioneering Female Leaders in the United Kingdom in 2013,Justine Mackinnon was an airfield manager at London Heathrow airport before becoming heavily involved in the digital humanitarian field four years ago. She is currently the president of Standby Taskforce and coordinator for the Digital Humanitarian Network. Mackinnon works with the Qatar Computer Research Institute on new and emerging technology in the humanitarian space, including Micromappers, Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response and UAViators. She has worked on many worldwide deployments and recently led the Digital Humanitarian Network deployment to the Philippines in response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.

Allison Pennisi is the communications and new media specialist for the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM). She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from St. John’s University. After graduation, Pennisi worked as an online editor and social media manager for business-to-business publications catering to the drug retailing industry, and she co-founded a consumer-focused website that promoted healthy living. In 2012, she joined the New York City OEM, where she oversees strategy, development, and production of print and electronic communications projects, and manages OEM’s website and social media channels, including editing, content creation, scheduling, and interactive features. At OEM, Pennisi leads the agency’s social media committee and also serves on New York City's Social Media Advisory and Research Taskforce.

Lieutenant Zach Perron is the public affairs manager for the Palo Alto Police Department. He led his agency's adoption of social media platforms in 2012 and was responsible for the recent creation of the department's free mobile app. Perron serves on the steering committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group and is currently a visiting fellow at the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Virginia, working on national-level initiatives in its Center for Social Media. He speaks about law enforcement use of social media throughout California and nationally, and has authored articles in national publications on the topic. Perron holds a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Stanford University and is now pursuing a graduate education at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

Steve Peterson works as an emergency manager specialist at the National Institutes of Health. He has specialized in policy development for both the public and private sectors in the area of emergency communications for more than 15 years. He has served two elected terms as vice president and recently president of the Montgomery County Community Emergency Response Team. Peterson has made numerous presentations at the local, national and international levels on the various dimensions of the social media phenomenon. His conceptualizations have addressed both its current state and its unrealized potential to significantly influence the effectiveness of emergency management operations. His career includes working for two large national corporations as an operations team leader and an emergency communication consultant. In 2005, he had the opportunity to provide on-site data communications support involving both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Dr. Purohit is an interdisciplinary, computational social science researcher studying crisis response coordination using social media for last seven years, and an assistant professor of Information Sciences and Technology at GMU. He was one of the eight Young Innovators 2014 for United Nations' ICT agency ITU, for winning an international challenge on Open Source Technologies for Disaster Management, as well as one of the international fellows of USAID, Google and ICT4Peace foundation at an influential humanitarian event CrisisMappers ICCM-2013, UN Nairobi. His PhD research work on intent mining was also integrated into Ushahidi's CrisisNET project. He has presented several talks, lectures, and tutorials on social computing for improving crisis response at prestigious venues as well as published at and served as reviewer for peer ¬reviewed conferences and journals. Read more about Hemant.

Chad Ray is the Director for the Office of Emergency Management in the Colorado Department of Transportation. Prior to this position Chad was the Operations Chief for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the Department of Public Safety. Ray started his career in law enforcement, and reached the rank of Captain with the Kiowa County Sheriff's Office while becoming the agency's lead investigator. During his time with the Sheriff's office, he began studying emergency management courses and added Director of Emergency Management to his responsibilities in 2003. He was deployed to Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and shortly after was offered a position with the state. He was also part of a two-person EMAC team deployed from Colorado to Louisiana in 2005 just as Hurricane Katrina was striking New Orleans. During his career in emergency management and becoming a Type 2(t) incident commander for the Eastern Colorado Incident Management Team (ECIMT), Ray has managed all-hazard incidents such as the Holly Tornado, Alamosa Salmonella Outbreak, Ordway Fire, State EOC managers for the 2008 DNC and SEOC Manager and Operations Chief during the 2012 Fire Season. Ray has also served as the Area Commander during the Blizzards of 2006 in Southeast Colorado. Recently Ray was SEOC Manager for the 2013 Flooding Presidential Declared Disaster over 18 Counties in Colorado.

Battalion Chief Rita Reith is a 21 year veteran of the Indianapolis Fire Department currently assigned to the Media Relations Division. Serving as the Department’s only Public Information Officer for the last 8 years, Chief Reith is on call 24/7 - 365 days a year. In her duties as the PIO, Chief Reith liaisons with other public safety agencies, city agencies, community partners and the 1206 men and women of the IFD whom she proudly represents. Her primary function is to handle the media – making sure that they get both incident and non-incident related information 24/7. Her role includes establishment and maintenance of all social media for the department including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Kik and Periscope. One of her most pressing obstacles is to keep up with the growth of social media outreach as it pertains to both critical incident information and community events. Having spent the majority of her career as a firefighter on the front lines, Reith is certified in all available technical rescue disciplines with the exception of confined space and paramedic. Both her degree in Journalism from IU Bloomington ’85 and the technical rescue training, has enabled her to become an effective educator for the general public - in helping them to understand the complexities of the fire service. Rita is the mother of 25 year old identical twin daughters, Madeline and Morgan, who live in Los Angeles.

Scott Reuter is the project manager for the Clatsop County Long-Term Disaster Recovery Committee and the current president of the Oregon VOAD. He is also a member of the Astoria Community Emergency Response Team and Clatsop County Amateur Radio Emergency Service. His areas of expertise include disaster planning and mitigation for museums and private collections to lessen or prevent earthquake damage. Reuter is involved in all phases of disaster preparation planning, mitigation, response and recovery. He’s active in the Social Media in Emergency Management (#SMEM) and Virtual Operations Support Team (#VOST) initiatives and serves on the International Association of Emergency Managers’ Emerging Technology Committee and the National VOAD Technology Committee. Reuter is also a course instructor for the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center, teaching “Social Media for Natural Disaster Response and Recovery.”

Pascal Schuback is the executive director of CREW, a coalition of private and public representatives working together to improve the ability of communities throughout the Cascadia Region to reduce the effects of earthquakes and related hazards, such as tsunami. Previously he was the Global Travel Security and Information Manager for the University of Washington, responsible for situational awareness, continuity, preparedness and response to global incidents. He is a board member of Crisis Commons, a global network of volunteers who use creative problem solving and open technologies to help people, agencies and communities in times of crisis. Schuback has been involved in numerous other projects, including integrating social media, aiding public safety and disaster response globally, using Virtual Operations Support Teams for incidents, and building a university based global situational awareness tool. He has responded to many emergency incidents and recovery efforts both on location and virtually.

The Honorable Richard Serino spent more than 40 years in public service, during which he provided extensive leadership in emergency management, emergency medical and homeland security at the local, state, federal and international levels. Serino is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard School of Public Health National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. Serino served as the 8th Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 2009 until 2014. Prior to his appointment, he spent 36 years at Boston EMS, ultimately becoming chief of EMS and assistant director of the Boston Public Health Commission. Under his leadership, FEMA launched initiatives such as FEMA Corps, a dedicated unit of 1,600 service corps members within America Corps National Civilian Community Corps solely dedicated to disaster preparedness, response and recovery. He was also instrumental in developing the FEMA Think Tank, a program that provides a transparent way for citizens to speak directly to government leadership and offer their input and ideas. 

Sara Smith is the Social Listening Specialist for the FEMA. She works in the Public Affairs Division where her regular social listening reports are used to provide perspective on the online conversation surrounding FEMA and disasters. In her unique role, she spends all day (and sometimes all night) thinking about how to improve social listening practices before, during, and after disasters to better understand the needs and concerns of survivors and the governments and agencies that serve them. Prior to arriving at FEMA, Sara spent two and a half years as part of the Division of Fusion in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Sara spent her time at Fusion conducting social listening for public health emergencies. While there, she also published research on the use of social media to fill traditional data gaps and the methodology of dynamic social listening search strategies.

She began her career in EMS as a member of the Boy Scouts volunteering with a large county EMS in Florida. She eventually started as an EMT in 1984 and worked her way up to the level of Captain responsible for the Training of all Manatee County Public Safety employees. In 1998, she moved from Florida to Northwest Arkansas to be closer to family. She is currently the EMS Chief with the Washington County Regional Ambulance Authority-Central EMS in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Central EMS serves as the exclusive emergency and non-emergency ambulance for Washington County, Arkansas with over 130,000 residents including the City of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. Central EMS responded to 17,834 ambulance calls in 2015. Central EMS currently operates 10 emergency ALS and 2 non-emergency BLS ambulances with 114 full time employees. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Management from John Brown University in 2013. 

Luke Stowe is the Digital Services Coordinator for the City of Evanston, IL. He has also worked for Lake and Champaign Counties in various web, social media and technology roles. Luke is active with the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) and serves on the Libertyville District 70 School Board. He enjoys the challenges of leveraging technology to make local government more open, effective, and responsive.

Christian Tubbs is the fire chief for the Southern Marin (CA) Fire District. He is responsible for planning, organizing and directing all activities of the fire district. Prior to that he was with the City of Mercer Island (Washington) Fire Department. Tubbs has a 35-plus year career in the fire service, where he has worked in several different capacities as a firefighter, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and deputy chief of operations. He spent 19 years with the Washington State Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team (WATF-1), one of 28 teams in the DHS/Federal Emergency Management Agency USAR System, where he served first as a logistician and later as a task force safety officer. During his time with WATF-1, he deployed to the Oklahoma City Bombing and Hurricane Katrina. He currently serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs Technology Council and the DHS Incident Management Information Sharing Committee. He is a stakeholder in Washington State’s FirstNet Committee, was recently appointed to the board of directors of the National Information Sharing Consortium, and is a principal member on the National Fire Protection Association 950 & 951 committees. He has served as an executive board member of the King County Fire Chiefs Association, is a member of the King County Emergency Management Action Council, an executive board member of the Eastside Public Safety Communications Agency, and has been involved in a variety of regional and local technology initiatives.

Last Updated: 01/12/2023
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