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Podcast: Emergency Management Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Podcast featuring Leischen Stelter, Managing Editor, Edge and
Dr. Kevin Kupietz, Faculty Member, Emergency & Disaster Management

In this episode of In Public Safety Matters, Dr. Kevin Kupietz, who has spent more than 30 years working in emergency management, discusses his role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as a member of the National Disaster Medical System.

Learn more about the unique challenges facing emergency managers during the response to the coronavirus outbreak, the importance of all-hazards training and preparation, and what lessons can be learned from the response so far.

Dr. Kupietz, who has been teaching Emergency and Disaster Management master-level courses for decades, also discusses why it’s so important to have a diverse group of professionals working in emergency management because they bring different skill sets and interests. He also gives advice for people considering a career in emergency management in light of all the changes in the field over the last decade.

Listen to the Episode:

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Read the Transcript:

Leischen Stelter: Welcome to the podcast In Public Safety Matters. I’m your host Leischen Stelter. Today we’re going to be talking about the emergency management response to the COVID-19 outbreak and some of the unique challenges that it poses for the nation and those working on the front lines to mitigate the magnitude of this emergency.

Today my guest is Dr. Kevin Kupietz who is a faculty member at American Military University teaching master-level courses in emergency and disaster management. In addition to teaching, he has also been a firefighter and paramedic for more than 20 years and is involved with the National Disaster Medical System. Hi Kevin, welcome to In Public Safety Matters and thank you for joining me.

Kevin Kupietz: Hello, I’m glad to be here and I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Leischen Stelter: Me too. I know that you are very busy these days and I want to talk to you a little bit about what you’ve been up to in terms of helping with this emergency and disaster response. I just want to set the stage for our readers that we are recording this podcast in early April, so it’s been about 10 weeks since the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a global health emergency.

While people like myself are isolating in our homes, Kevin, I understand that you have been actually deployed twice now and I was hoping you could tell us just a little about the National Disaster Medical System and your involvement in the emergency response to this.

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Kevin Kupietz: Yeah, the National Disaster Medical System, also known as NDMS, has been around for quite a while. What they do is they respond to national level disasters. They’re a part of Health and Human Services, and they’re under ASPR, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness in that department. So typically our responses are going to hurricanes and earthquakes, so the Katrinas, the Sandys, the Harveys, the Haiti earthquakes, things like that.

There are other missions that the organization does as well, such as, now they’re doing quite a few different missions for the pandemic that’s going on right now. The organization is made up of medical professionals from across the country that are organized into teams. The members are actually intermittent employees of the federal government.

So they’re actually USERRA covered. Just like the National Guard, we do our normal job at home and then when the government decides that they need extra manpower then they call upon us to do that. We have the ability to ship out and be self-containable for at least 72 hours and then we have our own supply routes that we supply.

So the whole idea is when we do deploy to a mission that we are not a burden on the society or the community that we’re going to, but instead we are actually there to help. By being self-sustainable, that’s very important part of that piece.

Leischen Stelter: So can you tell our listeners a little bit about your recent deployment, how you have been helping to quarantine some folks and help the medical system deal with this influx of patients?

Kevin Kupietz: Sure. So to begin with, the idea was that we were going to go ahead as a country, we’re going to try to isolate those people that were potentially infected. To begin with that was the individuals that were in China, especially in the Wuhan area. Most of them being State Department employees and other people that had to be in that area.

Then the mission kind of migrated it to the cruise ships that had positive passengers on board. The original idea was that if we could go ahead and isolate these as the sources, we could minimize the spread of the virus to unaffected people. So what we did is, we actually went in and help do the wraparound services for these individuals to make sure that they were still cared for and had a quality of life to them while they did their 14-day isolation in different parts of the country.

Leischen Stelter: Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what you mean when you say wraparound services?

Kevin Kupietz: So when a person’s in isolation, when you do mass isolation like this, you’re talking about hundreds of people at one location. It’s not just as easy as one would think for daily activities. For example, getting the living conditions ready for the population to come into. To make sure that they have the things such as soap and toilet paper and all that stuff.

But then while they’re in their 14-day isolation, we need to make sure that they get food, they get water, they get the other things that they need, including medical attention. That they’re having their temperature taken twice a day, that when they need to be swabbed or sampled for the potential virus that that’s actually occurring too.

Kevin Kupietz: One would think that that is all pretty easy. In normal situations it is. If we’re going to feed 500, 1,000 people in a normal mass casualty, for example, we pull up a food truck, we cook everything right there on the trailer. Everybody waits in a line for their food. They get their food, they go on about their way.

It’s a minimal effort compared to when you talk about isolation of people. Even in the feeding process of isolating people, we don’t want them to congregate. So now we’re actually having to take the food to the individual rooms. In order to do this, to protect our responders from getting infected from these diseases and passing it on not only to themselves but to the people that are around them when they come out of the isolated area.

They’re in full PPE, or personal protective equipment, while they do this. A lot of this work is done with manual labor because we want to minimize how much stuff that we’re actually taking in that we have to decontaminate later. So something that becomes what we normally think as simple operations, such as providing three meals a day, becomes a lot more complex and labor intensive.

Leischen Stelter: The logistics around just trying to, like you said, feed these people and help them with their daily activities seems like it was a major undertaking and that it was very difficult to learn as you went. Is that something that as you started this assistance, that you really had to figure things out as you go?

I know you train. I know this entity really trains on a regular basis. But like you said, they often train for hurricane response or things that are a little more quote unquote “typical disasters.” What was it like to kind of learn as you went in your response to this event?

Kevin Kupietz: Well, we’re very fortunate in the fact that the first responders that our country has are some of the most dedicated to brightest people that you can imagine. But when you start talking about an organization like the National Disaster Medical System, I’ve been graced with the presence of the smartest and the brightest and the most dedicated of the best that are already out there.

So people just jump on a challenge like this. So yeah, it is a little different when you talk about you have paramedics and you have doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and all of a sudden they’re asked to deliver food and it’s something that we’re not normally used to. Then when you start talking about the devil is in the detail, it’s really easy to say, well we want you to go out there and provide feeding for these people or we want you to pick up the trash for these people or deliver packages.

Kevin Kupietz: The devil’s in the detail when you start going back and looking at how do I actually do this while maintaining the safety of the responders. The safety and the integrity of the passengers or the customers that we’re actually trying to protect. How do we do this and maintain the best quality of life and the best customer service possible?

It all becomes a challenge and luckily we’re talking about a group of people who love challenges like this. They love doing what they do and they love to help people. So that makes it all come together regardless of the hoops and the challenges that are presented in front of us.

Leischen Stelter: I like that approach, just thinking of it as a challenge and how are you going to figure it out as you go. I think it makes it both engaging and there’s that element of, I don’t want to say exciting because you’re dealing with people who are ill, but from an emergency disaster response perspective, you’re really learning new ways and new procedures to go about this.

I like that kind of approach and I’m very glad that you and the others are up for such a challenge. So I wanted to ask you a little bit about preparedness, to talk about some of the training and exercises and drills. I know that you participate in those every year, probably multiple times a year. Can you just talk about from a big perspective of emergency and disaster management, how do you train and prepare for something like this?

Kevin Kupietz: Well, we try to train in generalities. So we call it All Hazard Response and Emergency Management. So the idea is that we don’t just train for a fire. We just don’t train for a hurricane, earthquake, whatever. That we try to keep as many of the principles common as possible.

So the command to control structure, the incident command system that we use, ICS or the National Incident Management System, or setting up an EOC, the Emergency Operations Center, in a community. We try to do these in similar ways regardless of the incident or the event that we’re dealing with so that it becomes common practice to us.

Now when it comes to actually dealing with specifics, then again you were talking about the devil is in the detail. We have to go back and figure out those specific incidents. So for example, right now with the coronavirus, one of the things that we’re seeing is that we’re seeing people talk about the fact that this is a new thing, that this is something we’ve never seen before.

Kevin Kupietz: But the truth of the matter is that most places have a plan for how to deal with a pandemic. At the end of the day, that’s what this is. It’s a pandemic. Just like H1N1 was, the SARS was, Avian flu was and just like who knows what the next one is going to be two years, three years, five years down the road.

As long as we continue to train for the generic of that pandemic versus I want to train for an H1N1, it may be I never have another H1N1 event come back up or another Avian flu event come back up. At least I have the general so that I know about how to go to attack the issue that’s threatening my community at the time.

So that’s where preparation comes into play. We would love to think that we’re all prepared, but I think that sometimes when we actually encounter events like this, there are things that we see that we say, well, I wish we would’ve done this or I wish I would’ve done that before it happened.

Leischen Stelter: I think that’s also a really great point for a lot of civilians like myself. It seems like this is the first time something’s happened. Obviously nothing has happened to this scale before, but from the emergency and disaster response perspective, you have seen similar pandemics in other parts of the world that maybe have been not hit the US like this has.

I’m wondering, and I don’t know if it’s kind of too early to say this or if there’s anything from past pandemics that you can point to in terms of lessons learned. Do you think that there’s anything we could have done better that you’re already very aware of? Or is it really going to be when this thing all kind of hopefully wraps up in the somewhat near future to point to things that should be done better next time or in the future?

Kevin Kupietz: Well, I certainly don’t want to be the Monday morning quarterback because it’s always, hindsight is always better than foresight. In emergency management, we like to talk about the lessons learned from a positive aspect. What did we do and how can we make it better, rather than to focus on who did what that caused us to be in this situation.

I think as long as we always focus on the positive end of how we can make it better for the next time, I think that that is much more constructive. The thing that I feel personally that we have to make sure that we look at not only with pandemics, but every disaster that we go through, every emergency that we go through is do we actually take those lessons to heart? Do we actually maintain those things that we say that we’re going to do?

Kevin Kupietz: The great example right now is anytime you look at social media, you can’t talk about coronavirus without talking about toilet paper for whatever reason. So does that mean that in the future, that all these people that are trying to stock up on toilet paper now, does that mean that they will have a consistent stockpile of toilet paper for any event or disaster that happens in the future?

Or two years from now, they’re going to forget about it and only have in the home what they need for that particular week? So preparedness is a responsibility for everybody. I’m not a huge history person, but in emergency management we have to understand our history and understand the fact that these type of events and disasters are going to reoccur.

Did we really learn from those things or are we going to be like, well, my grandpa used to say the definition of silly was doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. So that’s kind of my philosophy on the preparedness aspect of it. We always have to be prepared.

Leischen Stelter: I’m glad that you brought up the responsibility of individuals when it comes to preparedness. Because I think that’s a really important message that it really is up to individual households to make sure that they’re prepared to be at home for a certain amount of time.

It’s also important for individual and local communities to make sure that they have the resources they need for something like this. Can you talk a little about some of the educational components? How FEMA and other emergency management agencies have really tried to educate the public about preparedness and how important it is?

Kevin Kupietz: Yeah, absolutely. This is kind of my soapbox issue. Is that FEMA, through programs like, the local fire departments do a lot of training. The state merchant management’s always do a lot of training. There’s tons and tons of things out there for people to look at. How can I be better prepared?

How can I be better educated to be able to help myself, my family, and my neighbors in the event of a disaster or an emergency even? Typically these things go without notice until the time comes that we actually need to do it. I just looked at the CPR rates, for example, cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Kevin Kupietz: To me, that’s a skill that every individual should have because every one of us is susceptible to have a heart attack. We know that there’s only two things that save lives in the event of a heart attack, and that is how fast someone starts doing chest compressions on that individual and how fast we have an automatic external defibrillator in AED to help that individual as well.

So the numbers actually tell us for every one minute that we delay our response for doing chest compressions, that person’s chance of survival decreases by 10%. We know the same thing for the AED after 10 minutes. If we can’t shock a person within 10 minutes of the arrest, then their chances of survival decreases by 10%.

But when we started asking around, how many people can actually do CPR if they had to right now, and where is the closest AED to you as you listen to this podcast that you would be able to get to somebody within 10 minutes of a heart attack to be able to try to save their life?

So I think this is a huge issue that we need to be having national discussions about. The information is out there. We know most of the correct answers to this stuff. It’s just a matter of going from the point of theory and knowing, to the point of actually doing it saving.

Leischen Stelter: I think that’s another really great point. This pandemic is obviously opening a lot of eyes from individuals to communities to states and the federal government about what it really means to be prepared and what we need in terms of whether it’s healthcare equipment to toilet paper, which I also just do not understand why that happened. But as you pointed out, something to kind of consider when it comes to preparedness and supply chain and all those things for another similar type of emergency.

Leischen Stelter: I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about some of the potential communication challenges. I don’t know if this is something that you’re either involved in or have read about. But do you think that this kind of incident has improved the way that all these different agencies and levels of government communicate with one another? Does it either highlight a lack of communication or maybe how much improved communication has been since big emergencies like the Katrinas and the Sandys and all that?

Kevin Kupietz: I think it’s done several things for communications. The first thing from the emergency response world, I think it’s opened our eyes more to the fact that we know that we have to have alternative ways to communicate amongst ourselves when we’re dealing with an incident like this.

So traditionally when we stand up an IMT, an Incident Management Team, to go into an area and help manage all of these resources and these incident management teams right now, were very numerous and in many cases they’re very, very large as far as how many people it takes to run an incident of this magnitude.

Kevin Kupietz: So typically what you’ll have happen, let’s say for example in Puerto Rico there was a couple of hundred people that were sitting in a room together helping to make all the decisions to be able to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. All of these people were within a foot or two of each other.

The idea was that if one person needed to get up, stand up, go talk to somebody else, face to face, that was actually saving communications time. But now what we’re dealing with the coronavirus, one of the things that we’re seeing or is being brought to light is the fact that in these environments we’re actually being able to pass whatever germs or viruses or bacteria’s might be out there to cause an issue.

In the responder world we always knew that we had what we call it, the responder crud. The responder crud is when you put a bunch of people in the same room together from all across the country, somebody was going to bring in some cold or flu or something that other people didn’t have that had the potential to make us rouse.

Kevin Kupietz: So it’s really kind of interesting now to see that we’re worried about coronavirus and we want to try to minimize this and maintain our social distancing. Do we need to be running these incident management teams more virtually now using the technology that’s around us for communications?

Where we can actually still communicate real time, but we can actually be doing this from other locations than all being in this one room? Now, another aspect of the communications that I see is of course the fast social media responses that we have. Which in some cases is really, really good because we can get messages out there fairly quickly to people.

But we need to make sure that these messages are clear, they’re concise and most importantly they have to be correct. So we’ve heard a lot of this in the last couple of years about the fake news and stuff like this. But each and every one of us has to look critically at everything that we see and that we look at to make sure that when we are paying attention to this that it is actually taking on the right context.

Because there’s so many headlines out there, there’s so many social media posts right now that could actually lead someone down a path that could be dangerous to them or could cause issues for them or their family. So communications is huge and I think there’s been positives to this and I think there’s been possibly some negatives that we have to go back and look at and say, how can we do this better next time?

Leischen Stelter: I think it’s really interesting because when I think of emergency management, and obviously I don’t have any level of expertise compared to what you have, but I always think of communication is one of the biggest challenges. But it’s often because during a hurricane, infrastructure is physically destroyed. Cell towers don’t work.

It’s very hard to communicate with people. But in this case, in a pandemic, nothing’s been destroyed. But like you said, communication is still challenged because the processes that you had in place to help with communication in many disaster situations, is actually more dangerous in terms of passing along this virus.

So I think that’s a really, really great point and I hadn’t thought about that as being kind of a unique challenge to communication. So thank you for pointing that out. I wanted to talk to you too. You obviously have been in this field for a long time. How long have you been in emergency management?

Kevin Kupietz: I’m always afraid to answer that question. Because it kind of alludes to the age thing there. I tell everybody I’m only 29 years old, but that makes my youngest daughter who’s in her thirties really upset with me. So yeah, in the civilian world I’ve been doing this since the early ’90s. Then I have military time before that that I was doing this in.

So there has been a lot of changes, a lot of things that we look at. I’ve actually been contacted by a lot of different agencies and organizations because of the role that I play within the university systems. My past roles of school directors, firefighter, paramedic and stuff like that. We have a lot of students within our system right now.

They’re actually looking at this and they’re dealing with it. So we actually have students that are in charge of first responders in different places around the world that they’re having to look at this and deal with it. The network that we’ve established through the university systems and to going to different schools and programs like that has been really immense.

Kevin Kupietz: When you have people that call you up and you haven’t heard from them in three years and they say, look, I’m in Italy and this is what I’m having to deal with right now. Do you have any suggestions? So when you talk about communications, that’s something that wasn’t there 20 years ago.

To be able to have that kind of networking to go along with. Call people up and say, hey what are some ideas that I can do with this? What do you think about this? Is this a good idea or is this a bad idea? So going back to the communications piece, I think because we do have much more readily available communication access that that’s actually become a positive for us.

Leischen Stelter: I agree and like you pointed out earlier, it’s not necessarily a matter of being able to communicate in different ways to people. It’s making sure a lot of that that information is accurate and is giving them the best information that they need in that time. But real time communication is amazing.

I IM people. I can call people. I can text them. There’s a lot of diverse ways to be in touch. But I’m glad you brought up the student element to this because I know you’ve been teaching for a long time as well. I wanted to just ask you, based on your long career. For students who are considering a career in emergency management today, could you talk a little bit about the skills that they need and things that they should focus on as they pursue a career in this field?

Kevin Kupietz: This is a great topic and again, another one of my soapbox type of issues. Emergency management has changed so much in the last five to 10 years. So the past of emergency management was, traditionally you had that ex-firefighter, ex-police officer that was looking for a second career, became the emergency manager.

They kind of knew everybody. They kind of knew the response world. But today the emergency manager has to be a lot more diverse than just that. The modern-day emergency manager has to understand the relationships, which the older school emergency management, that was their bread and butter. I tell my students all the time that the whole idea of emergency management is about building relationships and keeping those relationships.

Kevin Kupietz: We want to build those relationships before the incident actually occurs so that we can better utilize them during the incident. But the new emergency manager has to be somebody that is very diverse, has different perspectives. I tell people all the time that if you tell me what interests you in this world, what makes you happy, what makes you smile, what makes you laugh, I promise you that I can find you a job in emergency management doing just that.

By that I mean that we have people that need to be very computer literate, to be able to work on the most modern of modeling programs. To tell us where the water’s going to flood, where the pandemics are going to go. We need people that are good with people to be able to go out there and explain to them how they need to be able to fill out their recovery paperwork.

Kevin Kupietz: How to be able to find the right assistance to their needs that they have. We need people that like to talk in front of people. We need people to go out there and do public education so we can do prevention. We need those people that are good at solving problems. So when they look at a river and they say, wow, that river looks pretty.

But what if that river crests at 30 feet, how do I protect this business and this industry behind me? Ten years ago we thought that pretty much the only people in emergency management were going to go work for a county. They were going to go work for FEMA. Maybe they were going to go work for their state emergency management organization. But that’s really not true.

I think this pandemic is actually showing that we need to have emergency management professionals in every organization. That might not just be their primary job, but they need to be able to talk about how do we keep our business alive. FEMA says that between 40 and 60% of small businesses go out of business when they are confronted with a disaster. Here in this pandemic, pretty much every small business in the country is being affected.

Does that mean that we’re going to lose up to 40% of our small businesses? I hope not. Because that’s 80% of our jobs in most communities. So we need to be able to have emergency management professionals that can actually think about how do we still operate the mom and pop pizza joint down the road so that they can still work through this pandemic.

Kevin Kupietz: How do we make sure that they have a legitimate supply chain so they can work through the hurricane that might shut their doors for two weeks. But they still need to be able to make money to be able to make payroll, to be able to keep people working. At the end of the day, emergency management has a huge obligation to maintaining the economics of the community.

Because without a good economy in the community, then the community’s going to suffer immensely. So it’s not just a matter of saving lives all the time. It’s a very intricate balance that has to be maintained. In order to be able to maintain that balance, we have to have a very diverse pool of emergency management professionals to be able to think outside that box.

To be able to think about what if this happens? How can I prevent it? How can I minimize it? How can I deal with it? How can I recover from it? So that’s a great question. I challenge students all the time: If you want in emergency management field, there is a position here for you.

Leischen Stelter: Like you said, I think this pandemic is just really highlighting how critical this field is and how many people can really be involved. I like how you talked about just the diversity of professionals. Strengths in their personal strengths and how that can all tie together and kind of cover a very comprehensive picture of all these different elements in our society in terms of helping maintain that continuity, the business continuity and the just the operation of our entire economy really.

So I’m glad you pointed that out. I wanted to give you an opportunity. Is there anything else that we didn’t talk about that you either wanted to mention about your experience with the COVID-19 response or anything else that you wanted to talk about?

Kevin Kupietz: There’s all kinds of things that we can talk about with this. The preparedness thing, we kind of mentioned already before, but I think this is a huge process. For people that are listening to the podcast, if they’re not already involved in emergency management or even if they’re involved in emergency management, try to make that pitch to the average person.

That person that doesn’t understand what emergency management is. There are tons of organizations that they can be involved with at times like this that will actually be able to allow them to help their community. When you help other people, that has a reward to it that can’t be equaled by anything else.

Kevin Kupietz: So there’s something that we really want people to do more of. If you look at the reports from volunteerism, volunteerism is actually going down. Most people don’t understand that in this country it used to be 80%. I think we’re still somewhere in the neighborhood of 77% of our firefighters in America are volunteers.

Most people don’t realize that. The volunteer service in America is a huge process of us being able to deal with emergencies and disasters. So we need more volunteers to go out there. Whether it be you volunteer with your local fire department or volunteer for Meals on Wheels, which is a program that in many, many areas is actually faltering.

Kevin Kupietz: So if a person is not familiar with Meals on Wheels, this is a community project where we take meals to elderly people that are not able to get transportation or be able to possibly cook or produce a good dietary meal for themselves all the time. So the problem with Meals on Wheels right now, they’re just really is not enough volunteers.

So some communities actually have waiting lists that they don’t ever expect to be able to get to the bottom of their waiting list for delivering food to those individuals. Because the volunteer ratio for delivering these food is really, really gone down. Now, if you think about the pandemic that we’re dealing with right now and a program like Meals on Wheels, that becomes incredibly important.

Simply because of the fact that these people were already shut in and now they definitely can’t go anymore because we have shelter in place orders. These are probably the people that are most susceptible to the coronavirus. So they’re the ones that we certainly don’t want to go out. We see something similar to the Meals on Wheels actually happening now on the school systems, which is pretty interesting.

Kevin Kupietz: So since we don’t have schools in most of the areas of our country at the moment, we’re seriously concerned about how children get nutritional meals that they were getting in schools. So what a lot of school systems have done is they’ve actually started programs similar to Meals on Wheels, where the cafeteria is still producing the breakfast and the lunches and volunteers are actually taking these meals to people that can’t come get them or the children that can’t go get them. Or they’re making themselves available for parents and family members to come get these meals for the children. Which is kind of interesting as well.

Leischen Stelter: I’m glad that you brought up the vulnerable populations. Because there’s a lot of elderly people and probably increasingly so because even people who might’ve been able to go out and do things on their own at one point maybe can’t or shouldn’t, and just to have services like that available to them. I know that’s really critical right now.

I think this is a time where I know just personally I want to do what I can to help my neighbors and help, but we’re all kind of stuck inside. So I think that just knowing more about ways that we can all help each other is a really important thing that I’d like to see even more opportunities like that within local communities. I’m not sure the best way for them to advertise those needs, but I think it’s really, really important to help people in this very difficult time.

Kevin Kupietz: There are several places that people can go look for things like that. The American Red Cross, which I’ve talked with several of them recently. They’re definitely hurting for volunteers as most people are. So they can look at what we would consider to be the bigger sites, such as American Red Cross.

Also the Team Rubicon sites, the Salvation Army, all of those. But then even faith-based groups and things like that. A lot of times people are leery to go volunteer by themselves. But if they’re in a group already, consider having that group actually volunteer themselves to the local community.

Talk to that local emergency management representative, that local fire department, whatever, and say, is there something that our group can do for you in the event of an emergency? What can we do now to prepare for that emergency or that disaster so that when you need us, when you give a that phone call, we’re actually there and we’re actually able to help.

Kevin Kupietz: I remember, I hate to say back on the day, but back in the day when we would have major snow storms, we would actually have a call list where people that had four-wheel drive trucks were actually willing to come out and pick up nurses, doctors, and other essential workers that needed to get to their job no matter what the weather conditions were like.

So these individuals basically had a little bit of training about how to drive safely in the snow, how to be able to make contact with the individuals that needed rides. Basically our organization just called the first person on that call list and then they made everything else happen. It’s things like this again, the devil is in the details trying to make all these small things work out so that we could get the best and most efficient response possible.

Leischen Stelter: I like that we ended our conversation talking about how important it is to volunteer and be involved. So thank you for bringing that up. So Kevin, this was just really informative and so interesting. I’m really appreciative of your time and also your service. Thanks for all the years of service that you’ve put in to helping people across the country and the world. It’s really an impressive endeavor and we’re very appreciative of it.

Kevin Kupietz: Well I thank you for those comments and I would like everyone to remember that it’s always a team effort. It’s never one individual. One of the things that we’re seeing with the pandemic is the conversations versus essential and non-essential employees. I don’t know that I really necessarily believe in that because it takes all of us to make a society work.

Kevin Kupietz: So even when we’re looking at the hospitals and stuff like that, I saw a post on Facebook the other day where it’s like, we’re congratulating the doctors and the nurses and the paramedics and firefighters and stuff like that. But we kind of left out the housekeepers and the janitorial staff that they literally have to do the dirty work in all this and they’re probably more of a risk doing that than some of the rest of us. So it is a team effort that we have to remember and we have to give kudos to people while they’re still here and thank them for the hard work that they do and the extra efforts that they take. Absolutely.

Leischen Stelter: Agreed. I think we’re seeing more and more who are considered quote unquote “essential.” Like when you talk about grocery store clerks, without them, we wouldn’t be able to get groceries. May not think of them in the same category as nurses, obviously there’s a difference, but they’re out there risking their health as well to make sure that people have food.

Like you said, the janitorial staff and all these other groups of people that are often overlooked. So I agree that we need to really recognize their efforts and contributions to helping everyone stay safe and stay fed and well in this uncertain time.

Leischen Stelter: So Kevin, thank you so much for joining me today for this episode of In Public Safety Matters. I also want to thank our listeners for joining us and you can learn more about this topic and similar issues about emergency and disaster management by signing up for In Public Safety’s, bi-monthly newsletter. Be well and stay safe.

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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