How one leader prepped for trauma by organizing a ‘Tsunami Walk’

She’s been a fixture on the San Francisco political scene since making history in the 1970s as the campaign manager for Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official ever elected to office in California. Milk was gunned down in his office, as was...


That was one of the greatest lessons she learned in January 2013, when she was a Harvard National Preparedness Leadership Initiative delegate to Israel. She was part of the 8th cohort, which is a group of 50 people, in the six-month program, whose mission was to help its members “figure out how to lead not just troops, but how to lead policy makers.”

The hosts, the Emergency and Disaster Management Division of the Israel Ministry of Health, led a delegation which included representatives from the Red Cross, FEMA, and the Center for Disease Control, among others, on tours of war-torn areas on the Gaza Strip. It was striking, she said, how resilient the people were. “Resiliency is taught from childhood [in Israel]. I asked a man, ‘How can you live here, with rockets flying over your head every day?’ and he said, ‘Why would I leave? This is my home.’”

The delegation toured a hospital, where the Israeli Ministry of Health initiated a toxicological event drill, about which the staff had no prior warning. The hospital staff had to run the drill while still taking care of actual patients—including those in the emergency room. “We couldn’t get away with that here,” she said, but “it was amazing.”

The Ministry aims to return citizens’ post-trauma lives to normal as quickly as possible. “They have the scene cleaned up within three hours.”

Kronenberg speaks with pride of the relationships her department has begun to build with members of the military who come to San Francisco for Fleet Week every year. “During Fleet Week, an LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion-hovercraft) came right up onto the beach. After [Hurricane]Sandy, the mayor of New York said he thought they were being invaded...but we’ve built this relationship, so we know they’re here to help.”

 

Melina Moraga is a freelance writer and blogger whose law enforcement experience includes service as a correctional officer, a 911 dispatcher, and a campus police security supervisor. She welcomes comments at: www.atozwordsmith.com/blog-code-7, or at www.facebook.com/atozwordsmith.

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