Mark O’Hanlon really loves “blue sky days.” As operations branch manager for FEMA Region III, he has seen his share of disasters and has experienced many deployments to crisis-response areas. He recognizes that being deployed to a disaster site makes him a better emergency management professional because he is able to “feel what the survivors feel.” He explains that you cannot be an emergency manager from afar. With Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia comprising Region III, O’Hanlon definitely has compassion for the people he serves.
Students in O’Hanlon’s classes for Immaculata’s Emergency Planning and Management (EPM) program have benefited from his experience in the emergency management profession and the skills he learned during his 30-plus years in the U.S. Army. O’Hanlon is a believer in lifelong learning and was thrilled to have been invited to an exclusive training program this past year for the National Emergency Management Advanced Academy. The 16 people who were selected to attend the academy spent four weeks in a classroom environment and devoted the remainder of the year reading, researching, and understanding the future of emergency management and connecting with other professionals from all levels of EPM.
“It was a humbling experience – you think that you’ve somewhat mastered your profession but there is always so much more out there to learn,” O’Hanlon states emphatically.
Overseeing the Operations Branch in the Response Division, O’Hanlon’s day does not end at 5 p.m. He is on-call 24 hours a day. There is no down time. The ideal emergency worker is one who is willing to put the needs of others over his/her own. “You have an opportunity to have an impact by doing your job well,” he says.
Recent tragic events underlie the notion that if you are going to have an influx of people in a small area, such as when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia, you need to be prepared, be watchful, and have an evacuation plan if needed. He calls it Consequence Management. Teaching the Capstone Planning course, O’Hanlon drills down to the local response that students need to understand during emergency situations and he stresses the importance of community resilience. He speculates that the expectation for a swift and efficient government response will only increase along with the rise in natural and man-made disasters. The country must be prepared and O’Hanlon is helping train community leaders to ensure preparedness.
Immaculata is extremely grateful for the expertise that O’Hanlon brings to the classroom and his dedication to the continuing education of current and future emergency planning and management workers. He implores his students to go beyond the classroom and learn from others just as he has done.