Diversity Career Stories Law enforcement

Emergency services coordinator hopes for the best – prepares for the worst

In our interview with D. Hynes, an emergency services coordinator, she shares what her career has been like, transitioning from law enforcement into an emergency services leadership role. She shares the struggles being a woman in a predominantly male field, but also tells of the rewarding nature of her work, protecting her community.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
Emergency Services Coordinator – Government/County 9+ years – Detail oriented, organized, efficient

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?
Caucasion, Female – In the law enforcement/government field I have found that being female hurts me. A female with a hard personality or who would be considered tough is not well accepted in some circles. I don’t think I have experienced discrimination necessarily, however, in dealing with the above issue I have found that being good at your job sets you apart regardless of whether you are part of the “club”.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
I coordinate emergency and disaster preparedness for a County Social Services Agency. I am responsible for writing response plans, ensuring staff is appropriately trained, ensuring our Department Operations Center is adequately outfitted and keeping our staff informed so that they are prepared at home as well as at work. I also serve as the Care and Shelter Branch Director at the County EOC in the event of an activation. Very few individuals have a concept of what emergency preparedness entails and what emergency management personnel are responsible for in a disaster.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
In a way, yes. I love that I get to help get people ready to survive in the event of a disaster. In a perfect world I would like to be a
small business owner, able to work part-time and be my own boss. Ideally my business would allow me the opportunity to incorporate some of my favorite hobbies along with use my strong administrative and organizational skills.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I have a MA in Criminology. My career took on a life of its own after 9-11 and I ended up in a civilian management position with a roll in
emergency management. If emergency management appeals to an individual they don’t necessarily need a degree in EM, however, there are now a number of programs that allow for that.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I started by taking an Intro to Justice course at a local community college. I loved it and decided to major in Justice Studies. I had originally wanted to be a police officer but as I got older that no longer appealed to me due to the alternate work schedules involved. I went the civilian route instead. I also have a strong grant writing and management background that has served me well. If I could go back I would double major in Justice and Business.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
If you stay a civilian in law enforcement you will always be on the outside. As a female you will never be a member of the “good ‘ol boys” club. This may or may not bother some people and should be a consideration before they choose this career path. My emergency management background has gotten me out of the law enforcement environment on a day-to-day basic but allowed me to stay involved in the field through association.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
Many times it doesn’t matter what degree you have or what you studied once you get your foot in the door. Many people with degrees are working out of their degree field and are very successful. Pick something you enjoy studying and do what you can to tie it into a career. I would not recommend selecting a degree program or career simply for the money. If you don’t love going to work everyday then it is time to find a new job; life is too short!

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
I was pulled over because I looked out of place in an agency vehicle that was obviously an “under cover” police vehicle.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I enjoy the challenge of my new position learning about a new County agency. I enjoy the company of those that I collaborate with from outside agencies and I enjoy working to get our County ready for a disaster so that we don’t see what happened after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans happen here. I am proud of the roll I play in preparedness of our residents.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
Chain of command issues in government are always challenging. In my prior position in law enforcement, being treated like a low level
clerical person by the sworn staff, when I in fact was a high up manager, made me miserable. I thrive in a leadership roll and when I was reduced to a person having to ask for permission to write a memo, I knew it was time for a change.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
I’m sure during an emergency event there will be stress as I balance my roll as a wife and mother with that of a disaster worker/first responder. I know what my responsibilities are and am prepared as best I know how to be for that situation. I carry a blackberry but do not let work affect my home life unless the need is critical. I leave work at work and enjoy my time with my family by knowing that I am prepared to respond and that my family will be cared for.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
$80,000-100,000 – yes

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I hope to take 2 – 1 week vacations per year. I would prefer to be able to take 3-4 weeks and feel that 2 weeks is not enough.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
BA and/or MA degree and Emergency Management specific training and experience either through, or outside of, your degree program.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
Get the degree specific to the field.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
A stay at home wife and mom working part time running my own business so that I can be there for my family all the time.