Diversifying emergency management Local 502 president tapped to speak at national level

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Combining her career in emergency management with her passion for bringing diversity to everything she’s involved in, Local 502 President Tonya Fitzgerald was honored when asked to speak to a national group of women in emergency management.

Tonya Fitzgerald

Today Fitzgerald will be speaking with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the national emergency management arena, a first for her, on mentoring, sharing knowledge to diversity emergency management and serving on local county and city boards.

Fitzgerald recently attended the National Emergency Management Advanced Academy, which included attending four week-long sessions to learn more about emergency management. 

“During the class I wrote a paper on diversity in emergency management,” Fitzgerald said. “My paper was selected as a topic to highlight on the FEMA Emergency Management Institute Weekly e-forum.”

Grossly underrepresented, as of 2014, women occupied only 34 percent of emergency management staff jobs, and only 8 percent of those employed held director-level positions within the field. Fitzgerald is hoping to change that.

“I am the only woman of color working in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management,” she said. “I am certified as a Minnesota Emergency Manager and continue to look for opportunities to diversify the emergency management profession.”

Fitzgerald’s experience includes teaching informal emergency preparedness and living through a hurricane along with being a certified Minnesota Emergency Manager and holding two master’s degrees in public administration and public health.

With the belief that the makeup of emergency management agencies should reflect the makeup of the communities they are likely to serve, Fitzgerald hopes her work will serve as inspiration to others looking to join the male-dominated field of emergency management.

But Fitzgerald’s number one priority is to provide the best service to the communities that need it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of is sharing information so that the whole community can be prepared for emergencies,” she said.