The Honorable Richard Serino has joined Homeland Security Today’s distinguished Editorial Board. He is currently a “Distinguished Visiting Fellow” at Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative.
Serino was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s eighth deputy administrator in October 2009 and served until 2014.
Serino responded to more than 60 national disasters while at FEMA, and during superstorm Sandy he was the lead federal area commander for New York and New Jersey. Serino was also on scene at the Boston Marathon bombings as the Department of Homeland Security senior official. Federally declared disasters Serino responded to include flooding in North Dakota, New England, Georgia and Colorado; wildfires in Colorado and Texas; tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Joplin, Mo.; tsunami destruction in American Samoa; and hurricanes Isaac, Irene, and Earl. Serino briefed the president of the United States on a number of disasters and briefed and traveled with Vice President Biden to a number of affected communities to survey destruction.
As the agency’s COO, Serino fundamentally changed how FEMA operates. He helped FEMA reorient its activities and improve its programs to be “survivor-centric,” ensuring that the agency supports the delivery of services focused on easing the recovery experience of survivors – as individuals, neighborhoods, and communities. As deputy administrator, he also led administrative improvements that were focused on emphasizing financial accountability, created FEMA Stat, which improved the use of analytics to drive decisions, advanced workforce training and engagement and fostered a culture of innovation.
Under his leadership, FEMA launched initiatives such as FEMA Corps, a dedicated unit of 1,600 service corps members within AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) solely devoted to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. His leadership took FEMA Corps from idea to implementation in nine months. FEMA Corps is a presidentially recognized model program of national service that provides 18- to 24-year-olds with an opportunity to serve their country during disasters. When the program is at full operational capability, and in an average disaster year, there will be an expected savings of approximately $60 million in a year.
Serino was also instrumental in developing the FEMA Think Tank, a program that provides a transparent way for citizens to speak directly to government leadership and offer their input and ideas. The monthly calls portion of the Think Tank have not just trended globally on Twitter, but have also given the “Whole of Community” a voice directly to leadership.
Prior to his appointment as deputy administrator, he served as chief of Boston EMS and assistant director of the Boston Public Health Commission. During his tenure at Boston EMS he transformed it into one of the best nationally recognized EMS systems in the country. He bolstered the city’s response plans for major emergencies, including chemical, biological, and radiological attacks. He also led citywide planning for the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years. Serino served as an incident commander for more than 35 mass casualty incidents and for all of Boston’s major planned events, including the Boston Marathon, Boston’s Fourth of July celebration, First Night, and the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a National Special Security Event.
He has received more than 35 local, national and international awards for public service and innovation, including Harvard University National Public Leadership Institute’s “Leader of the Year,” the “Innovators in EMS Award,” and Boston’s highest public service award, the “Henry L Shattuck Public Service Award.” Serino’s published articles include “Emergency Medical Consequence Planning and Management for National Special Security Events After September 11: Boston: 2004,” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, August 2008, and “In a Moment’s Notice: Surge Capacity for Terrorist Bombings,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2007.
Serino is also the director of the Crisis Leadership Fellowship at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and serves on multiple Institute of Medicine committees. Serino has been working with the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) to launch webinar-based Think Tank calls similar to the calls he did at FEMA. He is on the Joint Committee to Create a National Policy to Enhance Survivability from Mass Casualty Shooting Events with the White House and the Hartford Consensus group and on the Virtual Social Media Working Group.
Serino attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government program in 2000, completed the Kennedy School’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative in 2005, and graduated from the Executive Leadership Program, Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School. Serino has received numerous local, national and international awards for heroism, leadership and innovation.