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Friday, July 19, 2024

FEMA Veterans Found Association for Emergency and Crisis Communicators

In a disaster few citizens think about the importance of how, when, and what is communicated, what instructions are given, and what information is offered.  They just want answers.  And so do responders of all kinds, politicians, law enforcement, companies – everyone whom the disaster impacts.  This can go well, take for example the Deep Water Horizon Oil spill where then Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard masterfully and commandingly communicated the what where’s and who’s around the massive disaster that impacted every person and business on the Florida, Mississippi and Alabama coasts.

Fast forward to communications around the COVID virus and you see how the communications around what to do and why broke down and lost the support of major swaths of the public.

Dan Stoneking, a former FEMA External Affairs Director, and a group of experienced veterans to this “tightwire talk,” on June 17th founded the Emergency Management External Affairs Association (EMEAA). Designed for public affairs, community relations, congressional affairs, intergovernmental, tribal, and public-private liaison professionals who have a nexus to emergency management, past or present the new non-profit seeks to build a community of professionals to learn from the past, apply lessons learned, and promote the profession.

To learn how the EMEAA is different from other crisis and communications associations, I sat down with Founder, Vice-President, and HSToday columnist, Dan Stoneking to learn more.

Q:  What made you decide to form a specific association around emergency and crisis communicators?

DS:  I saw a gap and an opportunity.  There are some great associations out there for public affairs and public relations professionals.  But not all of them have as wide of an aperture as external affairs, which includes congressional, private sector, intergovernmental – basically anyone who engages with internal and external audiences and key stakeholders to communicate organizational missions and activities related to emergency management.   This fills that gap.  And the opportunity was to focus strictly on emergency management with public, private, and international members.  The exclusive focus will empower us to do more within a single vital arena.

Q:  What were the key decisions you made in forming EMEAA?

DS:  People first and always.  I reached out to some of the most experienced and talented people in our industry to form our Board of Directors.  These are the people who have been there and done that.  They shared my vision and have been energized to keep doing meaningful things in this world.  Beyond that, we want our members to know that we are an association of, by, and for the people.  We want every member to have a voice and a role in our future.

Q:  What is your mission and vision?

DS:  Our mission is a collaborative community promoting Emergency Management External Affairs knowledge, history, experience, global best practices, professional development, and thought leadership within the profession.  Our vision is to become the preeminent national communication association with a reputation for providing meaningful, measurable, and visible results that enhance the positive impact and reputation of our community of professionals.

In practical terms, we are focused to build community, foster relationships, embrace collaboration, promote global best practices, add value, and honor legacies.

Q:  So why should someone join?

DS:  Members instantly become part of something greater than themselves in a welcoming environment focused on collaboration and the betterment of the profession.  We believe that our network provides a place where communicators – whether just starting out or vastly experienced – can turn to others to ask tough questions and ask for advice. Communicating during a disaster is an incredibly stressful, tense, and critical time and the wrong answer can further exacerbate the consequences of the situation. Members will receive access to senior leaders in the field for mentorship, feedback, and professional counsel.  We are very fortunate to have an incredible founding Board, including folks like Bob Jensen, the Department of Homeland Security’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Deputy Director for External Affairs at FEMA and Director of News Operations for the Air Force News Agency; and Darryl Madden who had roles in the administrations of two major East Coast city mayors in public safety, and federal service within the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security-FEMA, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General. I’d love to herald all of our BoD – I encourage readers to see them on our website: https://www.em-eaa.org/aboutus/leadership

Joining also grants exclusive access to EMEAA training materials, webinars, podcasts, historical documents, and communications products.   The association offers networking with like-minded professionals from different levels of the public and private sector, as well as different functional areas within external affairs.  While the focus of emergency management is our specific niche, the scope of external affairs members eligibility is wide, including local, state, tribal, federal, international, private sector, academic and non-profit professionals.  

Q:  Is there any aspect of EMEAA that you want to emphasize?

DS:  Well honestly, that it’s an association for everyone the field of emergency and crisis communications.  As a board we made a conscious decision to fund the organization with very low dues to include young people just starting their careers to have access to the networking and melting pot of ideas and experience. After many years in FEMA I saw the critical importance of diversity and understanding to tailor communications to the numerous communities within America. Great ideas and unique experiences from external affairs professionals across the country informs others and assures we include everyone in critical disaster communications. I wanted to create a space for us to share and be better. While the focus of emergency management is their specific niche, the scope of external affairs members eligibility is wide, including local, state, tribal, federal, international, private sector, academic and non-profit professionals.  

Q:  How are you funding the organization?

DS: As with any organization, membership dues, donations, sponsorship, and benefactors are key to our success.  We priced annual membership at only $35, and will work to identify appropriate sponsors and supporting companies for additional resources. In order to be accepted as a benefactor, sponsor or partner an individual, organization, company or educational institute must have a specific interest in emergency management, and a commitment to aligning sponsor/partner efforts with EMEAA’s guiding principles. Becoming an EMEAA supporter is a socially responsible investment, enables brand visibility, access to top decision makers and influencers, and the ability to collaborate and positively influence EMEAA’s members and the broader emergency management profession.

Q:  Any parting thoughts? 

DS:  Emergency management is a tough and grueling profession.  Emergency management external affairs professionals are the leading tip of that spear and are entrusted to provide life-saving information to the public.  We need this for our profession.  We will be stronger together.  Words matter.  Understanding matters more.  People matter most.  Our work and our content will be of, by, and for the people.  

EMEAA LogoTo learn more about the EMEAA, join, sponsor or donate, please visit us at www.em-eaa.org.



Kristina Tanasichuk
Kristina Tanasichuk
From terrorism to the homeland security business enterprise, for over 20 years Kristina Tanasichuk has devoted her career to educating and informing the homeland community to build avenues for collaboration, information sharing, and resilience. She has worked in homeland security since 2002 and has founded and grown some of the most renowned organizations in the field. Prior to homeland she worked on critical infrastructure for Congress and for municipal governments in the energy sector and public works. She has 25 years of lobbying and advocacy experience on Capitol Hill on behalf of non- profit associations, government clients, and coalitions. In 2011, she founded the Government & Services Technology Coalition, a non-profit member organization devoted to the missions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and all the homeland disciplines. GTSC focuses on developing and nurturing innovative small and mid-sized companies (up to $1 billion) working with the Federal government. GTSC’s mission is to increase collaboration, information exchange, and constructive problem solving around the most challenging homeland security issues facing the nation. She acquired Homeland Security Today (www.HSToday.us) in 2017 and has since grown readership to over one million hits per month and launched and expanded a webinar program to law enforcement across the US, Canada, and international partners. Tanasichuk is also the president and founder of Women in Homeland Security, a professional development organization for women in the field of homeland security. As a first generation Ukrainian, she was thrilled to join the Advisory Board of LABUkraine in 2017. The non-profit initiative builds computer labs for orphanages in Ukraine and in 2018 built the first computer lab near Lviv, Ukraine. At the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she worked with the organization to pivot and raise money for Ukrainian troop and civilian needs. She made several trips to Krakow, Poland to bring vital supplies like tourniquets and water filters to the front lines, and has since continued fundraising and purchasing drones, communications equipment, and vehicles for the war effort. Most recently she was named as the Lead Advisor to the First US-Ukraine Freedom Summit, a three-day conference and fundraiser to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of Ukrainian war veterans through sports and connection with U.S. veterans. She served as President and Executive Vice President on the Board of Directors for the InfraGard Nations Capital chapter, a public private partnership with the FBI to protect America’s critical infrastructure for over 8 years. Additionally, she served on the U.S. Coast Guard Board of Mutual Assistance and as a trustee for the U.S. Coast Guard Enlisted Memorial Foundation. She graduated from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Citizens’ Academies, in addition to the Marine Corps Executive Forum. Prior to founding the Government Technology & Services Coalition she was Vice President of the Homeland Security & Defense Business Council (HSDBC), an organization for the largest corporations in the Federal homeland security market. She was responsible for thought leadership and programs, strategic partnerships, internal and external communications, marketing and public affairs. She managed the Council’s Executive Brief Series and strategic alliances, as well as the organization’s Thought Leadership Committee and Board of Advisors. Prior to this, she also founded and served for two years as executive director of the American Security Challenge, an event that awarded monetary and contractual awards in excess of $3.5 million to emerging security technology firms. She was also the event director for the largest homeland security conference and exposition in the country where she created and managed three Boards of Advisors representing physical and IT security, first responders, Federal, State and local law enforcement, and public health. She crafted the conference curriculum, evolved their government relations strategy, established all of the strategic partnerships, and managed communications and media relations. Tanasichuk began her career in homeland security shortly after September 11, 2001 while at the American Public Works Association. Her responsibilities built on her deep understanding of critical infrastructure issues and included homeland security and emergency management issues before Congress and the Administration on first responder issues, water, transportation, utility and public building security. Prior to that she worked on electric utility deregulation and domestic energy issues representing municipal governments and as professional staff for the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Tanasichuk has also worked at the American Enterprise Institute, several Washington, D.C. associations representing both the public and private sectors, and the White House under President George H.W. Bush. Tanasichuk also speaks extensively representing small and mid-sized companies and discussing innovation and work in the Federal market at the IEEE Homeland Security Conference, AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference and Homeland Security Course, ProCM.org, and the Security Industry Association’s ISC East and ACT-IAC small business committee. She has also been featured in CEO Magazine and in MorganFranklin’s www.VoicesonValue.com campaign. She is a graduate of St. Olaf College and earned her Master’s in Public Administration from George Mason University. She was honored by the mid-Atlantic INLETS Law Enforcement Training Board with the “Above and Beyond” award in both 2019 – for her support to the homeland security and first responder community for furthering public private partnerships, creating information sharing outlets, and facilitating platforms for strengthening communities – and 2024 – for her work supporting Ukraine in their defense against the Russian invasion. In 2016 she was selected as AFCEA International’s Industry Small Business Person of the Year, in 2015 received the U.S. Treasury, Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization Excellence in Partnership award for “Moving Treasury’s Small Business Program Forward,” as a National Association of Woman Owned Businesses Distinguished Woman of the Year Finalist, nominated for “Friend of the Entrepreneur” by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Military Spouse of the Year by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011, and for a Heroines of Washington DC award in 2014. She is fluent in Ukrainian.

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