Emergence Alum Making a Difference: Developing the National Hurricane Program’s Island Strategy

Finding a gap in preparedness for mass weather events, FEMA Program Analyst Zane Heather used his Emergence Program change initiative to update the National Hurricane Program’s Island Strategy. And he is already well on his way toward implementing his proposal.

CHDS alum and FEMA Program Analyst Zane Heather

Shortly after graduating from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security Emergence Program in mid-June, Heather (Emergence cohort 2202) went directly to work on further developing his change initiative, traveling to Puerto Rico in late June to conduct a pilot Stakeholder Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis for the U.S. territory. 

Heather said through the pilot program he will complete the Stakeholder Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis for Puerto Rico and then develop a stakeholder engagement and communications plan for the island, refining the analysis process as a model to be applied with other jurisdictions.  

He said the engagement and communications plan will identify novel, tailored products and services for Puerto Rico and propose a strategy for engaging and communicating effectively with Puerto Rican stakeholders. 

Heather, who was born in the South Pacific U.S. territory of Guam, said his interest in extreme weather was piqued by his earliest memories of going through Typhoon Paka in 1997, and the three months that followed without power or water.

He said he chose Puerto Rico as the pilot program location because he identified it as the place with the largest service delivery gap, user dissemination, and barrier to access NHP products and services, adding that Puerto Rico also has “unique challenges related to hurricane preparedness, and the emergency management enterprise is complex, so it seemed like a place where the most boots-on-the-ground work was needed.”

“[Puerto Rico has] unique challenges related to hurricane preparedness, and the emergency management enterprise is complex, so it seemed like a place where the most boots-on-the-ground work was needed.”

– FEMA Program Analyst Zane Heather

Heather added that there are “very strong partners” in Puerto Rico, including the National Hurricane Program’s Regional Hurricane Program Manager, which “bolstered my effectiveness in the pilot.”

The National Hurricane Program (NHP) is an interagency partnership between FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the NOAA National Hurricane Center. Through a suite of products and services, the program supports emergency managers at all levels of hurricane preparedness efforts and response decision-making. 

But Heather said gaps exist in “how these products and services are delivered to island stakeholders in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and there has been little programmatic effort to adapt NHP offerings to better support island stakeholder needs.” 

Heather and team working on the pilot Stakeholder Needs Assessment and Gap Analysis in Puerto Rico as part of the effort to create a National Hurricane Program Island Strategy

That prompted his CHDS Emergence change initiative, he said, and his resulting efforts to conduct island stakeholder needs assessments and product and services gap analyses to inform NHP updates and develop a strategy to “adequately support our island stakeholders.” 

Heather said he was able to successfully lobby for resources to conduct the pilot analysis in Puerto Rico after presenting his change initiative to the NHP Manager at FEMA Headquarters and the Regional Hurricane Program Managers in FEMA Region II, which covers the Caribbean, and FEMA Region IX, which covers the Pacific.

He said he received and adjudicated the NHP Program Manager’s feedback related to the project scope and objectives and got the go-ahead for the Puerto Rico pilot. 

Heather said his change initiative project “would not have been possible without the support and guidance provided by my colleagues in the National Hurricane Program.” 

In addition, he said the CHDS Emergence Program “was the catalyst that made the implementation of my change initiative possible.”

“Through the program, I received the tools, support, and space needed to pursue my project,” Heather said. “The Emergence curriculum helped me build tools and strategies related to project design and implementation that directly affected the success of my change initiative. Through sessions and assignments, I polished and pitched my project, which led to increased leadership support. In addition to that, the input I received from my cohort and instructors directly shaped the scope of my project and my implementation strategy. Without the Emergence Program, and the support of the dedicated staff and cohort, my success thus far would not have been possible.”

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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