10 Qs with

AVA PROMOLI

Honors Bachelor of Disaster and Emergency Management at York University

1. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY?

6. HAVE YOU READ A RECENT ARTICLE OR BOOK THAT INSPIRED YOU?

One of the most impactful novels on disaster and emergency management is Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail but Some Succeed by Gonzalo Lizarralde. This book sparked introspection as I indulged into understanding further that disasters are human induced and not by fault of nature. Thus, disasters create mass-loss but by manmade design.

Throughout my childhood, I was exposed to first responders, and I remain inspired by the lifesaving that they conduct. Naturally, I started teaching swimming lessons and became a lifeguard at 16. My roles and responsibilities within this position allowed me to train and perform lifesaving rescues in a high-stress environment. Highlighting my experience, as a Beachfront Lifeguard for the City of Toronto, performing rescues for drowning, seizure, and over-dosing victims. I utilized emergency radio communications, worked well with a team, understood my strengths, and used my extensive training. Though this experience was challenging, it felt remarkable to be a part of successful rescues and responses and as such, I have focused my career interests on working in the Emergency Management industry.

7. HOW DO YOU STAY ENGAGED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY?

I stay engaged with my community mostly through Linkedin, virtual connection calls and chatting in class. I have had the advantage during the pandemic of building my network through online communication and have talked to EM experts internationally as well as joined several UNITAR/CIFAL York events on emerging topics.

Similarly, I believe that staying engaged also means to stay informed. I achieve this by tuning-in to emerging events and global affairs through podcasts such as the Emergency Preparedness in Canada (EPIC) podcast and journals such as the Canadian Journal of Emergency Management.

2. WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

The bachelor’s program has forced me to complete four years of projects. In addition, working as an intern for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has also allowed me to work on influential projects such as the Disaster Ethics mini executive training course.

I am most proud of my work in a Disaster Logistics class where I wrote a 3000-word essay on the Aceh Indonesian Tsunami of 2004. This project led to extensive research of the disaster impact and humanitarian logistics, and I focused greater research on Perceived Risk Perception. I found that the ratio of Perceived Risk Perception affects every core emergency management pillar in an entangled interrelationship. For example, if in the preparedness stage people have low perceived risk of Tsunami impacts, then little change will occur, and logistics will not be planned accordingly. Contrary to this, once mitigation is in place then lower-perceived risk of tsunamis is acceptable and the structural controls in place are trusted. If there is high perceived risk during the response phase it is hard to guide an operation for an anxious crowd and thus lower-risk perception is encouraged in the response phase. Altogether, this pushed my understanding of successful operations, thus aligning people's mindsets over risks and disasters will lead to better disaster risk reduction.

8. WHAT’S A FUN FACT ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW?

Throughout the pandemic I have gained a massive passion for renovating ruins. Interior design and transforming homes are my predilection.

9. ANY TIPS FOR WORK/LIFE BALANCE?

A color coordinated google calendar is the most helpful. Making sure to schedule time for family and friends as well as self-care days. In addition, yoga has been instrumental in introducing balance into my life physically, emotionally, and mentally.

10. SHARE YOUR BEST CAREER ADVICE.

3. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE A ROADBLOCK FOR WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?

I greatly appreciate career advice and through connecting to a constant flow of mentors, I often write down the invaluable advice that is shared.

Highlighting the following that have propelled my career search: Focusing on a sector (public, private or NGO) when applying for jobs; Taking any opportunity to deploy or gain infield work experience; Think of how to become a champion of emergency management rather than fulfill requirements; and that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. This last statement has helped assure me that while being an emergency planner there will be challenges to every plan, stressing the necessity of due diligence.

Personally, I think there are two roadblocks, one is the gender pay gap. Equally important the pipeline of women's careers is shown not to excel through to higher management at the rate that men do. While historically women were not considered for roles in front line response or public safety, there has been a shift. Women in the field of emergency management are my moguls and role-models. I understand the gendered difference in how successful an operation outcome is when a woman is commanding it thus, I have full confidence in women fulfilling this industry a great service.

4. SHARE A HOT TOPIC OR TREND IN YOUR FIELD!

Climate change is the hottest topic I can think of. There needs to be greater incentive and regard for the increasingly frequent and high-impact disaster events that will unfold due to warming temperatures. This starts by understanding that disasters are human made and solutions are not up to the individual but up to policy writers and governments at large.

5. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE GETTING THEIR START IN THE FIELD?

I am starting off in the field and can only suggest what has been working for me so far. I am actively reaching out to Emergency Managers through cold calls, LinkedIn DMs, and emails. The overwhelming responses I have received are 'how can I help?' and 'let's set up a time to talk'. The experience I have while connecting and working with EM professionals is collaborative and supportive and always worth reaching out. Hence, I am continuing to deploy volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross and applying for entry level EM positions. By and large the EM industry is willing to mentor young professionals.

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