EMspire Innovation Summit

A Conversation on Innovation & Equity in Emergency Management

On October 19, 2023, Guidehouse and the American Red Cross, National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region, hosted the inaugural EMspire Innovation Summit: A Conversation on Innovation & Equity in Emergency Management. The summit featured new approaches in emergency management that are driving more equitable outcomes for American communities.

EMspire was a great opportunity for leaders in government, private sector, and academia to come together for networking, collaboration, and information sharing to advance the field of emergency management in impactful and tangible ways.



Why is emergency management important to you?

Ana Kobian: I do the work that I do because I love my community, and I know that they're impacted by disasters.

Jeremias Alvarez: At the end of the day, I feel like we're helping our clients be best prepared to help people when they're at their worst.

Shannon White: I really appreciate this work because I think that we're all affected by disasters at some time in our life or have family members who are impacted by disasters. I've been really happy to be a part of this community for so many years.

Clint Osborn: I got into emergency management because I was looking at the direction the world was going in. Why I continue to do it is because I think it's an exciting field. It's an emerging field. We have a lot of opportunity to define the path forward. I think that's both an opportunity and a challenge.


What does the future of emergency management look like?

Marcus Coleman: When I think about the future of disaster management, emergency management, crisis leadership, I think about being able to build trusted partnerships to help us think about how we continue to reorient ourselves and our relationship to complexity. As we have increased frequency, severity, and impact of disasters, that means that we need to be thoughtful about the type of complex situations that may occur long before disasters happen and be prepared to adapt and pivot when they occur. It's part of the reason why we're here today with Guidehouse and the American Red Cross for the National Capital Area, because one of the things we know that's true is it's going to be building comprehensive relationships like those happening today to help us think about how we address some of the complex disasters in the future.

Sadie Martinez: We're needing to have some somebodies, a somebody, a how-to subject matter expert, such as an access and functional needs coordinator who can help coordinate the life-saving resources of the affected community at a local level, at a state level, at a regional level, and across the nation.

John Saad: Everybody's got a piece of the puzzle on how to help communities at risk and communities at need, and bringing that together in a more efficient construct is what'll get us to the next state of efficiency and emergency management response. There are some great ideas out there, great datasets, tools, techniques, but the problem is sometimes they're dispersed a little too broadly. So how we master bringing that together is really going to help us evolve our support of these communities at risk.


How can we increase equity in emergency management?

Shannon White: I think that one way that emergency managers can increase equity in communities is through representation, because those diverse people will bring their perspectives from the community and will understand what type of solutions are really needed to solve the very diverse problems.

Marcus Coleman: In terms of how we increase equity in communities that we're working and living in every day, I think about the work of the American Red Cross and its efforts to expand partnerships with faith-based and community organizations like the Full Gospel Baptist Church denomination, Islamic Relief USA, and others. A key note for the emergency management community to recognize broadly is there's a lot of opportunities, not just from the perspective of mass care sheltering and feeding, but other things that are important in terms of holistic recovery from a mental and spiritual wellness perspective, and to address some of the trauma that people may experience when they're impacted by disasters. Thankfully, we know a number of emergency managers work with partners like the Red Cross and faith-based and community-based organizations that are often active in disasters, but there's a lot of opportunity to work with organizations that may not be traditionally seen as partners in emergency management.

Jeremias Alvarez: I think we can all increase equity in the communities we serve by always asking ourselves if everyone's in the room. If the communities we represent and serve are not all in the room, we need to change that. It's really a mindset, a mindset that happens and starts at the leadership level and continues through every part of the organizations that support emergency management.


Featured Sessions and Speakers 

Dynamic and Inclusive Community Engagement Panel Discussion, Q&A

Moderator: Justin Ángel Knighten, Director, Office of External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency


  • Sadie Martinez, Access and Functional Needs Coordinator, Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Sally Ray, Director, Domestic Funds, Center for Disaster Philanthropy
  • Ana Cobain, Special Projects Director, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts


Advancing Equity Through Innovation Panel Discussion, Q&A

Moderator: Marcus Coleman, Director, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships


  • Rosie Allen-Herring, President and CEO, United Way of the National Capital Area
  • Dale Kunce, Chief Executive Officer, National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region, American Red Cross
  • Amanda Brown Lierman, Senior Director for Policy and Engagement, GoFundMe and Executive Director,


Keynote Speaker

Clint Osborn, Interim Director of DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency


Leadership in Crisis Panel Discussion, Q&A

Moderator: Emily Fortman, Division Disaster Executive, American Red Cross


  • Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Director of Health, Fairfax County, Virginia
  • Anne Bink, Associate Administrator, Office of Response and Recovery, Federal Emergency Management Agency


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