Meredith Beers was a junior at Tulane University when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. An English major, she was leaning toward law school when everything changed. Tulane temporarily moved its administrative offices to Houston, and Meredith spent the fall of 2005 doing what she terms her “domestic semester abroad.” Because her parents lived near Houston, she volunteered with Tulane instead of attending classes at another university. It was there that she first learned about disaster management and response, and that is when her academic focus shifted.
She graduated from Newcomb College in 2007 and earned her master’s in Public Health in 2011 from Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. During the summer between finishing her master’s and beginning work on her PhD (which was conferred by the School of Public Health in May 2016), Meredith worked at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. While interning, she discovered “how much I enjoy planning drills and exercises, working on emergency plans and being involved on the planning and mitigation side of emergency preparedness and disaster management.” Meredith worked on her first emergency plan there, and also wrote, directed and evaluated a large-scale drill.
In December of 2012, she started Meredith Beers Consulting, LLC, with the motto “planning – preparing – preserving.” MBC, LLC is a disaster management and work health and safety company that “provide[s] consulting services to help organizations plan emergency drills and exercises, review drills and exercises and develop after-action plans, and work with organizations on their emergency preparedness plans.” Meredith is adding a focus on environmental health and safety and industrial hygiene to her practice, both of which are components of disaster management.
During the recent Louisiana flooding, Meredith volunteered her unique skills through the Junior League. “Maria and the Board put out a call to action and the response was incredible!” Meredith said. She helped inventory all donations received (specifically diapers, feminine hygiene products and toiletries), and assisted with organizing the donations for distribution to the affected areas. On two occasions, Meredith traveled with President Maria Pardo Huete and President-Elect Kristen Koppel to impacted areas on donation deliveries.
While her primary client focus is on businesses, she also has good advice for the individual. Meredith suggests creating an emergency plan with your family, making sure to:
• Have a designated time that everyone calls to check-in during a disaster (she recommends picking a random time like 2:18 as cell towers are more likely to be busy on the hour and half hour than other times);
• Plan where everyone will meet and if you have dependents, how they will get to the designated spot; and
• If you do need to evacuate, keep all important documents and items in an easy to reach place so you can quickly grab them (i.e. insurance forms, passports, birth certificates, prescriptions).
Even though disaster preparation can be a daunting task, Meredith said starting early and thinking through issues helps preparation. “When you start talking out issues, you see where there are gaps,” she said. “Collaborative thinking shows you ways that you may not have thought about something or brings up ideas or issues you hadn’t thought of before.” Working on an emergency plan together makes it “a stronger plan because it isn’t just one person’s plan, it is the group’s plan.”
It is never too early to start preparing!
Meredith works during a planning drill at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2016. Photo provided by: Meredith Beers