Lessons in Disaster Recovery – An Interview with Ernest DelBuono
Firestorm Expert Council member, Ernest DelBuono, is a retired United States Coast Guard Commander with more than 25 years’ experience as a crisis management professional, including crisis planning, response, crisis communications, litigation communications and media coaching. Throughout his career, Ernest has worked in transportation, energy, petrochemical, finance, healthcare, defense, homeland security and many other industries.
He currently is a crisis management/crisis communications consultant in the Washington D.C. area and recently join the Firestorm Expert Council.
In addition to his crisis management career, Ernest is heavily involved in the disaster response industry – including the Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Florida this past month. We sat down with Ernest to learn more about the lessons he has learned during his experiences in Hurricane Irma.
How did you become involved in Disaster Response?
I first became involved in disaster response as a young Coast Guard officer responding to ship groundings, oil spills, chemical fires and spills. Later in my Coast Guard career I was the Public Affairs Officer for the government’s response and recovery efforts on the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I ran the Joint Information Center for Hurricanes Andrew and Emily. I also volunteered with the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina where I conducted shelter assets protection, then public affairs. My last hurricane deployment was last month in Florida running shelters during Hurricane Irma.
What are the key points of running a shelter during a time of disaster?
In order to run a shelter during a disaster, you must show care, compassion and action. Your primary responsibilities of managing the shelter are safety, security, food safety, hygiene and medical care.
What insights did you gain from assisting with Hurricane Irma relief?
I witnessed the resiliency of Americans in how they rebound and recover despite loss of homes, possessions and sometimes employment. Also, faith-based organizations play a vital role in disaster response and recovery.
What is the most important lesson you have learned during your involvement in disaster response?
I’ve learned that every responder must know when to rest and sleep. That means being a good leader and delegating to other qualified individuals. Going without sleep for 24-36 hours may sound good to outsiders, but are you really making the best decisions for the those you are responsible for?
The 2017 third quarter losses are estimated to be $1.48 billion – 90% of which stem from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Learn how to become prepared to handle a natural disaster by downloading a Q&A paper with Firestorm President and CEO, Jim Satterfield, Natural Disaster Preparedness.