National Preparedness Month

Take Control in 1, 2, 3

The United Steelworkers (USW) Tony Mazzocchi Center is jumping in to recognize National Preparedness Month during all of September to do our part in assisting communities with preparing for human-made and natural disasters. In 2023, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ready Campaign’s theme is Take Control in 1, 2, 3. Though the Ready Campaign aims to assist everyone, this year, the theme focuses on older adult communities, especially those disproportionally impacted by all-hazard events.

To learn more about the Ready Campaign, visit the website by clicking here.

The TMC is awarded the HAZMAT Disaster Preparedness Training Program (HDPTP) grant by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which enables us to educate local union, worker center and community members about disasters. This includes courses from awareness-level, to preparedness, to how to protect yourself while cleaning up after a disaster, to mental health and resiliency. We also have a team of Specialized Emergency Response Trainers, or SERTs, who are some of the TMC’s highest trained worker-trainers and who facilitate these courses. The SERTs have experience with deployments to disaster-affected regions, and advanced knowledge regarding disasters and associated hazards before, during and after an event.

“The reason why it is so important to prepare for a disaster is because they happen so fast,” said Mary Millspaugh, a retired USWTMC SERT, “if you are not proactive with being prepared, via having and practicing your plan with your family, it then becomes reactive.”

Millspaugh worked at International Paper in Newport, Ind., for 25 years, retiring on Feb. 14, 2022. She was represented by USW Local Union 7-103A. Of those 25 years, she served as a TMC worker-trainer and SERT for 20. She was one of the original members of the SERTs team, and continues to share her experience and knowledge with her family, friends and community.

“Oftentimes, when you are reactive to the situation, then it is too late, resulting in injury or even death,” said Millspaugh.

“Being proactive and ready is the biggest success in surviving a disaster,” said Millspaugh.

Though the SERTs are ready to deploy and assist communities at any time, over the past few years, the team has transformed their mission to a more reactionary approach. The first step was creating a Disaster Preparedness and Response Resource Guide in English and Spanish.

“Unfortunately, the most destructive impact and destruction is almost always in the most vulnerable communities (our day laborer communities),” said Debora Gonzalez, a current USWTMC SERT.

“It is from that part where we need to start acting through training, preparation and response, to continue working harder in conjunction with the authorities so that the communication channels are available in all necessary languages and their support is holistic in our communities,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez serves as a USWTMC SERT and worker-trainer, based in USW District 4. She is also a representative of one of the TMC’s training partner organizations, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“Day laborer communities have a history of resilience and resistance throughout the history of disasters and have been a strong arm in the cleanup, recovery and reconstruction work after disasters that occur across the United States,” said Gonzalez.

She concludes that the SERTs’ reactionary transition is important and significant to continue our work.

“Taking a step back and stopping to be reactive and moving toward the future proactively… this will have a great impact on the communities,” said Gonzalez.

For more information about HDPTP, click here. For more information about the SERTs, or to request copies of our Resource Guide or training, please contact Nikki Pollo at [email protected].