Get to know your government
Tina Titze — director with the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management
What exactly do you do?
I work with other staff on preparedness campaigns, and actively develop plans and procedures to guide the state’s response to an emergency incident. We coordinate emergency management training courses for state and local officials. We organize and participate in exercises to test state and local response plans and procedures. And, we implement and manage various federal programs focused on preparedness activities.
What are your responsibilities?
I manage the office charged with protecting South Dakota’s citizens and their property from the effects of natural, man-made, and technological disasters. We encourage citizens to be prepared, assist local governments who are overwhelmed by an emergency, and work with counties who are recovering from the impacts of a disaster. Our activities focus on four key areas: preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.
A big part of our preparedness campaign involves our mascot Tommy the Turtle. Tommy is utilized in a number of social media campaigns, and in spreading his safety messages at school events and at local preparedness fairs. Tommy educates children and their families on preparedness activities related to winter storms, flooding, and severe weather. We have distributed books related to these topics at various preparedness events, within second grade classrooms, doctors’ offices and libraries throughout South Dakota. Our latest second grade educational book is on fire safety.
My job is to ensure our office, when called for, immediately sets up the State Emergency Operations Center in order to coordinate resources, gather situational information, and ensure a command structure is established with appropriate staff from the various agencies working together.
What is one of the more interesting aspects of your job?
I was appointed in 2017 to FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) National Advisory Council. The council advises the FEMA administrator on all aspects of emergency management. Through face-to-face meetings and conference calls, we develop recommendations for FEMA administration consideration. It is interesting to explore the various challenges with other officials and private-sector individuals who have very different perspectives. It is always rewarding working on these new ideas and ways to tackle these challenges to improve processes.
What is one of the difficult aspects of your job?
It is the need to immediately switch focus, and ensure all staff also refocus their attention, from daily ‘normal’ activities to that of a disaster. Our job is to address the emergency when one impacts South Dakota. It takes a number of people from various agencies and private companies to quickly respond to a disaster in order to lessen the impacts to people, infrastructure and other property, and to ensure the continued safety of everyone.