Robin Finegan’s recent appointment as FEMA Region VIII Administrator coincides with the agency’s renewed efforts to make the disability community an integral part of FEMA’s mission.
With a background in crisis management and experience working with persons with disabilities, the elderly, and victims of crime, Finegan aims to increase FEMA’s capability to assist this sizable and at times underserved population. She is also committed to expanding the FEMA workforce to reflect these unique views and life experiences which are vital to FEMA’s success.
Finegan says that a high school friend who is deaf influenced her decision to work with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“I knew early on that I wanted a career that would give me opportunities to touch people and have a direct impact on their lives,” said Finegan.
She went on to get a Master’s Degree in Counseling for the Hearing Impaired from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
Finegan is excited about FEMA’s commitment to working closely with the functional needs community, and is looking forward to hiring a full-time Disability Integration Specialist in Region VIII.
“I don’t think it’s enough to say that we have a disabilities coordinator, if by that we mean that the rest of the team doesn’t share the responsibility. We must resist pigeonholing these responsibilities into one person’s jurisdiction, but rather we should utilize a disabilities specialist to grow all of our skills, awareness and personal commitments.”
Finegan believes that integrating the functional needs community into FEMA preparedness planning raises the level of general readiness for all. She sees these individuals more as a resource that can be empowered to serve all people rather than a challenge to simply manage.
As Administrator Fugate asks FEMA’s regional offices to do more in this effort, Finegan stands ready to do all she can to provide the energy, resources and leadership to successfully meet this important responsibility. In the end, though, it’s all about people.
“I look at this as being about individual relationships, and in order to serve all citizens, we need to know about the unique talents, challenges and concerns gained from personal and professional relationships, rather than from assumptions or hearsay.”