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First All-Women Led Incident Management Assistance Team Paves the Way in Region 9

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Four women smile for the camera

From left to right: Kelly Parker, Melissa Boudrye, Teresa Serata and Rhonda "Roe" Landry.

During a disaster, FEMA deploys Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT). These rapidly deployable teams provide the federal government’s initial coordination and response capability prior to – and in the immediate hours following – a serious incident.

FEMA Region 9 IMAT-2, based in Oakland, Calif., is the first all-women led team. Together, they have handled disaster response and recovery operations in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, all the way to U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa in the South Pacific and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the North Pacific.

Below, the team’s four leaders share more about what it means to them to lead Region 9’s IMAT-2.

Teresa Serata – Team Lead

Teresa Serata – Team Lead - Region 9 IMAT Team

What do you do for the Region 9 IMAT?

I have the pleasure of being the Team Lead for Region 9 IMAT 2. I am responsible for building and leading a diverse and cohesive team of 12 elite emergency managers. I work with them to identify opportunities for their individual and professional development. We’re constantly sharpening our tools, knowledge and capability to coordinate the response activities in support of Region 9’s states, territories and tribes.

What does it mean to you to lead the IMAT?

I get to work with a highly trained expeditionary team, who can provide hope for survivors, many of whom have just gone through one of the worst days. I have the unique opportunity to lead one of the most diverse teams in FEMA, all of whom I believe will excel and make up the leadership in FEMA.

Melissa Boudrye – Operations Chief

Melissa Boudrye – Operations Chief - Region 9 IMAT Team

What do you do for the Region 9 IMAT 2?

I am the Operations Section Chief on the team. When deployed, I coordinate with our state, local, tribal and territorial government partners, federal interagency stakeholders and FEMA programs to establish a stabilization and recovery strategy after a disaster/incident. During blue skies, I work with our regional team and our local counterparts to update all of the hazard plans and work with our government partners on preparedness and resilience initiatives.   

What does it mean to you to lead the IMAT?

As a member of the IMAT, we set the standard for disaster emergency response within our field. For me, being a lead on the IMAT is a major milestone in my FEMA service. I feel a great deal of pride to be working with such an outstanding team, particularly with my “lady chiefs.” Being a part of the first IMAT to be led by all women is something to be celebrated, and I hope it paves the way for more women in emergency management.

Rhonda “Roe” Landry – Logistics Chief

Rhonda “Roe” Landry – Logistics Chief - Region 9 IMAT Team

What does leading our response efforts on an IMAT mean to you?

Leading a response effort on an IMAT means leading by example.  Pushing the bar higher, my personal standard will always be higher than what is expected.

How has the diverse makeup of your team changed since you started at FEMA?           

When I started with FEMA, everything looked the same across leadership, there was no diversity.  I’m happy to see the changes in the agency and I’m proud to be a part of FEMA history.

How do diverse teams help you be successful?

Having a diverse team helps me be successful because we serve a diverse population. Everyone wants to see themselves represented and our diverse teams continue to help us to be inclusive. Diversity also adds empathy and sensitivity to how we approach helping each applicant.

What would you tell other women who are interested in emergency management and potentially working on an IMAT?

The glass ceiling is broken. There is no limit to what we (women) can do.

Kelly Parker – Planning Chief

Kelly Parker – Planning Chief - Region 9 IMAT Team

What does leading our response efforts on IMAT mean to you?

Everyone has a different picture in their mind about what FEMA is and does. For me, when I thought about FEMA, I pictured people dropping what they were doing and responding to help people who were experiencing the worst day of their life. Now, not only do I work for FEMA, but I am one of those people that drops what they are doing and responds. It is an honor to support FEMA’s mission of helping people before, during and after disasters, but it is an even bigger honor to be part of an elite team of experts that get to be the first out the door when a disaster strikes.

How has the diverse makeup of your team changed since you started at FEMA?

When I started at FEMA on the IMAT, I was the only female section chief on my team and my counterpart on the other IMAT team was a male. Emergency management, in my opinion, started out and remains to some extent a male-dominated field. I am proud and honored to work on the first IMAT with all female section chiefs and a female team lead. It shows just how far the field of emergency management has come and how far it can go.

How do diverse teams help you be successful?

Diversity is the key to success. Every disaster is different and affects people differently. Men and women see and interpret things differently. Individuals with different cultural backgrounds see and interpret things differently. People of different ages have different life experiences which allow them to see and interpret things differently. All of this diversity ensures each situation is seen and interpreted to its full extent. Diversity ensures every voice is heard, every rock is turned over and the whole community can be served to its fullest.

What would you tell other women who are interested in emergency management and potentially working on an IMAT?

I feel like I have been trying to get more women into emergency management since I started on my own journey. The more I learn about emergency management and work in the field, the more I can see how women are vital in its success. Women are excellent critical thinkers and problem solvers by nature. Emergency management is simply organizing chaos, and who can do that better than a woman?

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