Holly Mann, an emergency manager, in the Garrison Emergency Operations Center.
Holly Mann, an emergency manager, in the Garrison Emergency Operations Center. (Photo Credit: Paul Lara) VIEW ORIGINAL

Holly Mann first saw the importance of emergency preparation, while working as a public administrator for the local health department in Mobile, Ala.

In dealing with hurricanes, which constantly threaten Mobile, given its location on the Gulf Coast, Mann remembers the role emergency agencies played in the recovery process.

“I noticed the resiliency to teach communities how to come back together,” Mann said. “You had to be a team player to get people back to normal. It was extremely rewarding.”

In her 20-year career, Mann continues to seek opportunities that allow her to adapt to challenges and find ways to address them.

In December, she reported to Belvoir to serve as one of two garrison emergency managers.

“Emergency Management at Fort Belvoir is about coordination and being part of a team that devises solutions to all hazards that have the potential to impact our community of residents, workforce personnel, and visitors,” Mann said.

Sometimes, the challenge is a hurricane. Sometimes it’s a snowstorm like ones she encountered while working in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore.

And then, something like the coronavirus pandemic comes along.

“Under the current circumstances no one thought through how to do this,” Mann said. “We grew with the process. There were what initial steps would look like and enduring a longer response. What the recovery would look like and considerations for what might come up again. We’re in a better position to handle another outbreak.”

While dealing with the pandemic remains the focus, Mann emphasizes the importance of keeping other issues on people’s radar screen.

In particular, she cites the start of hurricane season.

“The Fort Belvoir population is reminded that we are a water-oriented community that can be impacted by strong wind, flash flooding, and severe thunderstorms,” Mann said. “Remember to update your communication plan and emergency supply kit. Know how to receive weather warnings and how to contact your family, friends, or others. Know what to do in the event an evacuation is necessary. Plan based on your specific needs, which may include medication/medical supplies; care for your dependents; pet considerations; pandemic restrictions, etc.”

Overall, she said the most rewarding aspect of her job is how it evolves through collaboration and learning together from the past, to ensure a more-effective approach going forward.

“It’s encouraging to be a part of the progress achieved through years of aligning the emergency management discipline at DoD and DHS so that emergencies, on and off post, are closely managed in sync with the same processes and procedures,” Mann said.

With the help of others, including fellow emergency manager Darryl Conley, Mann has adjusted quickly to her role at Belvoir.

Mann said she enjoys working here for one reason: It “feels like coming back to a community.”

This article originally ran in the Belvoir Eagle on June 24, 2020.