California State University, Long Beach
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Life Experiences Shape Greenwald

Published: September 6, 2016

Almost anything can happen in terms of an emergency. With a campus-wide population of more than 37,000 students, the possibility for an emergency situation remains constant.

Fortunately, CSULB is bound by a carefully structured plan of emergency services and operations, now headed by newly-appointed Emergency Operations Manager Lauren Greenwald. Together with Assistant Emergency Coordinator Allyson Joy, Greenwald runs the day-to-day operations of the Emergency Operations Center based in the campus’ Horn Center. Responsible for various emergency training and general oversight of the campus emergency operations plan, Greenwald works to make sure the thousands of students, faculty and staff are properly educated and well-prepared in the event of an emergency.

“We can’t completely plan for exactly what is going to happen because every emergency is unique, but we’re going to try to cover as much as we can so we have something to rely on if something does happen,” says Greenwald. “But overall, CSULB already has a great program in place.”

Greenwald has had extensive experience in the emergency operations field, both as a civilian and an active member of the military. A native of Southern California, she first became intrigued by natural disasters as a victim of the Northridge earthquake of 1994, which shook her family’s home in Glendale.

Despite the circumstances, she remembered taking great interest in what was actually happening during the shaking in what she recalled as her first experience with a natural disaster. “I remember as a little kid in the middle of the earthquake thinking, this is actually really cool. I want to learn more about this,” she said.

Following that earthquake which left her home on a shaky foundation, her family moved to Huntington Beach. After attending a various colleges, she found a calling in the Air Force, where she worked in the emergency management department for seven years. First stationed in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, she also spent a year in South Korea and time at Lakenheath Air Force base in England before finally arriving at CSULB in July.

While Greenwald admits there has been a big adjustment from being in the military to life as a civilian, she says that she is excited for her new role as this has always been her focus.

“In the military, emergency management is much more broad because there are many other focuses and priorities,” she said. But wanting to focus solely on the planning aspects of emergency services rather than responding to real-time emergencies in the field, she transitioned out of the military and into her new position at CSULB, where she gets to construct plans and services that can benefit the campus before an emergency strikes.

She noted the transition has been smooth for her in that she has been able to transfer many of the skills she learned in her active duty into her new job responsibilities.

Lauren Greenwald potrait
Lauren Greenwald

“The military definitely taught me how to work with different countries and cities and how to coordinate with various departments,” she says. “The general structure for emergency management has remained the same, it’s just a new environment.”

In addition to the solid program already in place, Greenwald said she has maintained a great amount of support from the university in her work to evolve the program. Garnering enthusiastic support from President Jane Close Conoley and the University Police Department, she has been able to pull tremendous backing for the program from all parts of the campus. She is optimistic about working with each individual college, making sure all emergency and evacuation plans conform to federal and state management systems, and countering any potential risks to the campus. Tops on her list is keeping students, faculty and staff informed and up-to-date on all emergency protocol.

Greenwald said one of her biggest obstacles is making sure that students are actually aware of their services and can perform in a crisis.

“I understand that this is a college, and students have other priorities and things to worry about,” she said, “but getting people to understand that although it may not happen soon, an emergency certainly can happen at any time, and they need to know what to do in any situation.”

Still, despite the threat of an earthquake or other emergency situations, Greenwald assures students, faculty and staff that CSULB is a well-prepared campus with a strong plan in hand, and they should not over think the threat of an emergency.

“Living in constant fear of any kind of emergency is no way to live your life,” she said, noting that CSULB is a great and safe place to be and, should an emergency actually happen, it is prepared.

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