Last week, the first HERricane Florida summer camp took place in Tallahassee. This week-long experience, sponsored by Volunteer Florida and other partners, was intended to educate young women about emergency management and disaster preparedness, while generating interest in these topics and ultimately increasing the number of women working in the field.

“It provided me, as a woman, the opportunity to share my excitement for emergency management, and show these young ladies that people who look like them can be successful in a field that is dominated by men,” said Jessica Geib, the Florida state liaison for the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services.

Everyone involved enjoyed HERricane Florida. It provided opportunities for critical thinking – for example, the campers learned about drone aerodynamics – as well as specialized health training, such as CPR and tourniquet use. Leadership, networking and professionalism were also emphasized throughout the camp.

“The most important thing I learned is to utilize all your resources and act quickly when disasters arise,” said Chase, one of the campers.

When she is older, Chase wants to be a pilot for the Coast Guard. She believes HERricane Florida added to her skill set and will help her reach that goal.

In 2014, women occupied 34 percent of emergency management staff jobs, and only 8 percent held a director-level position. In an effort to begin implementing change, the first camp was established in Arlington, Virginia in 2016 with 24 young ladies.

Volunteer Florida’s CERT program manager, Christy Rojas said, “It has been a great privilege to work alongside other great women in our profession and inspire girls who have an interest in the emergency management field.”

HERricane Florida is a major step towards increasing the representation of women in the emergency management field.

With hopes of being a marine biologist, another camper, sixteen-year-old Janeen, reflects on the week.

“My favorite activity was when we had to create a meal out of a few cans of food as though we were in a state of emergency – it pushed us to be creative,” she said.

HERricane Florida is inspiring young women one week at a time, instilling their motto, “She believed she could, so she did.”