By Christina Bellamy
Tampa Bay Time Bank offers Zoom programs for their membership on a monthly basis. There are many ways to learn about disaster preparedness in our community. The internet, TV, radio, newspapers, and other local media offer lists, maps, and guidelines. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, who teaches Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief, and Homeland Security at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, offers some of all that to be sure—but the distinction of what she offered us in the recent 90-minute Zoom was what populations in our “bioregion” need in order to be prepared, safe, and connected. And most important—valued.
Due to her work at USF, her roles with the hurricane shelters, and her broad understanding of municipal resources, Elizabeth offered us a timely, comprehensive, compassionate overview. Hillsborough County has ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods, overtaxed roadways, and is vulnerable to extreme coastal weather. All that makes for complicated hurricane readiness. Elizabeth’s ongoing understanding of refugee communities, unhoused individuals, neglected neighborhoods, and families struggling with complex stressors won’t be found in the local newspaper’s guidelines.
Instead, Elizabeth offers information that addresses what is between the lines of policy reports and standard guidelines. From her work with the Refugee and Migrant Women Initiatives (RAMWI), she knows what shelters might receive recently arrived families, and where to find translators for effective communication. From her work with multiple community groups, she knows where the resources are in times of power outages. At USF, her teaching is collaborative, experiential, and equitable, where the students learn in the community, not just the classroom. That requires patient exploration of what is out there, and possible ways to connect all the moving parts when disaster hits.
This was not a pro forma PowerPoint slide deck-backed presentation. Yes, of course there were slides with information, but the presentation dug deeper into what happens in a community when food, electricity, transportation, school, medical centers, work places, retail outlets, and other everyday connections are not accessible.
Elizabeth offered a presentation about reality, diversity, possibility, and resilience. We are grateful that Elizabeth spent time with us, and that she is a bright light in our Tampa Bay region. For more information contact (813) 974-3623.