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A Day in the Life of a CAST Alum: Jared Owen, Criminal Justice Sciences

The College of Applied Science and Technology’s “A Day in the Life of a CAST Alum” series is designed to shed some light on how CAST alumni spend their days. As with many careers, our alumni will tell you that every day is different, but this series aims to provide a peek into an alum’s world.

Jared Owen ’01, is the State Hazard Mitigation Planner for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) in Springfield, IL. He joined IEMA shortly after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to provide preparedness and response operations training statewide for terrorism incidents in Illinois. Today his efforts focus on mitigation activities to reduce the effects that natural hazards have on the lives and property of Illinois residents. As a planner and grant manager for five disaster-related recovery programs totaling over $100 million annually, Jared works with nearly 2,000 units of government to increase preparedness, provide post-disaster recovery, and mitigate future impacts from natural disasters in Illinois.

6 a.m.—Day begins as my wife, Tara, and I get our two lovely girls (6 and 9) ready for school.  I’d like to tell you this is a smooth process, but that would be dishonest.

7:30 a.m.—I arrive at work to my quiet office to catch up on emails and prepare notes for calls I will make throughout the day.  I try and absorb as much daily news as I can during this time before I head out the door to meetings.

8:45- 10:30 a.m.Jumping back into my vehicle, I head to the State Emergency Operations Center for a 9 a.m. briefing on the current state of the State with regards to Homeland Security, weather forecasting, and disaster intelligence. Designees for each State agency, as well as our Federal counterparts, are set to discuss active security threats to the State, spring flood outlooks, as well as the use of technology in emergency management. Topics for these briefings vary significantly. On one day a briefing will discuss the use of drones in post-disaster intelligence gathering; while another briefing will analyze cyber-security threats and trends that are being closely monitored.  Every career has a bit of a routine to it, but the subject matter at hand for mine changes on a daily on basis.

10:30 a.m.—After the briefing concludes, I use the next 30 minutes to meet with other planners from different state agencies to discuss current legislation and federal regulations that will impact our programs. Brainstorming lessons learned and best practices is the key to making our jobs more efficient and productive.

11 a.m.I’m not much of a lunch person as I am usually on the go, so I try to use this time to make phone calls as I travel statewide to planning meetings.  If I can get a half dozen calls out of the way while traveling down the road, I call it a win.  Bluetooth, obviously important here…

1 p.m.— Usually by 1 or 2 p.m. I have reached a county planning meeting.  The meeting itself is intended to conduct a countywide analysis of all the hazards a jurisdiction is at risk to, and how to minimize future impacts. The State of Illinois’ natural disaster potential is vastly different from Cairo (South) to Rockford (north).  While the southern 30 counties of Illinois face a significant risk to earthquakes, our western counties experience annual flooding along the Mississippi River. The central portion of Illinois is part of a multi-state band that is commonly referred to as Tornado Alley, and northern Illinois could see all these hazards mixed together along with crippling snow and ice storms. McLean County, where Illinois State University (ISU) is located, has the most tornadoes of any other county in Illinois since 1950! While most counties in Illinois have only seen around 30 tornadoes during that timeframe, McLean has seen 103!  Due to this heightened risk, ISU and I are working on a campus-wide hazard mitigation plan. Upon completion, ISU will be the first university in Illinois with this type of plan!

5 p.m.—If all goes well, my day usually ends around 5 p.m.  From time to time, there is a major recovery component to the job that requires conducting damage assessments after a significant natural disaster. This process can result in much longer days as we work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to secure federal aid to local jurisdictions impacted by disaster.  With 60 presidential disaster declarations, only a handful of states have more declarations than Illinois. ISU prepared me considerably for my career. Learning how to think critically and strategically were unquestionably the best attributes I gained from my time on campus. I like to think that the only thing harder than preparing for an emergency or other career-related challenge, is explaining why you didn’t.

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