By Kristina Michel
Chelsea McKeathen always wanted to pursue a career in public service. Growing up in Denton, which lies inside Tornado Alley, and observing the impact of disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Ike also gave her a strong appreciation of the importance of disaster planning. So, to her, emergency management was the perfect career to bridge those two passions.
“Emergency management is such a multifaceted field,” said McKeathen. “It’s also a relatively new field, so it will continue to evolve.”
McKeathen is the newest addition to the University of Houston’s Office of Emergency Management. As an emergency management specialist, she helps maintain UH’s Emergency Operations Center, the central command and control facility that provides up-to-the-minute information to the campus community during emergencies, and she helps update emergency action plans.
“There are many variables as to how emergency management responds to an emergency. It depends on what the emergency is and what our role is,” McKeathen said. “Our main goal is making sure we prepare the campus community as best we can ahead of time, thereby mitigating problems that occur during an emergency as promptly and efficiently as possible.”
McKeathen also helps coordinate emergency training. She assists with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for UH students, faculty and staff who volunteer to assist during campus emergencies, and she provides training on how to use online disaster planning programs and tools.
McKeathen has bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology from the University of North Texas. She completed her master’s in public administration in May from The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. While pursuing her master’s degree, she worked as an information technology policy graduate assistant and, as an undergraduate, was employed as a legal assistant. During her summer months in graduate school, she interned in a U.S. Senate office in Washington, D.C., and with the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management. Soon after graduating, McKeathen saw an opening in the UH Office of Emergency Management and immediately applied.
When comparing her experience at the Fort Bend County emergency management office to her job at UH, McKeathen found herself seeing more similarities than differences. They may serve different kinds of populations and have different variables to account for, but at the heart of every emergency planning team is the dedication and commitment to preparedness.
“You have people who care a lot about the population they’re serving,” McKeathen said. “It’s really an incredible environment.”
When she’s not working at UH, McKeathen enjoys volunteering with her husband, who works for the U.S. Coast Guard. She serves as an ombudsman for the ship on which he is stationed. When on deployments, she will relay messages between the crew and their families.