Proven Strategies

Two people care for a small puppy rescued during the response to Hurricane Harvey

The Best Friends Podcast Episode 125

National Preparedness Month
August 25th, 2022

Making landfall five years ago today, Hurricane Harvey was one of the most destructive storms in American history, but its strength was not an aberration. It was a sign of things to come as the changing climate is creating more weather-related disasters and making storms, wildfires, and floods more dangerous.

That’s why it’s important to have plans for what to do during an emergency or disaster, both for yourself and your organization.

To learn more about creating effective plans, we spoke with the senior manager of emergency services for Best Friends, Sharon Hawa.

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Sharon Hawa - Best Friends Animal Society

Sharon Hawa

senior manager of emergency response, Best Friends

As the senior strategist of emergency services, Sharon is responsible for enhancing Best Friends’ capacity and capability to respond to disasters throughout the country. Sharon has extensive knowledge of disaster planning and operations management; coordinating response efforts and training large workforces. Her knowledge and experience in the field of emergency management spans over 20 years.

Sharon started her career as a volunteer with the American Red Cross in New York City following the tragedies of 9/11/2001. She knew immediately that emergency management was the career path for her. She spent the next two decades in various roles at various agencies, planning for and responding to disasters both domestically and internationally, providing care to displaced individuals and often their four-legged family members.

As an avid animal lover and volunteer for several animal rescue groups near her home in Alexandria, Virginia, Sharon recognizes the gaps that exist in emergency planning for household pets and other animals. During the response for Hurricane Gustav in 2008, Sharon managed a mega-shelter in Alexandria, Louisiana, which at peak had more than 3,000 evacuees, as well as, several hundred animals in a co-located pet shelter facility. It was there that she decided that someday in her emergency management career, she would be able to combine her passion for emergency management with her passion for animal welfare.

Sharon and her partner, Max, are an avid outdoors people who enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking and rock scrambling/climbing adventures. They completed their first summit on Half Dome, an 8,839’ peak in California’s Yosemite National Park in September 2018 and have their eyes set on more. Sharon is rescued by her dog, Juno.

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