Task Force Chairs, Ben Curran and Regina Blye
The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s Emergency Preparedness Task Force, commonly known as SW Strong! was established in 2011 to promote individual, family and community emergency preparedness in SW Washington DC. Our vision of the Task Force is to build a “disaster resilient community” in SW, — a community that is prepared and is better able to withstand and overcome the effects of disasters. Our mission is to organize a wide variety of disaster-related talks, community drills, and other activities to encourage everyone to think about disaster preparedness and to take steps to prepare themselves in the event of a disaster. Our values include inclusiveness, collaboration, humor, creativity, action, and respect for others and for mother earth. We are also determined to build a wide network of similar grassroots disaster preparedness initiatives throughout the city. All of our efforts are done in close coordination with the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and the DC Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
- September 23, 2023, SW Strong! in coordination with Serve DC, DCHSEMA, DC VOAD and SW BID is hosting “All Hands On Deck – a Climate Action & Disaster Prevention Festival”. Adjacent to the SW Farmers Market.
- July 4, 2023, SW Strong! is leading a July 4th Parade Float on Disaster Preparedness and Prevention.
- Tuesdays in April, in coordination with the SW Neighborhood Library organized “There Is No Planet B: a Climate Awareness Film Festival” including a subject matter expert leading post-film discussions.
- April 13, 2023, hosted a discussion with Veterans For Peace on their 6,000-mile sailing trip around the U.S. to discuss the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the folly of war.
- March 24, 2023, organized and co-hosted “The Funky DC Happy Hour Time” with the DC VOAD and Health Best Services a Happy Hour for the DC disaster relief community at the Boardwalk Bar & Arcade.
- March 16, 2023, hosted a discussion with DC Fire Prevention specialists and Health Services CPR experts on “Fire Safety & Prevention – The Do’s & Don’ts That Might Help Save a Life” and Hands Only CPR demonstrations.
- February 16, 2023, hosted a talk by Director, Smithsonian Institution, Office of Emergency Management on “Safeguarding the Museums’ Treasures from Disasters.”
- October 13, 2022 — International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – hosted a discussion on “Lessons Without Borders – US and International Disaster Response Operations” with FEMA Senior Mass Care Specialist and SAMU First Response Managing Director.
- September 8, 2022, hosted a discussion with experts from Operation Hope on “The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit – How to Get Your Financial Resources in Order Before a Disaster.”
- July 28, 2022, hosted a talk by author Sarah Dawn Petrin on her book: “Bring Rain: Helping Humanity in Crisis.”
- Organized, in coordination with the American Red Cross and the SW Library, the delivery of “The Pillowcase Project” a disaster preparedness activity for 3rd – 5th graders on May 25, 2022.
- Co-organized and co-hosted with Arena Stage and SW BID, a blood drive for the American Red Cross on March 8, 2022. A total of 35 pints of blood collected.
- Organized and carried out: “Weather the Storm – a Disaster Preparedness and Resiliency Building Festival” in September 2020.
- Organized and carried out a panel discussion on “Climate Change: Why it is a Serious Problem & What We Can Do About It” in October 2021.
- Coordinating with Miss DC to promote disaster preparedness throughout the city — see video clip above.
- Hosted Dr. Joe Barbera, GW Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management “In Remembrance of the 10th Anniversary of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake”
- Coordinated and hosted a talk by John Wennersten and Denise Robbins, authors of “Rising Tides ~ Climate Refugees in the Twenty-first Century.
- Organized a Safety Forum with emphasis on Active Shooter training.
- Organized two emergency preparedness mini-exercises, — a hurricane scenario, and an interactive, flood-scenario table-top exercise focused on how community members work together to make decisions about the response and recovery from the disaster with a special emphasis on resource identification, mobilization and allocation. DC Floodplain Manager and DC Homeland Security/Emergency Management Agency Community Relations Coordinator attended the event.
- Organized a children’s emergency preparedness activity “The Pillowcase Project” at the SW Neighborhood Library with American Red Cross.
- Organized a talk on Sheltering and Evacuations Routes for Ward 6.
- Organized a talk on Building A Resilient SW DC.
- Organized a demonstration on Fire Extinguishers.
- Organized a demonstration and discussion on Building Disaster Kits.
- Organized a talk on the Lessons Learned from the 2011 Virginia earthquake
- Distributed disaster preparedness literature to a growing number of facilities, businesses, houses of worship, condominiums, housing offices, and apartments.
- Hosted information table at the DC State Fair and the SW Farmers Market to provide emergency preparedness literature available.
Meet the Emergency Task Force Chairs
As the dependent of a U.S. Diplomat, Ben Curran grew up overseas in Iran, South Africa, Tanzania, England, Togo and Australia. He began work with the International Rescue Committee in the Sudan during the Ethiopian Refugee Crisis in the late 1980’s. Afterwards he supported the American Red Cross as an Assistant Shelter Manager during the Central American Refugee Situation on the Southwest U.S. Border. Joining FEMA Response Operations Office in 1989, he deployed to support several disasters throughout the country including: Hurricane Hugo in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Andrew in Louisiana; the Midwest Floods in Kansas, Iowa and Illinois; the Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles; the Oklahoma City Bombing; September 11th in Washington D.C.; Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana; Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the USVI and Puerto Rico; and, the covid-19 FEMA headquarters response operations center in Washington D.C. In addition, he supported several overseas operations including the Rwanda Genocide with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance; Kobe Earthquake; Hurricane Mitch; the Haiti Earthquake; and, the Stability Pact – a NATO-led capacity-building task. At FEMA, serves as the Deputy Branch Chief for Mass Care, Voluntary Agency Coordination and Community Services. A native Washingtonian he lives in the District enjoying all the colorful DC murals; street festivals; showing off DC to visitors, especially international visitors; Ben’s Chili Bowl; and, all of the funky Ethiopian buna-beats.
Regina Blye is a dynamic “Advocrat” committed to high-impact systems change. She targets public policy reform to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities by removing barriers to education, employment, healthcare, transportation, and housing. For ten years, she served as the Executive Director of a statewide nonprofit that promotes the independence and integration of Texans with disabilities into a community of their choice. Her advocacy led to President Barack Obama appointing Regina to serve on the United States Access Board for over six years. As a board member, she was responsible for developing accessibility guidelines and standards for the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA).
She moved from Austin, Texas, to Washington, DC, three years ago to work at the US Health and Human Services/Administration for Community Living and to visit as many museums as possible.
Regina gives back to the community by serving as an Ambassador for the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, Chair of the Southwest DC Community Center, Co-Chair of SWNA SW Strong!, and as a board member of the DC State Fair. She believes in staying active, so you can catch her playing Wheelchair Rugby, teaching people to play Boccia, teaching Zumba, and playing music at community events.