Q&A with Disaster Tech's Senior Director of Federal Programs, Brandon Newton

Mar 15, 2022 2:28:02 PM

March 15, 2022

Brandon Newton, a previous Consultant of Disaster Tech, has officially signed on full-time as the Senior Director of Federal Programs. Brandon has been working with Disaster Tech since January of 2022 as a consultant, and we are so excited to have him join the team full-time. In honor of his new position, we sat down with Brandon to learn more about his passions, service, and future goals with Disaster Tech. 

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I recently retired after serving over 30 years in the US Army. I enlisted in 1987, so I was privileged to serve alongside fellow Soldiers for many years and around the world. My family was a part of that experience, as well. We owe a tremendous debt to all military families as they have sacrificed so much to support our nation's defense. My last assignment was in Denver, Colorado. My spouse and I decided to stay in Colorado after leaving the service; there are so many things here in the west that we love. My children are all grown and out of the house. My daughter works in interior design and lives in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My son is a 2nd Lt. in the US Marine Corps. My spouse works for Junior Achievement of the Rocky Mountains and works everyday with middle school kids and teachers. 

2. When did your passion for emergency management begin?

Over the last few years, three defining experiences have developed my passion for helping people and communities. First, I was a "garrison" commander in Korea as one of my last assignments in the Army. Being a garrison commander is like being a city manager. I really became aware and involved in just how critical our emergency services and first responders were to our community and how a well-planned executed response could help people in need. My last assignment on active duty was working with FEMA Region VIII as the Defense Coordinating Officer. In that assignment, I supported state, local, tribal, and federal partners through a range of hazards and disasters. I got to work with professionals, leaders, and responders from the policy through the tactical level. The DCO role really shaped my appreciation for some of the challenges that emergency managers and elected officials deal with and the power of our nation's response framework at scale. Finally, I am a volunteer with Team Rubicon, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to providing relief to those affected by disaster. I have supported communities as a "Grey Shirt" (represents an ethos of service, commitment, and sacrifice) and see the power in volunteerism and genuine commitment to helping others. When you see just how much of a difference this makes in someone's life, when they are in need, the passion just creates itself.

3. Why Disaster Tech?

The most important thing you need to know about Disaster Tech is that the team is a group of people who are values-based in pursuing our company's vision and mission. This at once, defined why I wanted to work alongside this group of professionals. It's also a blend of technologists and practitioners who want to use data science to help communities before, during, and after disasters. I've had time to get to know our small team, and I share their concerns about the effect of climate futures on our planet and how it relates to disasters. 

4. How is your experience adding to Disaster Tech as a company?

I am excited to be a part of Disaster Tech's future. I believe my broad experience in emergency management and years of experience in operations centers will contribute to this team. I've spent most of my professional life with a "foot nailed to the floor" of command posts or operations centers. My exposure to managing information in a crisis will help us stay user-centered in our design, with products that help clarify the complex. I have led teams through challenging situations, relying on ambiguous and unclear information to make critical decisions. Those experiences shape what I think of when we deliver situational awareness and operational coordination solutions. 

5. How has your passion for service played a role in your position with Disaster Tech?

I feel like serving others has shaped everything I have done for most of my life. If I did not perceive that this team at Disaster Tech was imbued with the values and vision of serving others, we would not have been compatible as partners. I also firmly believe that "service" remains innate in all of us, no matter our occupations or how we describe what we do. After spending my entire adult life in uniform, I have been "thanked for my service" way more than I truly deserve. We must recognize the service in the everyday acts that we do for one another on this planet. There is service in how we treat one another and how we act as a part of a community. If anything, the pandemic has made us realize that service is limitless. The medical professionals, first responders, teachers, front-line service employees, grocery store workers, delivery drivers - all should be appreciated for their service. Right now, I'd shake the hand of the snow-plow drivers and thank them for what they do each day for our collective safety.

6. In what ways have you seen Disaster Tech innovating the emergency management industry?

Although we work to integrate better decision support technology throughout all phases of disasters, I am excited about our support for exercises and gamification. I have been a part of exercise design and execution for most of my career. Having a system that can "de-table" the tabletop will change how many exercises are run. Instead of dedicating time, resources, and thought to analog-based event lists, we can embed exercises in the existing system that teams work with daily. What an advantage to already short-staffed emergency management teams or small communities without the overhead needed for full-time work on exercise design and a large white cell and exercise control staff.

The team at Disaster Tech is mindful of what our practice and efforts mean for the effects of climate futures on this planet. This is probably less innovation and more urgency. Still, our team applies this to frame our efforts in developing technology for more resilient communities. Where I live out in Colorado, I see these impacts of climate daily. A few months ago, I was a volunteer at the Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado. In a series of red lights over the past years, that fire should really be a significant red light. Our team's work on innovative technological solutions is bolstered by our collective concern for the planet.

7. What are you most looking forward to in your future with Disaster Tech?

Never stopping learning and trying new things. This team values curiosity, learning in public, dogfooding our own products, and self-improvement. I am excited about bringing my skills in design and planning, along with my experience in government, to our team and our partners. It is very much a team culture where constant learning is supporting. I'm diving into the technology-agile methods, data science, and artificial intelligence. If you're familiar with the agile-based "chicken and pig" fable, I am learning to be less chicken, more pig.

But I am most looking forward to supporting communities during their worst days and working to improve tools that emergency managers and first responders use to save lives. So if I can contribute to that in some way, that's what I am looking forward to the most.

About Disaster Tech  
Disaster Tech, a veteran-owned public benefit company, offers data science and decision science technologies for situational awareness, operational coordination, and risk management before, during, and after disasters. Disaster Tech’s goal is to save lives, protect the environment, and build resilient communities by providing the most sophisticated, advanced analytics and distributed high-performance computing platform on the planet. Find more at https://www.disastertech.com/  

Disaster Tech Media Contact 
Jaclyn Silvestri 

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