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Kyla Breland, Southeast Regional Preparedness Coordinator

Kyla Breland

Kyla Breland, Southeast Regional Preparedness Coordinator.

Kyla works as the Southeast regional preparedness coordinator for the Disaster Preparedness Program in the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R). OR&R responds to oil spills, chemical accidents, and other emergencies, including hurricanes, in coastal areas. It also provides scientific support to the U.S. Coast Guard for spills in coastal waters. The Disaster Preparedness Program works to strengthen operational capabilities so that the National Ocean Service and its partners have the tools necessary to plan for and respond to disasters.

What are your basic job duties?

The Disaster Preparedness Program has regional preparedness coordinators strategically placed around the country to provide local expertise and guidance to federal and state partners. I am the coordinator for the Southeast region, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the Caribbean. In my role, I build productive relationships with our partners and stakeholders to help coastal communities prepare for disasters. I become an advocate for communities by understanding their needs and connecting them with NOAA resources to plan for, respond to, and recover from disasters, such as hurricanes. For instance, during a hurricane, if a partner has questions about local impacts from a hurricane landfall, I would direct them to our Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) or the NGS Response Imagery Viewer and let them know when post-landfall imagery is expected from NGS overflight.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

I started as a graduate student intern in South Florida with a county emergency management agency. After I finished graduate school at George Washington University, I wound up in Tucson, Arizona, where I was the community outreach coordinator for Pima County Emergency Management. There, I led engagement and education activities related to emergency preparedness. When I moved back to Florida, I accepted a job at a municipal emergency management agency. When I was ready for a challenge and a chance to apply my skills in building and sustaining relationships and my knowledge of emergency management, I found that opportunity as a contractor for NOAA in the Disaster Preparedness Program.

When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career?

I knew in graduate school when I took a public health emergencies course. I felt strongly that the principles and core ethical values of public health could be applied in emergency management to help vulnerable communities prepare for disasters.

Who has influenced you or encouraged you?

Many people throughout my career have influenced and encouraged me. The best advice I ever received from a mentor was “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.” That saying inspires everything I do in my career.

What about your work has felt especially exciting or rewarding?

I get to work with the Southeast & Caribbean Disaster Resilience Partnership, which is a network of recovery professionals from the U.S. Southeast and Caribbean territories. Its mission is to strengthen community resilience and support rapid disaster recovery. Our work was recognized by Vice President Harris as a notable contribution to implementing the objectives of the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030. Although it was inspiring to be recognized, it was more rewarding to meet and learn from disaster risk reduction practitioners from across the region. It felt like the opportunity of a lifetime. I was honored to be given the space to present on NOAA’s role in recovery and to share in the equitable pursuit of resilience with some of the world’s leading experts.

What NOAA project have you enjoyed working on the most?

My favorite project has been serving as NOAA’s recovery support coordinator in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. NOAA has a lot to offer following a coastal disaster. In this role, I was able to work with the nation's leading experts and scientists from across the NOAA network. Through our coordinated effort, local communities had the additional resources, expertise, and tools they needed. I witnessed firsthand NOAA’s mission and vision come to life.

How has your cultural background or history influenced your career? 

Growing up in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I was no stranger to hurricanes and the effects they have on communities. I witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts the most vulnerable communities experienced following a disaster. Vulnerable communities have fewer resources to respond to and recover from disasters, and they are historically underserved. I wanted to empower and advocate for those communities. I knew it was important not to speak for those communities, but rather to use my platform as an opportunity to lift up their voices. This influenced me to become a better listener and advocate for local communities.

What would you recommend to those who want to begin a career in your field?

The foundation of emergency management and disaster preparedness is people. Your success depends upon your ability to communicate and advocate for the community you serve. Develop skills that enable you to connect with others and form positive relationships. A degree gets you in the door; relationships keep you there.

  • Name: Kyla Breland
  • Location: Charleston, South Carolina; travel throughout the Southeast and Caribbean regions
  • Education: MPH, George Washington University
  • National Ocean Service Program Office: Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R), Disaster Preparedness Program

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Author: NOAA

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