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November 10, 2020

Preparing the Next and Future Generations of Leaders and Prepared Citizens

Tina Titze


South Dakota Office of Emergency Management

In your active experience with the association, what do you think of NEMA?

I have the privilege of working within South Dakota Emergency Management for 20 years; most of those years have allowed me to be a member of NEMA.  I was the  Deputy Director for the office for 10 years and have served as Director for the past 5 years. 

In these positions and as a NEMA member, I appreciate the professional organization and all that it has been done to develop the emergency management field over the years.  As is true with any organization there is always more work to be done. 


NEMA really brings together the best of the best.  As an organization the staff within NEMA provide invaluable efforts of representation for emergency managers, help to push federal policy initiatives, and provide opportunities to collaborate with lead partners to make changes which advance emergency management. NEMA is also necessary to facilitate the networking opportunities amongst the states and territories. There must be a strong association to facilitate this collaboration, NEMA provides that to us.


The established NEMA committees also enable individuals within the emergency management field to share best practices, develop new ideas, and improve in areas needed.  Time, resources, and energy is not wasted on recreating the wheel.  We can learn from each other.

NEMA annual forums promote information sharing, the collaboration of new ideas as well as the ability to get to know other state directors.  These personal relationships are so important during a response or while a state is recovering from an incident. State staff can learn from one another because of NEMA.  It is important to build these relationships prior to an emergency or disaster event, NEMA provides various ways for this to happen.


Emergency management really is organized chaos at times; NEMA brings together various state and federal officials so we can effectively plan and grow and continue to do great things in all phases of emergency management. 

What makes you the proudest of your team?

The South Dakota Emergency Management team is small, but mighty.  SD OEM is the smallest staffed emergency management office within the nation; despite having a consistent number of federal disasters declared each year.  We do a lot with a little.  I am proud of the versatility of my team.  I feel work relationships should be based on mutual respect and built on integrity, good customer service, and honesty.  Because of this, our staff understands what is expected of them and they deliver.  They not only deliver, they put forth extra effort when needed to keep the safety of South Dakotan’s a priority. 


Federal disasters come with a great deal of work; hundreds of FEMA staff come into the state in support; however, our staff must work alongside them during disaster.  Our small team must adjust and set aside daily activities to work the emergency at hand.  Our staff can quickly shift gears and deal with the incident at hand.  Flexibility is key in emergency management and my staff are the embodiment of flexibility.  Our staff also assist a very small Homeland Security office (less than 5 staff) by providing training, exercise and equipment monitoring support.  With a small staff we must be able to quickly shift our priorities and work efficiently or we would not be able to effectively assist the citizens of SD and help communities recover from disasters. 


Name one thing that is completely awesome and why is it so incredible?

The opportunity to be a part-time Adjunct Professor for the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Iowa.  I love teaching and guiding students who may be advancing their careers through education or exploring different career fields while starting their college education.  I instruct within the Criminal Justice, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Certificate Programs. It is incredible to be able to guide and train the next generation of emergency management and homeland security professionals. Truly a rewarding opportunity and an amazing team I am a part of at DMACC. 

Where do you see innovation in emergency management and how do we take that to the next level to promote success?

One of the most exciting opportunities created within SD OEM is the Tommy the Turtle campaign.  Social media is so important in our lives today and it really is where so many people get their information.  We created, developed, and utilize Tommy the Turtle in our social media campaigns.  It allows us to grab the reader’s attention as they scroll through social media platforms.

Tommy the Turtle is a mascot for SD OEM and part of a children’s book safety awareness campaign.  The idea was fully developed by our office.  I encourage staff to bring ideas forward so we can further develop emergency management.  This project began as an idea and staff quickly ran with developing the concepts, hired an author and an illustrator and the books were created.  To date we have printed four Tommy the Turtle books.  Tommy was debuted at our State Fair in 2016 and has been loved ever since by our students across the state.  The Tommy books focus on: Severe Weather Preparedness, Winter Weather Preparedness, Fire Safety, and Flood Awareness.  We partnered with the State Fire Marshal to develop the Fire Safety book.

The books are written for 2nd grade level students and we periodically provide copies of these books to schools, libraries, doctor and dentist offices etc.  Most recently a 4-pack of the books was provided to every 2nd grader in the state.  That is a huge preparedness accomplishment.  As we all know; if you ask a child to prepare, they will take these preparedness tips home and ask their parents to prepare.  Our goal is to encourage families to complete simple steps and have fun preparing together.  We also have the Tommy books available for other states to purchase.  A state can order books with their own Emergency  management office information inside the cover and utilize these within their own state if they wish.

We have had several states do this.  Tommy is an example of an idea where my staff thought outside the box and ran with it.  We continue to utilize Tommy and his ability to spread the preparedness message as staff travel around the state with Tommy participating in many different local events (school events, fairs, etc.) promoting safety.  Tommy also visited the State EOC while State staff and the SD National Guard were working in response to COVID.  Easter candy was delivered, and it brightened everyone’s day. 

What is your most favorite activity to do with your family?

As a wife of more than 21 years and a mother of2 teenage children we have a busy active life.  Our daughter Madyson is 19 and a sophomore in college and our son Daysen is 16 and a Junior in high school.  Our family activities generally revolve around some sport.  Our children continue to be active in many different sports to include basketball, football, baseball, softball, and golf.  Those activities are important as our children are growing up so quickly.  When we are not traveling in support of one of these sporting activities, we do like to relax and enjoy the Missouri River.  The river runs through our community and we have a pontoon boat and jet ski.  It is fast and easy for us to head out on the water and relax when we get the opportunity.  Days can be stressful at times-after the satisfaction of helping others through the struggles of disasters or whatever the challenge of the day is, we can be on the water within 10 minutes relaxing the day’s troubles away.

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