About the Founder

Highly Unique U.S. Disaster Systems Experience

Vanessa Burnett is the founder of this website, Counterfear.com, and of the Shift the Country initiative.

She has an unusual and likely one-of-a-kind combined experience in four currently relevant areas:

  1. The core US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy on incident (disaster) management (5+ years);
  2. DHS critical infrastructure protection and resilience policies and systems;
  3. DHS public private partnership work for economic, infrastructure, and disaster resilience; and
  4. The highly complex and effective US interagency wildland firefighting response coordination system.

This experience brings a rare systems-level understanding of the US disaster response landscape and corresponding policy, process, and logistical challenges that could be applied to the pandemic response, to related cascading effects across interrelated systems, and to intensifying climate-amplified disasters.

Ms. Burnett is a disruption and disaster consultant and advisor, with experience in disaster management, catastrophes, incident management, complex systems, disaster information sharing, wildfire, land management, resilience-building, critical infrastructure, entrepreneurialism, technology innovation, social change, and civic engagement.

A slightly more interesting story is on this Patreon page.

Public LinkedIn Profile here.

Detailed Biography

Vanessa Burnett is a change agent and disaster management consultant specializing in facing risk, making change, building resilience, and countering fear.  She is an experienced project manager and analyst with over 20 years of professional experience in emergency management and homeland security.  Much of this work has included coaching, collaboration, and project facilitation with leaders, working groups, contractors, and colleagues to build national and regional level policy, procedures, systems, innovation, and operational approaches.

Vanessa’s most recent role prior to entrepreneurship was as the local technical contact for the National Capital Region’s emergency notification system (ENS) in the Washington, DC area.   The now-updated alert system serves 5.5 million residents and a variety of public safety and other government agencies in the metro area's 18 core jurisdictions.  The work included transitioning the 10-year-old system to the newer cloud-based Everbridge mass notification platform.  

Ms. Burnett has served in a variety of capacities at the headquarters level for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Science & Technology Directorate (research and development), the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Office of Policy, and the Office of Operations Coordination.  Ms. Burnett also worked in the US Department of the Interior’s (DOI's) Office of the Secretary.  Work in DHS and DOI included incident and disaster information sharing, incident management, the National Incident Management System (NIMS), resilience, infrastructure protection, public-private partnerships for incident management and infrastructure restoration, GIS, aviation operations for incidents, security, threat response, risk management, cybersecurity, and continuity of operations programs (COOP).  This experience included Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, wildfires, tornadoes, volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, exercises, and other hurricanes and all-hazard incidents.

Ms. Burnett’s experience in public safety began at an early age serving several seasons as a lifeguard, and then as a park ranger.  She became certified as a wildland firefighter, and spent several seasons fighting wildfires and lighting prescribed burns.  Vanessa eventually moved into wildland fire management as a regional Fire Intelligence Coordinator at the busiest interagency wildland fire coordination center in the world.  The Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center, or “South Ops,” was the birthplace of formalized incident management that eventually led to the creation of NIMS after 9/11.  Ms. Burnett transitioned from South Ops to the Washington, DC area after 9/11 to help evolve incident management and incident information sharing. While transitioning away from homeland security, Vanessa was trained in life coaching, or wayfinding, through the Martha Beck Institute in 2013.  She now lives in central Iowa and is working to make shift happen.

Major Prior Efforts

National Capital Region (NCR) Emergency Notification System (ENS)

Served as the local technical contact and contractor-side project manager for migrating and operating the NCR's 18 city, county, and District governments' ENS to a cloud-based SaaS platform for 50 operational public and private portals affecting a population of 5.5 million around the Washington, DC metro area in 2014-2015.  The system is used for a range of notifications, including daily traffic notices, automated severe weather alerts, major emergencies such as blizzards or school lockdowns, community advisories, and events such as the inauguration or current pandemic.

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

Served as a staff subject matter expert at FEMA to build the NIMS, a major post-9/11 program to create a scalable and flexible incident management approach for the country for every day emergencies to major catastrophes.  Facilitated innovation, interoperability, approaches and standards for technology integration, program development, and connections to other federal initiatives to build resilience.  Liaised with the creators of the originating system, and advocated for the survival of the program itself. 

Specialized work in:  Incident Command System (ICS) including ICS Forms, Multi-Agency Coordination Systems (MACS); incident information sharing and decision support information; Geographic Information Systems (GIS); public private partnerships and economic resilience strategies for disaster response and recovery; critical infrastructure protection and resilience; technical standards; technology development/innovation; systems integration and interoperability; public information systems; communications; communications interoperability; intelligence; aviation coordination; and mutual aid systems, standards, processes, and technology.

Incident Situation Reporting Standard & System

From 2000-2004, worked with a small team that initiated the creation of a national wildland fire situation reporting process via the Incident Status Summary Form (ICS 209), implemented in existing enterprise architecture in beta in six months.  Co-led California adoption and implementation for 934 cooperators as well as adoption of related national standards and metadata.  Primary technical support during beta phase during heavy operational wildfire use.  Created detailed user guide; adapted it years later for the NIMS ICS Forms around 2008-2010.

This situation reporting process, standard, and platform is still in use in the wildland fire community, has been adopted into the NIMS, and is used for all-hazard incidents and some required federal reporting to obtain emergency funding under the Stafford Act.


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