As program director of the Humanitarian Studies Initiative at the McGill University in Canada, Dr. Kirsten Johnson is in charge of helping to make sure humanitarian aid workers that respond to emergencies and disasters such as the Haiti earthquake are adequately prepared for the crisis situations they would deal with.
Johnson oversees a three-day disaster simulation program that aims to teach aid workers from the around the world the ins and outs of disaster response. She usually work with graduate students and midcareer humanitarian workers about to be sent to their first mission.
“We shouldn’t be sending kids who don’t know how to manage in a crisis – it’s inexcusable. And counterproductive to effective aid delivery,” she says of the program. “Some of these people have never even camped, and we take them into the forest to cope with a disaster scenario.”
Johnson recently established her own company through which she further pursues this goal of preparing and teaching academics and aid workers what to expect during humanitarian missions.