By Peter Tormey
SEATTLE – From her earliest childhood memory, Gonzaga alumna Inés Pearce (’91) always envisioned herself helping people. Initially, she thought of becoming a physician and majored in biology. Then, she took a civil liberties course from political science Professor (Emeritus) Mike Leiserson that sparked a strong interest in how the law can help others.
Pearce switched to political science and worked for a law firm after graduating. She became interested in helping people and businesses recover from disaster. Now, instead of healing people, Pearce has carved out an impressive niche that allows her to regularly help among the most desperate of all people: victims of natural and human-caused disasters.
Pearce is founder and chief executive of Pearce Global Partners (Los Angeles and Federal Way, Wash.), which specializes in disaster preparedness and recovery worldwide. She has saved lives and helped businesses and organizations of all kinds prepare for disaster and recover.
Education is key, according to Pearce, who orchestrates many large-scale preparedness exercises like the Great California ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history – 7.9 million Californians participated last year. This year’s California ShakeOut begins on 10/20 (Oct. 20) at 10:20 a.m.
Recently, Pearce was asked by the National Research Council to serve on a committee to enhance community disaster resilience. The committee’s (2011) report details plans to boost disaster resilience through private-public collaboration, a subject of expertise for Pearce. Natural disasters caused more than 220,000 deaths worldwide in the first half of 2010 alone and the economic impacts are staggering.
The committee’s report asserts the responsibility for building community disaster resilience cannot rest solely with the public sector and emphasizes the crucial role of private-public partnerships. Currently, there is no comprehensive framework to guide private-public collaboration for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
“We all know disasters are going to happen. We can’t stop earthquakes, but we can minimize their impacts,” Pearce said. “If there is no existing communication between public, private, nonprofits and the community before a disaster — it will not work after a disaster. There is a quote we have in this business, ‘A disaster is not the time to exchange business cards.’ However, by building partnerships and mitigating before emergencies occur, it makes all the difference.”
Video below for Great California ShakeOut