DPH Emergency Preparedness Director Presented Masters of Safety Award

February 23, 2015

Eight Gainesville and Hall County public safety leaders were recently recognized at the Masters of Safety: Builders of Community Trust ceremony coordinated by Featherbone Communiversity. Among those honored was Mark Palen, emergency preparedness director for the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) North Health District.

The Masters of Safety is a collaborative between Featherbone Communiversity and Lanier Technical College for the Masters Series Program, a recognition initiative that highlights the expertise and contributions of professionals in a specific trade or industry including nursing, construction and teaching. The Master of Safety ceremony specifically honors professionals specializing in public safety and emergency preparedness.

During the event, each recipient shared their reasons for becoming a public servant and how their work benefited the community. Palen commented on his long-time commitment to public service that began during his childhood volunteer experiences.

“My interest in public safety and public service began during the 1960’s when I was a Boy Scout and participated in community civil defense activities and exercises,” said Palen. “I was impressed that despite the number of existing public safety and health care professionals in the community, there was still room for dedicated volunteers of all ages who possessed skills that would help others in a disaster or emergency.”

Constant training and preparation, identifying team members’ roles before a crisis and forming a response network were key messages reiterated among all of the honorees.  Palen sharpened his skills in these areas while serving the nation in the United States Army.

“My military career enabled me to practice and refine organizational leadership skills, and gave me a good introduction to preparing for and responding to chemical, biological, and radiological threats and agents,” he said. “Since retiring from the Army, my professional experiences have reinforced the value that education and training play in personal, family and community planning and preparedness.” 

Palen credits his success as a Master of Safety to having supportive district leadership, a professional emergency preparedness team and access to the expertise found in Georgia’s health departments and community partners.

“I believe that together we can make great strides toward building a community of responders – a resilient community that does more than just bounce back from a disaster or emergency, but rather bounces ahead in anticipation of the next challenge facing public health.”    

The founding members of Featherbone Communiversity are the Brenau University Department of Nursing, the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and the Lanier Technical College Manufacturing Development Center. It is also the home for the Gainesville offices of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center and the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute.

To learn more about happenings in the North Health District, visit www.phdistrict2.org. Visit www.featherbonecommuniversity.org/news to read more about Featherbone Communiversity’s Masters Series and events.   

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