Andrew Stevens tasked with keeping Downey prepared for disaster

DOWNEY − Andrew Stevens is no stranger to a crisis, but as Downey’s newest emergency services manager, the 35-year-old hopes the city will never have to see one. After three years of vacancy, filling the position with Stevens, a former U.S. Marine and disaster response manager, may indicate a new level of commitment from city officials to think outside the box on matters of emergency preparedness.

“The city manager [Gilbert Livas] reinforced how important this was,” said Stevens, whose last predecessor was an alumni of the Downey Fire Department. “They didn’t just look at me because I’m an outsider, but they wanted to make sure they had the right person for the job.”

Appointed to his position last December, Stevens said he’s ready to tackle Downey's most urgent preparedness need: collaboration.

“Downey has groups working on emergency preparedness, but separate of themselves,” Stevens said. “It’s now about getting all those people in the same room, creating a plan so we can test it and retest it. It’s not about putting [the plan] on a shelf where it will collect dust.”

Stevens, who lives in Torrance, previously directed field operations and volunteer training for the rapid response organization Team Rubicon, which aided victims of Superstorm Sandy and the disastrous tornados in Moore, Oklahoma. He praised Downey for its already passionate volunteers, but promised to bring focus to the department so results are multiplied.

“I’m in a win-win. You already have buy in and Downey is lucky enough to have built resources,” he said. “Coming from outside the traditional realm, I know how to communicate with non-profits, faith-based organizations, and businesses.”

The job comes naturally for Stevens who spent two years working for the state of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as a state planner of critical infrastructure protection.

“I worked with subsistent communities that were at constant risk of flooding or catastrophic storms,” said Stevens, who was born in Seattle, but raised in Alaska. “We’d change the disaster into an event by strengthening those communities through key ties with the private sector, energy and telecommunications.”

Stevens said he will seek the same partnerships here to bolster Downey’s preparedness in case of any major disaster.

“Response is a short window, but recovery is where you make or break,” he said. “It takes commitment at the individual level, but I will give every tool in my tool box and I will offer everything in my power.”

The father of two boys, Stevens encouraged residents to participate in the Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) and promised new targeted outreach mechanisms to build awareness of potential emergencies.

“This job doesn’t go away,” said Stevens. “If you think you wrote a plan and you’re good, you’re wrong. We don’t know what we don’t know.”