Rich Serino

Distinguished Senior Fellow School/organization Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The Hon. Richard Serino spent more than forty years in public service. During that time he provided extensive leadership on emergency management, emergency medical and homeland security at local, state, federal and international levels. Mr. Serino is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard & School of Public Health, National Preparedness Leadership Initiative.

Serino was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 8th Deputy Administrator in October 2009 and served until 2014. In this role, he also served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the agency with more than $25 billion budget. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Administrator, he spent 36 years at Boston EMS where he rose through the ranks to become Chief. He also served as the Assistant Director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

Mr. Serino responded to over 60 national disasters while at FEMA and during Super Storm Sandy, he was the lead federal area commander for New York and New Jersey. Serino was also on scene at the Boston Marathon bombings as the Department of Homeland Security senior official. A sampling of Federally declared disasters Mr. Serino responded to include: flooding in North Dakota, New England, Georgia and Colorado; the wildfires in Colorado and Texas; the tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Joplin, Missouri; tsunami destruction in the American Samoa; and the Hurricane stricken areas from hurricanes Isaac, Irene, and Earl. Serino briefed the President of the United States on a number of disasters and briefed and traveled with Vice President Biden to a number of affected communities to survey the destruction.

As the Agency’s COO, Mr. Serino fundamentally changed how FEMA operates. He helped FEMA reorient its activities and improve its programs to be “Survivor centric,” ensuring that the agency supports the delivery of services focused on easing the recovery experience of survivors – as individuals, neighborhoods, and communities. As Deputy Administrator, he also led administrative improvements that were focused on emphasizing financial accountability, created FEMA Stat, which improved the use of analytics to drive decisions, advanced the workforce training and engagement and fostered a culture of innovation.

Under His leadership, FEMA launched initiatives such as FEMA Corps, a dedicated unit of 1,600 service corps members within AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) solely devoted to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. His leadership took FEMA Corps from idea to implementation in nine months. FEMA Corps is a Presidentialy recognized model program of national service that provides eighteen to twenty-four year olds with an opportunity to serve their country during disasters. When the program is at full operational capability, and in an average disaster year, there will be an expected savings of approximately $60 million in a year.

Mr. Serino was also instrumental in developing the FEMA Think Tank, a program that provides a transparent way for citizens to speak directly to government leadership and offer their input and ideas. The monthly calls portion of the Think Tank have not just trended globally on Twitter, but have also given the “Whole of Community” a voice directly to leadership.

During his tenure at Boston EMS he transformed it to one of the best and nationally recognized EMS systems in the country. He bolstered the city’s response plans for major emergencies, including chemical, biological, and radiological attacks. He also led citywide planning for the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years. Mr. Serino served as an Incident Commander for over thirty & five mass casualty incidents and for all of Boston’s major planned events, including the Boston Marathon, Boston’s Fourth of July celebration, First Night, and the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a National Special Security Event.

He has received more than thirty & five local, national and international awards for public service and innovation; including Harvard University National Public Leadership Institute’s “Leader of the Year”; nationally recognized as an Innovator in EMS with the “Innovators in EMS Award” and Boston’s highest Public Service award, “Henry L Shattuck Public Service Award”. Mr. Serino published more than ten articles, including: “Emergency Medical Consequence Planning and Management for National Special Security Events After September 11: Boston: 2004,” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, August 2008; and “In a Moment’s Notice: Surge Capacity for Terrorist Bombings,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2007.

Mr. Serino attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government program in 2000, completed the Harvard School of Public Health’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative in 2005, and graduated the Executive Leadership Program, Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School.