Disaster Preparedness: Simpson University and the Carr Fire

“A firestorm really does catch you by surprise. Even if you see it up in the mountains, all of a sudden, it’s on your doorstep.” -Dr. Norm Hall

Tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, radiation, COVID-19 and the realities of economic shutdown.  These natural disaster examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to areas of emergency preparedness that the senior leaders in any nonprofit organization may have to deal with.

From time to time, Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership With Tommy Thomas will talk with nonprofit leaders who have had to respond to these types of emergencies. Today’s episode takes you into a leader’s real-life experience and the critical necessity of emergency preparedness

Our guest today is Dr. Norm Hall, the President of Simpson University.  In this episode, I want to talk with Dr. Hall about how he was able to turn lemons into lemonade less than 60 days after he had arrived at Redding to be the President at Simpson University when the Carr Fire hit the area.

This fire had burned over a hundred thousand acres, destroyed more than 1,100 structures, and forced more than 39,000 people from their homes. The good news was the campus was not an imminent danger, so they were able to turn the Simpson University Campus into an evacuation and rest center for first responders.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Norm as he discusses his team’s response to the natural disaster that crept up on their doorstep.

Thanks again for listening to Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas and be sure to share this episode with the nonprofit board members you know.  

And don’t forget to leave us a review wherever you’re listening.  It really helps us!


“You know how it is, you look at a crisis response plan, then you also look across the landscape [at the oncoming firestorm] and you pray.” -Dr. Norm Hall

Show Notes

[1:21] – An introduction to today’s guest, Dr. Norm Hall

[2:29] – In less than 60 days on campus, Dr. Norm faced a situation that wasn’t covered in president school.

[3:26] – This is when Dr. Norm realized his community was in crisis and what he did about it.

[4:44] – The community was used to fires, but they weren’t familiar with fires getting into houses.  Here’s how Dr. Norm and Simpson University responded.

[5:26] – How close did the fire get to campus?

[6:01] – Dr. Norm explains how he organized his leadership team to get the word out.

[7:41] – The Red Cross was able to set up a space in the gymnasium and continue providing necessary assistance in the relief effort. 

[8:33] – Guy Fieri was able to come in to add additional support. 

[9:24] – Dr. Norm reveals the impact this natural disaster and his university’s response had on his community. 

[10:57] – Tommy concludes the conversation.

“When people are in crisis, we need to shoulder some responsibility, carry some water and give back.” -Dr. Norm Hall

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters – Website

Norm Hall: His Journey To Becoming The President Of Simpson University


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