Our People in Profile: Emergency preparedness manager Delwin Ferguson sees racism as an opportunity to be a role model for youth

Delwin Ferguson is the manager for emergency preparedness in Halifax, Eastern Shore and West Hants.
Delwin Ferguson is the manager for emergency preparedness in Halifax, Eastern Shore and West Hants.

As the manager for emergency preparedness in Halifax, Eastern Shore and West Hants, no two days are the same for Delwin Ferguson.

“What we try to do is to make sure that there is an emergency preparedness mechanism in place for any form of emergency that can affect a site,” Ferguson explained.

In order to achieve that, Ferguson’s days are filled with meetings to plan or revise emergency responses procedures, training sessions for members who are part of that response mechanism, and planned exercises to test how they all come together.

“The goal is see if we have the right instructions in place, the right mechanisms and the right team to respond,” he said.

But all of that planning stops instantly if Ferguson is alerted to an emergency.

Luckily, Ferguson has lots of experience to draw upon in those times.

He began his disaster management career in Public Health, knowing from his masters and doctorate studies that this was the area he wanted to focus on. After his studies, Ferguson worked with the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization to respond to emergencies around the world.

It was during this time that he learned the importance of keeping a level head.

“One of the things that you don’t want is for a respondent to be in a panic mode,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the disaster; the best and first response should be calm so you can look at how to get out of that disaster.”

Besides his professional experience, Ferguson also brings a unique personal lens. He grew up in rural Jamaica, migrated to the United States and settled here in Nova Scotia.

“I am a black guy who grew up in a black environment,” he said. “So I understand what challenges will face you as a black man. I see it as a process for me to be a model for other young people.”

Those challenges include being profiled and stopped by police multiple times – but that’s not what Ferguson focuses his energy on.

“As a proud black person, I enjoy the success of many black people,” he shared. “I look at what they have done, and I put myself in line to be one of those people who will try to emulate those who are successful ahead of me, and try to make sure that I will be a model for other people to follow as well.”

Ferguson not only shares his wisdom with his son, but also with graduate students of African descent at his alma maters, Walden University and the University of the West Indies.

“When I did my PhD, I struggled not having mentorship to lean on and people who could actually help me with areas that I was struggling in,” he said.

Now, Ferguson spends many hours at home ensuring today’s students understand epidemiology, the right research methods to use in their thesis or dissertation, and biostatistics.

“It’s something that I enjoy and love doing.”