Preparing for disasters, before it’s too late

Often, work on developing resilience to disasters and the global climate occurs when disasters – such as hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis – have devastated entire cities and torn communities apart. But Elizabeth Petheo, MBA ’14, says that lately her work has focused on preparation.

Petheo, principal at Miyamoto International, a disaster risk reduction and engineering consulting firm, explains that it’s hard to draw attention to preparation efforts. “You can always get a lot of attention when there is a disaster event, but by that point it is too late,” she added.

Petheo leads corporate projects and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region and advises globally on international development and humanitarian assistance. She also works on preparedness for the Asia-Pacific region with the US Agency for International Development.

“We are programming private sector participation in disaster risk management in Indonesia, a very disaster prone country,” she said. “Small and medium enterprises make an important contribution to job creation and economic development. When they do go down, the impact on the lives, livelihoods, and capacity of communities to effectively respond and recover is enormous. We work to increase their own understanding of their risk and that of the surrounding community, leading them through the process of planning an action to build resilience, and linking that to larger policy initiatives at the national level. “

Petheo comes to MIT with international leadership experience, having managed senior global development and risk reduction initiatives at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as well as with US government agencies. States and international organizations lead major global humanitarian groups and responses in Sri Lanka and Haiti. But she says her time at Sloan has helped prepare her for the next phase of her career. “Sloan is the experience of bringing all the pieces together,” she said.

Petheo has maintained a close relationship with MIT. In 2018, she received the Margaret LA MacVicar ’65, ScD ’67 Award, in recognition of her role in starting and leading the MIT Sloan Club in Washington, DC, and her work as was the first member of the Graduate Alumni Council (GAC). She is also a member of the Friends of the MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center.

“I believe deeply in the power and impact of the Institute’s work and people,” she said. “By the time I graduated, my thought process was, ‘How can I give back, and how can I continue to reinforce the experiences of those who will come after me?’

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