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Team: Madison Wagner, Anya Zimmerman-Smith, Marianna Sbordone, Virgil Munyemana, Jeffrey Tran


With the goal of redesigning an aspect of the emergency preparedness, response, or recovery experience for a specific type of individual or underserved group, my team discovered the unique position of emergency service workers (EMS) whose trauma from the job arose once they were retired. By designing a mentorship program we provided them a place to process their experiences while preparing the next generation of EMS. 

Pomona, CA

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Disasters and emergencies are traumatic, how can we learn about them sensitively?

The Field Innovation Team (FIT) responds to crises, while simultaneously working on disaster preparedness and risk reduction at the local, state, national, and international levels. To begin, I led my team in exercises to determine who would be best to interview as we aimed uncover pertinent needs in the disaster and emergency problem space. We identified individuals to speak with, crafted questions which would give space and direction for them to share their feelings, beliefs, and backgrounds, and gathered insights on their experiences.

How are my questions impacting the user's idea of their experience?

How might my identity affect how the users share about themselves?

Am I conveying that I care for the user or are my questions extractive?

Among others, we spoke with:
1. A young traveler who'd been in the midst of a terrorist attack overseas
2. A mother who is an emergency preparedness officer
3. A national park ranger, EMT, and firefighter
4. Teenagers who had experienced hurricanes and earthquakes
5. A battalion of firefighters



The data says, we aren't doing enough for EMS workers.

To inform our persona creation and ideation our team did research on aspects of the experiences we uncovered in our extreme users. After noticing gaps in the experience of our users in the area of emergency recovery, our team did research on available resources in this area, business considerations and systems mapping.

We used resources such as national data on emergency response worker mental health and studies on the most effective methods of trauma recovery. 


Additionally, I researched how gender stereotypes play a role in emergency responder positions and the implications of this on on trauma experience. I also did research on the U.S. Emergency Management system and the current biggest global risks.

How does recovery from trauma depend on being around other people/community?

What support do employers provide who employ people who experience trauma more frequently?

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How might we keep retired EMS workers in the social settings that uniquely help them process trauma?

Through tools such as:

  • empathy maps,

  • user journeys, 

  • pain point identification,

  • and 2x2 insight formats,

we synthesized the information gathered in our interviews and created Points of View for two individuals. We did this for our two most extreme users so as to design for their work-arounds and frameworks, thereby creating for them and the mainstream user. 


retired firefighter, EMT, & Park Ranger

Loved his job, but in retirement, the trauma that he experienced is resurfacing because he no longer has the social safety net or professional therapy services that work provided


30 year old world traveler

Having a difficult time recovering from experiencing the 2016 Nice attacks because she doesn't know anyone who was there who she can process with, familial comfort isn't enough

Capitalizing on the diverse backgrounds and knowledge of each member of our team, we created 50 unique How Might We (HMW) questions, for each user, to guide our ideation process.

I worked to help us create specific HMW's that would lead to potentially helpful ideas, but also encouraged our team to think outside of the box and not hold ourselves back from discussing any and all points.

HMW create remote trauma healing for

HMW build processing and healing into job duties?

HMW absolve
guilt for those who experience trauma in a job they willingly volunteered for?

help people recovering from trauma after short term resources
run out?

HMW create
new, positive associations for a previously traumatic place?

HMW connect
retirees with their supportive work environments when they feel like they are no longer 'in
the club'?

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Volunteering for self healing.

We ideated for our HMW's for Mack and came up with a variety of ideas.

After testing our Morning Routine Box and EMT & School sharing program ideas, we used the feedback to create our final prototype, the Hired and Retired Club. This is a mentorship program which pairs new hires with newly retired firefighters, EMT's and park rangers, for the first two years after these respective life-changing moments, providing support and community.

DELIVERABLE: We created and showcased the product concept, experience booth and presentation that shows the problem, a deeper understanding of the customer’s pain, a demo of the product that solves the problem, how the solution works, and a learning plan for next steps.


We had learned that retired firefighter's separation from their social workplace allowed space for trauma to resurface, so in the interactive portion of our experience booth we exemplified this experience by taking a volunteer away from the group and surrounded them with signs filled with traumatic thoughts. We wanted to underscore their need for interaction and connection with firefighters beyond retirement, as a place for this difficult thoughts and feelings to land.


It was surprising that despite prevalent knowledge of PTSD in emergency responders, our interviewees were not concerned about this until after their retirement. If the team had more time, we would test our prototype with younger firefighters, instead of just retired personnel. Additionally, we would want to present this idea to emergency responder unions.

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