From firefighter/EMT to the Coast Guard, Gregg Maye's decades of experience responding to crises around the world may have uniquely prepared him to head UNLV's emergency management efforts during this time of COVID. He was key to launching multiple NSHE coronavirus testing and vaccine sites.
Before we jump into this...What is an emergency manager?
That’s a great question and depending on who you ask, you will probably receive different answers. Emergency management at its core is about problem-solving and coordination. When the skies are blue and everything is going according to plan, an emergency manager builds relationships, works to understand the community’s needs, and raises awareness of potential hazards that could impact the community. And when the unexpected happens, the emergency manager’s job is to assist senior staff members in making decisions that will bring order to the disruption caused by an incident. This is not an easy task because by definition emergencies are unplanned events that have a way of occurring at the most inopportune time.
What's the same and what's different from your pre-COVID routine on campus?
Right now my days are longer and less predictable and include many meetings with a host of partners across the campus and in the local government. Meetings are my bread and butter. That’s how I find out what’s going on around the campus and what issues need to be addressed. The primary difference is that these meetings are virtual now instead of in person. In some ways this is convenient, but this also means that I can attend meetings back-to-back with no downtime in between. I realize now that I really undervalued the travel time between in-person meetings!
Time to boast. What role have you played in the COVID testing and vaccination efforts that are taking place across campus?
Well, emergency management is a team sport. I rely on a lot of partners that bring specialized expertise to the table. My job is to enable them to all work together toward a common goal. This is where my relationships with the campus community and local government come into play.
I have been involved in establishing the community COVID test site on campus. The site is operated through a partnership between UNLV, Clark County emergency management, University Medical Center, the National Guard, and University Police Services. The site has operated in three different locations on campus since its inception and has conducted more than 235,000 COVID tests for the community.
I have also been at the center of coordinating the establishment of two COVID vaccination sites. These vaccination sites are operated with approval from the Nevada System of Higher Education through a partnership with the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), Clark County emergency management, UNLV, UNLV Medicine, College of Southern Nevada, and Nevada State College. This operation leveraged an existing MOU between UNLV and SNHD to help the community in a public health emergency.
If you could go back, would you still take the job with UPD knowing what 2020 had in store for us?
Well … sure. The past year was a lot of work and required an intense amount of coordination on issues that had not been previously discussed. We were breaking new ground all the time.
The benefit has been the incredible cooperation I have received from everyone, even when my requests seemed extraordinary. Our campus community rose to the challenge. Additionally, I have been able to make connections across the campus and in the community that would have been difficult to make otherwise.
The pandemic has also raised awareness of the role emergency management plays in a crisis, especially in one that lasts over a year!
What led you to this profession?
I have always had a job that was focused on helping others. I think it’s in my DNA. I began my professional career as a firefighter/EMT in Lakeland, Florida, for six years before joining the U.S. Coast Guard. Over my 28 years in the Coast Guard, I have responded to disasters all around the world; an infinite number of search and rescue cases, numerous hurricanes, various oil spills, and large ships grounded or sinking. I loved every minute of it.
Once I retired, I still wanted to use my experience in responding to and managing disasters. An opportunity to come to UNLV appeared and here I am. This was supposed to be my retirement gig, and we all see how that turned out. You think I would have seen that coming.
What do you miss most about campus life since remote work began?
I love the hustle and bustle of a busy campus and all of the activities that take place each day. I miss the people and being able to just drop in and say hello. But I have to say being able to park anywhere on campus is fabulous. I used to look at my watch and think about where I was going and make a conscious choice to walk or drive. I think COVID has made me lazy.
Do you see a silver lining in all of this, for you?
The true value for me is the relationships that I have forged with everyone during this difficult time. When you walk with someone through tough times, there is a special bond that forms because of the shared experience. And that is worth the investment.
Have there been any mishaps or funny moments at home because of remote working?
My mother-in-law has a way of inadvertently showing up in the background of my video conference calls. When I sit at the dining room table to take a call, you can see the doorway to the kitchen. She has a knack for digging out pots and pans for cooking supper during my calls. You would think I could learn how to use one of those fancy backgrounds on WebEx to keep that from happening.
What are you most looking forward to with your family once Nevada returns to more of a sense of normalcy?
My eldest son lives in Japan and has not been able to visit because of COVID. With the quarantine requirements surrounding international travel, he would have to take a month off work in addition to his vacation time in order to visit. It will be nice when he can come stay without having to quarantine.
Do you have a binge-worthy recommendation?
I love to watch the The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel. I find history fascinating and love the idea of pursuing buried treasure. The great part for me is the unexpected twists and turns that happen on the show while they are trying to find what they believe to be buried treasure. I admire the persistence of the team and how they work together to overcome obstacles and decipher clues about the past along the way. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the pirate lore.
What's in store for 2021?
I am optimistic about the future. I think my church pastor said it best when he described 2021 as the year of “regathering.” Just as 2020 was a year of “dispersal,” 2021 will be when we see the people begin to gather again. I am hopeful that we are close to the end of this pandemic, and the light we see on the horizon is indeed the one at the end of the tunnel.
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
I would like to be able to replicate myself, so I can be in more than one place at a time. My job responsibilities extend to all NSHE campuses in Southern Nevada, which include UNLV, CSN, NSC, DRI South, and the NSHE system office. So being able to have a meeting, answer texts, and phone calls at the same time would be pretty handy.
Fortunately for me, I have been assisted by two fantastic volunteers — (criminal justice instructor) Sandy Mangold and (international programs assistant director) Greg Stephany. They have directly contributed to my success and the success of the emergency management program at large.