Newest Foundry Member Looks to Combine International Relationships To Enhance Emergency & Disaster Response

Alexis Joiner’s road to Eastern Foundry has been unique to the community. Historically, our member’s focus has been just across the Potomac, selling products and services to Uncle Sam in order to stop this cyber threat or enable that cloud capability; 21st-century technology that’s the best of the best. Our newest member is focused elsewhere in the world, with an interesting approach to an age old problem. Part humanitarian effort and part security consultant, Nidus Analytical Services takes a thoughtful approach when it comes to emergency and disaster response planning.  

Founded in 2011, Nidus provides technical subject matter expertise in the areas of emergency preparedness, disaster response, public health infrastructure assessments as well as  biohazard and counterterrorism policy development. With so many businesses today focusing on how we can build technology to save lives, Nidus is asking the question; what happens when that fancy technology can’t function?

“I like to think of it as delivering practical solutions where there are gaps in the system, almost like building in a redundancy to a program,” said Alexis. “Instead of spending all this money on a communication system that revolves around smartphone technology that only reaches those privileged enough to own a device or even have the money to fuel a generator for a stable supply of electricity, perhaps we need to go back toward looking at models similar to the Soviet era. During the Cold War, US civil defense agencies utilized a siren system for early warning that was capable of helping everyone. Using sirens could have a huge impact on communities across the globe low literacy rates.”

It’s hard for us back home to believe what it’s like living without our smartphone safety blanket, capable of asking for help virtually wherever we are, but this is a reality in a majority of developing countries. Believe it or not, there are local incidents where our reliance on technology has proved fatal. Just last month on June 11th, two Montgomery County, Maryland residents passed away because the local 9-1-1 system was down for two hours.  Our dependance on state-of-the-art technology is so pervasive that it seems our society has forgotten what it’s like to live without it. This mentality often translates to foreign aid where the knee-jerk strategy is to use the “shiny new toy.”

Alexis is intimately close with this mindset as she has been on the ground for months at a time in Kenya, Ghana, and most recently Liberia, working first hand to implement preparedness and response programs after various national issues including terrorist attacks and Ebola outbreaks. Teaching and providing valuable response protocol rather than providing drop-in technology and leaving is how Nidus prefers to operate. Alexis shifted her focus abroad after the 2013 defense sequestration made it more difficult for a small business to operate.

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Kenya Civil-Military Mass Casualty Incident Full-Field Exercise Courtesy: Nidus Analytical Services, 2014

In September 2013, local militants attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 67 civilians and wounding 175 more. Reportedly, a mix up in communications between civilian organizations and the military resulted in multiple casualties. One year later, in an effort to conduct a coordinated response to future disasters, the first civilian-military mass casualty exercises was performed in Kenya. Taking lessons learned from the shooting the previous year, local officials wanted to test their response capabilities. This exercise would later be used to improve an interagency response plan for Kenya. Alexis departed on a plane to Nairobi the day after the first Ebola patient died in Dallas and was on the ground in Kenya during this exercise, providing her expertise when she met with Kenyan officials to discuss improving capabilities for hazardous incidents.

Later Alexis was able to arrange visits for the officials to come to the United States to meet with state and local emergency management and police officials, including a site visit to the Pentagon to share US  best practices for emergency operations centers; a relationship that has proved mutually beneficial. In 2015, that same Kenyan official was visiting Alexis in Washington, D.C., learning about emergency best practices when Kenya experienced another major attack at Garissa University. Alexis was able to prepare the Kenya senior police official for a live briefing on Voice of America to anticipate questions related to Kenya’s emergency response.

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Alexis Joiner, Facilitator, with Ghana NADMO Regional IT Staff, Ministry of Interior, National Fire Service, Armed Forces at Ghana National Disaster Management Organization. Emergency Operations Center  Photo Courtesy: A. Joiner/ Republic of Ghana Ministry of Interior, 2015

More recently, Alexis traveled to Ghana in 2015 after the Ebola epidemic had peaked as part of  a US Africa Command funded West African Disaster Preparedness Initiative. Alexis worked along with African colleagues from the Diaspora to train West African senior government official representatives of the Ministry of Health, Interior, Police and first responders, on post-Ebola preparedness and disaster management. The Department of Defense  and Alexis’ mission here was to ensure that these countries were prepared and onboard for whenever the next epidemic or natural disaster occurs.

Additionally, Alexis recently returned to the US in 2016 after spending four months in Liberia, one of the three countries at the time that still had sporadic Ebola outbreaks. Though there were two flare-ups during her time in Liberia, and an outbreak only a block away from where Alexis was staying, Liberia was transitioning from emergency to recovery mode. 

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Liberian Ministry of Health, Bong County Health Office, Liberia. Courtesy: A.Joiner/Liberian Ministry of Health/WHO,2016

Here, Alexis was working as a consultant to the World Health Organization, under the Ebola Emergency Response Mission. Alexis worked with the Ministry of Health at the public health emergency operations centers (EOC) that were put in place during the height of the epidemic two years prior, to help transition them back to government. She was able to determine current functional capacity and develop sustainable transition plans for the future. In addition, she assisted with the development of national and county level epidemic preparedness plans.

During each international trip, Alexis was able to walk away with a better understanding of the real needs of these communities, this is what sets Nidus apart. Though Nidus has the means to provide advanced Chemical, Biological, Radiological, (CBRN) and Counterterrorism assessment tools- finding those gaps, and building those redundancies that can’t be fixed by 21st-century technology can only come from an intimate knowledge of the situation at hand, and Alexis is brimming with it.

“I’ve built so many relationships over the last three years internationally and at the federal level as an FBI civilian, and former Booz Allen Hamilton government consultant, now I want to be able to leverage those relationships and connect them,” said Alexis. “I’m thrilled to be at Eastern Foundry and I only wish it were around when I first began my journey.” With a plethora of resources back home spanning the FBI, DHS, DoD, and national security community, paired with diverse international experience in foreign disasters, emergencies, and humanitarian relief operations, Nidus is qualified to offer customized services and sustainable solutions wherever they are needed.

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