The Irish, Emergency Management & Why it is Important

JJ Donovan

JJ Donovan

What can we learn about emergency management this St. Patrick day, from an Irishman who has been dead almost 80 years?

Turns out, we call all learn a lot. An Irishman and civil engineer, “J.J.” Donovan came to Whatcom County in 1888 and became involved in numerous business ventures, including railroads, the Blue Canyon coal mine and Bloedel-Donovan Lumber Mills. A serious-minded teetotaler, Donovan also was a major supporter of St. Joseph hospital and of Assumption Catholic Church. His death in 1937 warranted a story in The New York Times.

Being Irish, he was no stranger to pestilence, famine, and acts of terrorism from a hostile foreign power. With over 800 years of this national emotional baggage, Donavan’s psyche carried this with him as he made is way to Washington State.  With a more than healthy respect for “how bad things can get, when things go wrong”, he spent much of his time/ treasure ensuring the community of Fairhaven and Bellingham had the needed institutions to see the community through the challenges of life. He understood the holistic effort needed between business development, community organization, and financial investment in support institutions, to ensure a community could not only survive emergencies, but continue to thrive.  80 years later emergency managers, and local officials are still trying to follow his example. Due diligence in planning, mitigation, and community organization is the legacy that J.J. Donavan has left our local community.  We say a hearty thank you, to this son-of-Ireland; D’fhéadfadh Dia a bheith in éineacht leat agus bless tú .

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