Alumna Knew from Childhood That She Would Be in Emergency Preparedness

National University alumna, Mona Freels, is the Senior Homeland Security Coordinator for the City of San Diego Office of Homeland Security. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management from National University in 2014.

Ms. Freels has been a public safety professional for the past 20 years, and believes she’s right where she’s supposed to be. When she was nine, her house burned down. Everyone escaped unharmed, but the tragic event set her future course. “From that moment on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life,” she said.

Mona Freels
Mona Freels, Senior Homeland Security Coordinator for the City of San Diego Office of Homeland Security.

As a Senior Homeland Security Coordinator, Ms. Freels says there are two main areas of focus: (1) developing emergency plans that include shelter and recovery plans for the city; and (2): the management of the city’s Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), which includes training city staff on how to respond within their role in the EOC. This planning is considered “all-hazards,” which includes wild fires, earthquakes, floods, and natural gas explosions, acts of terrorism and riots, as well as special events planning.

In addition to her position with the city, Mona has also started teaching Emergency Planning and other disaster courses for both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI). Sharing the knowledge and skills that she gained from her degree program at National University is important, so that communities can maintain disaster readiness.

“Having my degree is very helpful,” she said. “I learned a lot at National University that has enhanced my experience, including a great deal about disaster leadership. That’s where we look at the ‘all-hazards’ approach to emergency management. You have to be ready for anything and everything.”

According to Ms. Freels, her curricula covered a lot of the law enforcement and criminal justice side. “When you’re planning for terrorism, you need the law enforcement aspect,” she added. 

If it weren’t for the flexibility of the Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management program, she figures she wouldn’t have been able to earn her degree. “My job is not just nine to five. I was a professional, a wife, a mother, and a full-time student. I couldn’t just set my family aside to study. I couldn’t put my responsibilities to the city on a shelf in order to go to school. I had to balance all three responsibilities equally.” 

Regarding disasters, Ms. Freels likes to remind people: “It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, but when. Taking the time to prepare in advance will make a huge difference when an emergency or disaster strikes.”