Spotlight: Noreen O’Connell

If you haven’t met her, you’ve likely heard her (or her husband’s) voice on a Collin County ARES net, running the Net Control Station during a severe weather event. Noreen and her husband, Greg Evans, have been members of Allen CERT for several years and participate in other emergency preparedness groups to demonstrate their commitment to community education and disaster response.

Learn more about Noreen…

What is your place of birth?

Detroit, Michigan

What brought you to Allen, TX?

We purchased our first home here and stayed ever since. I came to Texas because Greg is a Texan, and well, how could anyone resist that? We met while serving in the U.S Navy, we were both stationed at Pearl Harbor, HI.

Tell us about your immediate family (including any pets).

Greg, and our rescue cat Domino. Dom is a feral cat that Greg found while working in Wyoming. They flew home first class! Dom is the most charismatic cat I ever met.

What do you do for a living?

I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Toss-up between summer vacation at the family cottage on the north shore of Lake Michigan, and the 1984 Detroit Tigers World Series Championship. I was at that game when they won it all.

If you were to write a self-help book, what would the topic be?

“Learned Helplessness- Just Stop It!”

What other volunteer activities keep you busy?

I along with Greg am a Skywarn NCS (net control station HAM radio operator) for Collin County. I am one of the volunteers that run the Amateur Radio nets for the National Weather Service during severe weather. We provide “ground truth” to the NWS, because radar does have limitations.

Tell us about your most intense disaster response experience.

The response to the Rowlett tornado. We were in one of the most severely damaged “hot zones” and it was very raw and wild. There were a lot of people terrified and paranoid. I went door to door for wellness checks and damage assessment. Many people would not answer the door. Most people that did were holding guns. I guess my CERT hard hat, vest, and badge did have a lot of meaning, because it was the only way people would trust me, but I still felt very vulnerable. There were areas of severe debris and flooding and hazmat. I had to remember nearly all aspects of my training that day. I was grateful for the experience and the training that kept me safe and prepared me.

What advice can you give newer CERT members?

There are so very many ways to contribute, and they are all valuable and welcomed. Don’t underestimate yourself, you can really do it!

How has CERT made an impact on your life, personally and professionally?

My awareness of situations and potential hazards is increased. I am not saying I am going around totally paranoid, and I am not a doomsday prepper or anything, but I feel I am basically prepared for most of the basics. I am also in awe of some of the people I have come to know, and their vast knowledge, experience, leadership, and willingness to serve. It continues to be an inspiration. I am a Veteran of the U.S. Navy, and somehow, I still have the desire to serve in some manner, it just never goes away, I want to be involved.