Director of Safety and Emergency Management Navigates Pine Street through Public Health Crises


When Pine Street Inn hired Brian Nowlan in the summer of 2019, it was the agency's first time creating a dedicated position responsible for overseeing all safety and emergency management.

Pine Street's forward thinking proved invaluable when the global pandemic arrived. We chatted with Brian about his work as Pine Street looks ahead to the coming months.

Your title is Director of Safety and Emergency Management. What does that mean in the context of Pine Street Inn?

"My job is to proactively prepare for any kind of safety crisis that we should have a plan for. Typically, that includes fires, weather events, and medical issues.

The first priority was to meet our teams and learn how I could support them and improve risk management. This was going well until Covid-19 hit. My role quickly shifted to all things Covid-related. I am part of the agency’s Covid-19 task force which oversees planning, infection control, Covid-19 testing, PPE supplies, policies and disinfection."

What were the first few months like when the pandemic arrived? How’s it been going?

"In late December, I had started to track Covid-19 and started thinking of what we would need to do, and who we would partner with. In February, we had our first Covid-19 team meeting about covid, which formed our Covid-19 Task Force. This group is really the driving force powering Pine Street through the pandemic – it truly is a team effort.

What I find most refreshing in my job here Pine Street Inn is that every staff member is willing to step up when asked, and in a lot of cases they step up before asked. In the beginning [of covid times] many of us worked multiple straight weeks, 14 hours or more each day.

I never imagined I would get to know so much about a 30 cent mask and how effective this small piece of PPE could be at helping limit the transmission of Covid-19. Daily, I receive a package of homemade masks from kind donors, and I really can't say how thankful I and the rest of our team here are to have such generous supporters."

We are half a year into the pandemic looking to the winter and flu season. How are you preparing?

"We are on a rollercoaster ride that isn't stopping. Adding the flu to a pandemic is like adding a tornado to a hurricane. The struggle this winter is two-fold. One, we don't have enough beds to cover the need and two, most of the symptoms of Covid-19 and the flu are similar. That makes it very difficult to determine without testing whether it's Covid-19 or the flu.

I’m confident that with our team, infection control processes and community support we will get through this time. Flu vaccinations are the key to us being able to keep guests and staff healthy and helping limit the damage the flu will add to the pandemic.

We continue to have Covid-19 infection controls in place which will also help limit the spread of the flu, and plan to continue regular Covid-19 testing.

The community support we have received is mind blowing and vital to our continued success during these times.

One of the biggest contributions helping us through this [pandemic] is the community. We couldn’t have done half of our work without the generous donors, from corporations to individuals making and sending in masks!

I have witnessed so many selfless acts and can't say enough how proud I am to be able to work alongside so many dedicated, hard-working and caring people.

During the initial outbreak we were hit pretty hard with both guests and staff getting sick. Staff stepped up in the face of the danger and still showed up to work to help and support our guests. We all have two things in common: those who we serve, and hope for the future."

- Brian Nowlan, Director of Safety and Emergency Management