Prepare for disasters, before it’s too late

Too often, work to develop global disaster and climate resilience occurs when a disaster—such as a hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami—has already devastated entire cities and torn communities apart. But Elizabeth Peteo, MBA ’14, says that recently her work has focused on preparedness.

It’s hard to get attention for preparedness efforts, explains Peteo, a principal at Miyamoto International, an engineering and disaster risk reduction consulting firm. “You can always get a lot of attention when a disaster happens, but by then it’s too late,” she adds.

Peteo leads the company’s projects and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region and advises globally on international development and humanitarian aid. She also works on preparedness in the Asia-Pacific region with the United States Agency for International Development.

“We are doing programs on engaging the private sector in disaster risk management in Indonesia, which is a disaster-prone country,” she says. “Small and medium-sized enterprises contribute significantly to job creation and economic development. When they fall, the impact on lives, livelihoods and a community’s ability to respond and recover effectively is extreme. We work to strengthen their own and their community’s understanding of risk, guide them through a process of action planning to build resilience and link this to larger policy initiatives at national level.”

Peteo comes to MIT with international leadership experience, having managed high-profile global development and risk reduction initiatives at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as well as with US government agencies and international organizations leading large-scale global humanitarian responses and teams in Sri Lanka and Haiti. But she says her time at Sloan helped prepare her for this next phase in her career. “Sloan was the experience that brought all the pieces together,” she says.

Peteo maintained strong ties to MIT. In 2018, she received the Margaret LA MacVicar ’65, ScD ’67 Award in recognition of her role in starting and leading the MIT Sloan Club in Washington, DC, and her work as an inaugural member of the Graduate Alumni Council (GAC). She is also a member of the MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center.

“I deeply believe in the power and influence of the Institute’s work and people,” she says. “The moment I graduated, my thought process was, ‘How do I give back and how do I continue to strengthen the experience of those who will come after me?’

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