A Profile of Nicki Harwood
Emergency Manager, Trailblazer, Networker

Nicki Harwood

Nicki Harwood
Emergency Management and PBX
City of Hope

Nicola (Nicki) Harwood, the Manager of Emergency Management and PBX City of Hope, is a graduate of the facility management school of hard knocks, a collector of experiences, a world traveler born in England, and a thoughtful conversationalist.

She’s currently working on a BA in Healthcare Administration to broaden and expand her horizons. After graduating from high school, she didn’t have the resources for higher education, so she joined the workforce early on. Life has not always been easy for Nicki. At one point, she lived in her car and couched surfed with friends.

Entering the healthcare industry as a certified medical assistant, Nicki was responsible for taking blood pressure, updating patient’s charts, EKG's, injections, wound care, and scheduling appointments. Having hands-on experience with patient care has proven valuable for Nicki in her current role as an emergency manager at City of Hope.

Nicki has been fortunate enough to have excellent mentors in her life and career, including Kirk Brantley, the Director of Facilities, Security, Emergency Management and Safety for Providence St. Joseph Hospital of Orange County.

“He was an amazing soul,” said Nicki. “If you asked him a question, you had to be careful because he wasn’t going to give you the quick answer that would get you out of the office. It was going to involve a whiteboard. By the time you’re all done, a simple question about the little button in the bathroom underneath the plug would lead to an understanding of the entire electrical system of the hospital.”

With the help of people like Kirk, Nicki went from being a person that deals with emergencies to someone who understands the meat and potatoes of the building.

“Because of Kurt, I know laboratory systems and HVAC systems and power systems – giving me a focus on facility building operations that few emergency managers have,” said Nicki.

This deep understanding of the nuts and bolts of the hospital is put into practice at City of Hope, which Nicki describes as an amalgam of brand new, cutting-edge, and very old, and everything in between, including an RV park. When Nicki is contemplating a problem, she can analyze the situation from multiple perspectives and recommend who’s going to support the emergency management team.

“I can contemplate problems from the root. If we’re talking about power outages and someone comes to me and talks about generators, I know what they’re talking about and that is so empowering,” said Nicki.

Nicki shared her satisfaction with ensuring that the healthcare environment is safe for everybody – patients, visitors, and vendors alike.

Nicki frequently taps into an informal network of Los Angeles and Orange County emergency management professionals who get together to talk shop and share resources for supplies which may be in short supply, which was a major problem during the pandemic.

“Sometimes, someone would have something extra they didn’t need, and we’d trade for stuff we needed. It worked out great,” she explained.

As one of the few women in emergency and facility management, Nicki has an appreciation for the mentors who’ve supported and encouraged her. At the same time, she finds it challenging when some men want to shield women from the down and dirty aspects of facility and safety-related work, including cleaning pipe bursts or waste management.

“The problem I have encountered is related to the need to protect women,” Nicki said. “Several of my male peers have a desire to safeguard and shelter me, treating me as if I were a fragile and delicate entity. They have been brought up in a cultural context where it is their obligation to do this task, and it is exceedingly frustrating. I frequently find it challenging to consider others' viewpoints while also asserting my competence and eagerness to handle any task.”

Nicki believes that women should walk into facility workplace settings confidently and comfortably. After a day of non-stop action and activity, she unwinds with close friends to chat at a local coffee shop, which she finds therapeutic.

Today she speaks from a place of knowledge with years of experience, excellent teachers, and a supportive network of colleagues.


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