UNT alum leads disaster preparedness and recovery efforts in Denton County

Tuesday, July 2, 2024 - 10:00

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Samantha Taylor’s journey into emergency management began amidst the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines a decade ago.

Samantha Taylor, Denton County Director of the Office of Emergency Management
Samantha Taylor, Denton County Director of the Office of Emergency Management

“I was visiting family members in the Philippines in 2014 when a world record-breaking typhoon hit and impacted much of the country,” Taylor said. “My mother and I handed out water cases with the American Red Cross before heading back home.”

Inspired by her volunteer work with the American Red Cross during that crisis, she returned to the U.S. determined to make a difference. She completed both a bachelor’s degree in emergency administration and planning (’16) and a Master of Public Administration (’20) from the University of North Texas. Today, Taylor has been appointed as the new director of emergency management for Denton County.

“I had Samantha in several classes, and she has always been hard-working and very passionate about emergency management,” said Laura Siebeneck, chair for the Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science. “She is a great role model for the students in our program and the faculty are proud of her and her many successes over the years.”

Since 1983, UNT has been at the forefront of emergency management education. It established the nation's first bachelor of science degree program in emergency administration and planning, a program that not only holds the title of the longest running of its kind in the country but also boasts a national ranking.

In the latest rankings by U.S. News & World Report for 2024, six graduate programs from UNT's College of Health & Public Service have made it to the top 10 in Texas. Notably, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management specialty in the Public Administration graduate program maintains its top position in Texas and is ranked 5th nationally.

“Our courses instill in students the knowledge and skillsets needed to mitigate and prepare for hazards and to successfully respond and recover from disasters,” Siebeneck said. “The curriculum — coupled with the hands-on experiences provided through internships — gives UNT students a solid foundation for reducing risk and enhancing resilience in their communities.”

Taylor's career trajectory included pivotal roles in the City of Denton's emergency management sector, starting as an intern in 2016 and progressing to leadership positions in neighboring counties before returning to Denton County as the assistant emergency management coordinator in 2023, and now as the director.

Downtown Denton during an event.
Downtown Denton during an event.

“The internships helped me in a big way to gain experience and connect with other people to continue learning,” Taylor said. “In emergency management, you’re always trying to get information and learn from others so you can bring that knowledge back to your community.”

In her new role, Taylor oversees disaster response efforts, such as the recent response to the EF-3 tornado that struck Valley View and EF-1 tornado Ray Roberts Marina in May 2024. Denton County's Office of Emergency Management, under Taylor's leadership, collaborates with various agencies and organizations to ensure a coordinated response to disasters and effective long-term recovery efforts.

“A benefit of having a respected university as part of the Denton community is the ability of municipal government leaders to harness local talent,” said Dustin Sternbeck, the City of Denton’s Chief Communications Officer. “Samantha’s familiarity with the community ensures a tailored state of preparedness and responsiveness that is invaluable for safeguarding our future. Her fresh perspective and tech-focused approach in this critical function will lead to a safer, stronger Denton.”

Taylor believes that community involvement is of utmost importance in disaster preparedness and response. She encourages residents to join volunteer organizations such as the Denton County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Denton County Amateur Radio Association and the Denton County Medical Reserve Corps to contribute to emergency response efforts.

“Residents can join a nonprofit and get the training and certifications they need to know what to do if a disaster happens,” Taylor said. “There are opportunities for everyone on our Community Emergency Response Team, and I’m thrilled to help keep Denton safe. It’s the city where I earned my UNT degrees and where my family and I live.”

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

Media Contacts:

Chelsey Gilbert