Emergency Preparedness Director to Coordinate Campus Planning, Response

Apr. 13, 2021

As part of a major effort to expand the scope and efficacy of emergency management services and information on campus, Princeton University has hired Derek Ziegler to fill the newly-created position of Assistant Director for Emergency Preparedness. 

Derek Ziegler

Sitting in the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and working closely with the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Ziegler brings to the University a full-time, professional approach to emergency management. The goal of the Assistant Director for Emergency Preparedness position is to build on existing strengths in EHS, DPS and departmental planning efforts to create a comprehensive, campus-wide strategy for emergency preparedness and crisis prevention.   

Ziegler comes to Princeton from the City of Philadelphia, where he spent the last twelve and a half years in the City’s Office of Emergency Management. As Deputy Director for Planning for Philadelphia OEM, Ziegler managed a team of 14 planners focusing on health and human services, training and exercises, infrastructure, hazard mitigation, continuity of operations, homeland security, geographic information science (GIS), and community preparedness. 

From his time in Philadelphia he counts himself a veteran of a number of major events and incidents, including the 2015 World Meeting of Families that featured a visit from Pope Francis, the 2016 Republican National Convention, the 2017 NFL Draft, the 2018 Super Bowl Parade for the Philadelphia Eagles and the 2020 election, as well as several hurricanes, winter storms, water main breaks and fires. 

Looking Beyond COVID-19

Since arriving at Princeton in February, Ziegler has been focused on the COVID-19 response, a natural (and expected) continuation of his most recent work in Philadelphia. As the University continues its phased return to full operations, he will increasingly turn his attention to developing frameworks for shared campus-wide planning and situational awareness, working with the University's Emergency Management Group to optimize preparedness and coordinate implementation of crisis response and mitigation strategies.

Ziegler earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Drew University in Madison, N.J. and a master’s degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania. He is trained as an assessor for the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) and has been on several assignments for the organization, evaluating emergency management programs around the country.

His favorite part of the job of emergency management is problem solving. “During the response phase of an incident, I like how emergency managers bring the right stakeholders together and identify creative solutions to challenging and urgent problems,” he says. “The emergency planning process is also very important in identifying people, systems, and resources that are essential to reducing harm to life and property.”

Ziegler is married with two children and lives in Northwest Philadelphia. He is an avid Ultimate Frisbee player and looks forward to biking around the Princeton campus as the weather warms. Not inconsequentially, he’s a former contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire (in 2010) and Jeopardy! (in 2001). 

Despite pandemic restrictions, Ziegler has connected with many stakeholders already and looks forward to getting to know many more people from all corners of the University.  

“I am very excited to be a part of the Princeton campus,” he says, “and have been impressed by the commitment and collaborative approach of everyone I’ve met so far.”