Typically when we think about emergency management, we think about the professionals who are on the ground when an emergency happens—such as firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders. However, there are also a number of people who work behind the scenes to help make that response possible. Emergency management specialists are responsible for developing disaster response plans, training other professionals in disaster and emergency preparedness, and coordinating with various emergency personnel (at the state, local, and municipal level) to quickly and efficiently respond to unexpected events.
What Is an Emergency Manager?
Emergency managers are expert planners, tasked with seeing the big picture of a situation—as well as all of the little details—to ensure that a community or organization (or both) is adequately prepared in the event of an emergency. They are often employed by hospitals, colleges and universities, community relief organizations, as well as state or local governments, military, and law enforcement organizations.
What Is a Typical Day in the Life an Emergency Manager?
Emergency managers spend the majority of their time in an office, with occasional travel to consult with other community organizations and lead training sessions. They may perform surveys and conduct research to stay abreast of the constantly changing issues and regulations that occur on the local, state, and federal levels. In the event of an actual disaster, the emergency management expert may be responsible for coordinating evacuations or rescue efforts.
The emergency manager role requires a great deal of communication and collaboration with people of all backgrounds. The ability to tolerate a high level of stress is another important characteristic, as the tension and stress levels in emergency environments can be very high and last for extended periods of time.
What Does the Future Look Like for Emergency Management?
In light of an increasing number of unanticipated natural and man-made disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the damage caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma, both public- and private-sector organizations are becoming increasingly more interested in investing in emergency management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment to grow by 2,800, or 22 percent, between 2008 and 2018.
What Is the Career Path for an Emergency Manager?
Emergency management can be a challenging but rewarding field to get into—and no two paths are ever alike. Possible ways to gain entry to the profession include volunteering with your state, county, or local emergency management office; taking independent courses in emergency management to learn more about the field; and pursuing an advanced degree.
Employers are looking for emergency management professionals who understand the political and socio-economic implications of disasters, as well as how to develop and implement a detailed operations plan and are capable of maintaining an emergency operations center.
How Much Does an Emergency Manager Earn?
According to U.S. News, in 2009, the median annual earnings for emergency management specialists were about $53,000. California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were the states with the highest paid specialists. The average wage in California was $78,650.
What Education Can Prepare Me for a Role as an Emergency Manager?
A bachelor’s degree is a basic prerequisite. Many employers, especially in the public sector, also require certification in the National Incident Management System, a framework for disaster response designed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Those interested in pursuing a higher profile post—such as overseeing a disaster preparedness plan for a large or vulnerable city—would benefit from earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA). A MPA provides the critical thinking skills and knowledge necessary to effectively carry out the activities associated with planning and prevention, response and recovery, and disaster assistance.