Emergency management specialists have training and expertise in handling many different emergency situations, including natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or hurricanes, as well as biological or technological disasters such as virus outbreaks or nuclear power plant leaks. They may also respond to situations related to hostage scenarios, terrorist attacks or war.
The responsibilities of emergency management specialists include providing emergency preparedness training to other agencies and the public. They inspect communications equipment and emergency management centers to ensure that they are ready for use at all times. Other duties include preparing reports and maintaining and updating emergency plan resource materials.
Individuals working in emergency management must be able to stay calm and level-headed in any emergency. Leadership abilities are also important, so that others will follow directions to coordinate the team effort. An understanding of how police, fire and emergency medical services personnel work together is very valuable in this job, and knowledge of how local governments operate can also be helpful. Emergency management specialists must also know the laws, policies and procedures of local, state or national security operations, and they should be able to assess the needs of the community and know how to evaluate programs after an event.
Emergency Management Jobs Summary
Most emergency management specialists are employed by local and state governments, some work for hospitals and others work for emergency relief services and power companies.
Because disasters and crises can occur at any time, emergency management specialists must be available 24 hours a day.
Workers in this field hold many different job titles, but all are involved in preparedness, response or recovery from emergencies or disasters.
Work Environment for Emergency Management Specialists
Many emergency management specialists work in an office, but they may also be required to work onsite during a disaster or other emergency. They often work long and irregular hours, including nights and weekends, and must be available to respond when there is a disaster or emergency of any kind. Frequent travel may be required to attend meetings and to present workshops and training sessions.
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The stress level of this job can be high, because emergency management specialists need to be on alert at all times and deal with dangerous situations. They may also feel the pressure of coordinating as many as 30 or 40 different groups that are involved in emergency preparedness and relief, such as transportation agencies, health and environmental control, state housing authorities, social services and nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross.
Education, Training and Licensing
Most employers require emergency management specialists to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, emergency management or related field. Some will accept relevant experience in lieu of education, as in the case of retired military officers who may have only one or two years of postsecondary education. Other emergency management specialists may have backgrounds in firefighting or police work. Candidates hoping to enter this field should take courses such as hazard mitigation and preparedness, disaster response and recovery and introduction to emergency management. Some colleges and universities offer internships for students who lack experience in emergency management.
There are other credentials that emergency management specialists may earn a criminal justice certification, such as the Certified Emergency Manager designation. Individuals in this field may also wish to enroll in the Associate Emergency Manager program that is sponsored by the International Association of Emergency Managers.
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Employment Figures, Projections, Jobs Outlook and Earnings
Research published by the U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that emergency management specialists held about 13,060 jobs in May 2009. The BLS projects must faster than average employment growth in this field, with a 20% (or higher) increase in total jobs between 2008 and 2018.
According to BLS reports, the median annual wage for emergency management specialists was $52,590 as of May 2009, with the middle 50% earning between $38,950 and $70,750. The lowest 10% of professionals in this field had an annual income of about $28,370, while the highest 10% earned approximately $90,340 per year.