Emergency response managers coordinate the efforts of emergency workers,
such as fire crews and doctors, in emergency situations.
These managers are involved in various kinds of crises, including natural
disasters like fires, floods, earthquakes, severe storms and volcanic eruptions.
They're also on the scene in human-caused disasters like terrorist incidents,
bomb threats, strikes and demonstrations, sit-ins, hostage takings and even
major computer break-ins and databank breakdowns.
"An emergency manager is a coordinator of administrative, technical and
political people," says Millard Dawson, an emergency manager in Delaware.
"That in itself is quite a job. We also have to educate and inform the public,
sometimes in very stressful situations."
While it's their job to respond to emergencies, most emergency managers
spend 90 percent of their time planning for emergencies.
"It takes a great deal of planning and work to ensure the necessary information
and personnel are ready in case of an emergency," says Mary Collins, an emergency
Emergency management consists of four parts. These measures have been set
up to deal with natural and man-made hazards:
Prevention -- Designing programs to help prevent or lessen the
effects of hazards. This could be anything from building dikes and educating
the public to enforcing building codes.
Preparedness -- Making sure individuals and agencies will be ready
to act if a disaster happens. This involves training personnel, making sure
supplies are available and ensuring communication systems are working.
Response -- Designing programs to combat emergencies when they
happen. This means having a plan to move in resources, make sure there is
medical attention and social services available for people, and issue warnings
and directions to the public.
Recovery -- Having a plan to help restore communities and the environment
to normal. This might involve reconstruction, counseling, financial assistance,
temporary housing and safety information. This is also a time to examine what
went wrong to try and learn from the experience.
"It's basically an emergency response manager's job to plan on and prepare
for the worst," says Collins. "Terrible things can happen if you don't have
a good plan in order."
Experts say stress is the name of the game in this job. To be a good emergency
response manager, you must be able to deal with high-pressure situations.
"You don't only have to be able to function under pressure, you have to
thrive on it," says Judson Freed, an emergency manager in Minneapolis.
People with physical disabilities or limitations should be able to do this
In addition to the stress, an emergency response manager has to deal with
a lot of responsibility. The work these people do can make the difference
between an emergency and a disaster. Still, they admit mistakes can happen,
usually as a result of insufficient preparation.
"I've seen a lot of emergencies become disasters because of inadequate
planning and poor response due to lack of training," says Freed.
Emergency response managers are usually not right at the scene of an emergency
the whole time. They usually operate from a "command post." (It may also be
called the EOC, or emergency operation center.) This is an area close to the
disaster site that has power and telecommunications equipment. This is where
decision-makers meet to manage the disaster.
An emergency manager will work with other emergency officials, like city
administrators, Red Cross Society representatives, police and fire officials,
search and rescue team leaders, and the militia.
Emergency management has traditionally been done by the military. This
is no longer true for everyone in this field.
"The big myth is that we're all [working for] civil defense," says Freed.
"That's where the field started, but for the past 15 years or so, we have
been an all-hazard planning field with major emphasis on natural and human-caused
Emergency managers can be found working in many settings, including cities,
universities and seniors' homes.
In smaller centers, the fire chief or chief of police often serves as the
Emergency response managers find their work stressful, yet rewarding. "The
best part of the job is helping to prevent or relieve the suffering that comes
with a disaster," says Dawson.
If you're interested in this career, you should start by getting in touch
with an emergency response manager. If you live in a larger city, you'll probably
find one by contacting city hall. If you live in a smaller place, a local
fire captain or police chief might be able to help.
Emergency managers almost always come to this kind of work with a lot of
previous experience in emergency services. Many have worked in fire departments,
as paramedics or as search and rescue workers, and others have spent time
in the military.
Coordinate the efforts of fire, police or medical crews in emergency
Watch a one-minute video showing what it's like to work in this career or related careers
Emergency Management Specialists
Note: This movie requires QuickTime.