What is Emergency Management?

I’ve had a couple of requests to explain what exactly Emergency Management is, so here’s the nickle tour version of what we do…

Everyone is familiar with emergency responders, they’re the paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and others who rush into emergencies while others are running out.  They’re the ones that come when you call 911, rushing to an emergency with lights flashing and sirens screaming.  Emergency managers are a little different.  We spend a lot of our time thinking “what if…” and coming up with ways to deal with that “what if”.

Educationally, Emergency Management (and the study thereof) is a subset of sociology, the study of groups of people.  Emergency Management scholars study the ways in which people respond to emergencies, and come up with new ways of preventing, mitigating, responding to, and recovering from emergencies.  There’s a lot of room in this specialty for new scholars to add new work just in case some of you are looking for a new specialty!

Functionally, Emergency Management blurs the lines between several operational areas including emergency response, public safety, policy and governance, logistics and supply chain management, public health, and many other areas.  Some Emergency Managers are tightly focused on one organization or business, while others focus on communities, regions, states/provinces, countries, or even globally.

Day to day, our job is largely about looking at what might happen and figuring out how our organization can deal with the threats.  We perform risk assessments, write response plans, review research, read after action reports from other incidents, and spend time understanding the length and breadth of our organizations so that we have an idea of our critical functions and how they interact both internally and externally.

A good emergency manager is a jack of all trades, but the only thing they have truly mastered is the art and science of incident management.  Recognizing a problem, and using the resources at their disposal to resolve that problem is what an emergency manager does.  They do not have to be a firefighter, but they need to know the capabilities of their local department and how best to use them.  They do not need to be an IT professional, but they need to know how to use their IT resources to resolve an issue.

That’s the down and dirty explanation, and I’m sure some of my fellow emergency managers may have differing opinions on what we do.  Feel free to drop me a line if you want to know more, or disagree with what I’ve said!