When individuals think of Emergency Management, they envision police officers arresting criminals, firefighters suppressing fires, and paramedics assisting people at a car crash. If they have watched certain Hollywood movies, they may envision Tommy Lee Jones’ character in the movie “Volcano” from 1997. Do you remember that movie? If not, let me summarize with the help of IMDb (The Internet Movie Database).
“In the city of Los Angeles, it is nice quiet and routine. Until an earthquake occurs. The director of the city’s emergency management, Michael Roark [Jones] believes that something is big is about to happen, so he finds a geologist named Amy Barnes [played by Anne Heche] to help him investigate. What they will realize that the earthquake is a sign of a volcano forming in the city. The volcano formed at the La Brea Tarpits. Now Roark has to use every resource in the city to stop the volcano from consuming Los Angeles. After a seemingly minor earthquake one night in Los Angeles, a giant burst of lava is released from the La Brea Tar Pits, resulting in the birth of a new volcano under the city. City officials are reluctant to believe scientists who notice the early warning signs (the temperature of a lake rises 6 degrees in 12 hours) but they learn their lesson when lava begins to spill out into the streets and to destroy buildings and cars. Dedicated Emergency Management director Mike Roark rushes to the rescue, with help from a plucky seismologist.”
But, that is really not what emergency management is all about. Emergency managers are not first responders on a scene who handcuff criminals or perform life-saving procedures on heart attack victims. And, emergency managers are nothing like Mike Roark—- they are NOT incident commanders unilaterally in control of vast resources of equipment and people. Instead they are professionals who work daily to teach citizens how to be prepared for disasters; obtain available grant monies to support first responders who need new equipment; writers of planning documents that guide jurisdictions during an emergency; and plan projects designed to help mitigate the consequences from future disasters. Significantly, emergency managers do actively participate in responding to disasters, like hurricanes, chemical leaks, terrorism and a host of natural and man-made disasters.
However, the response is not in the field; it is most likely to be in an Emergency Operations Center. When activated to work during a crisis, emergency management professionals ensure that 1) elected officials have the information they need to make critical decisions; 2) the media and public get current and accurate information about the crisis; 3) proper lines of communication are open between those responding in the field (“those in the blood and mud”), the Emergency Operations Center, and other levels of government; and 4) resources needed by first responders is gathered and sent to the scene as quickly as possible. So, in a sense, emergency managers are first responders, but not in the sense that most people envision.
U.S. News & World Report indicates that Emergency Management is now considered “as one of the 50 best careers of 2010” and “should have strong growth over the next decade.” To read the complete article: