Emergency Management: One of the 50 best careers of 2010

7 01 2010

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:




9 responses

8 01 2010
William E. Zagorski Sr.

Some Emergency Managers are first responders mostly in the Rural and Urban Counties.
While most large Counties have Paid Fire the aformention Counties have Volunteer who respond to major incidents not large enough to activate an EOC but still need assistance in Command and Control. The last thing I a Fire Chief needs is to forage for a piece of equipment he/she may need, An EMC can find that equipment faster and authorize an expenditure much quicker leaving the Chief to deal with the scene.

8 01 2010
Jeff Braun

Good point; I was somewhat remiss in generalizing. That is the wonderful thing about a career in Emergency Management—- the variety. In some places, the key emergency management professional probably wears multiple hats. And those folks deserve a lot of credit for trying their best to command an incident while they also trying to handle public information; keep their boss in the loop (often a County Judge or Mayor); respond to media inquiries; request additional needed resources from another level of government. Quickly you see that is way too much for somebody to handle and you see the need for assistance, as you aptly point out. The need for trained and experienced Emergency Managers is clearly evident—- and I think the U.S. News & World Report article points that out. Thanks for responding!

8 01 2010
Esmeralda Valague


Thanks for sharing that the industry is so ripe for opportunity, because then perhaps you can help me understand what I am missing as I try to enter the field and I can’t even get interviews most of the time and I am truly stumped. I tried for over a year to get into a position, even at a huge pay-cut from my old field…. Let me summarize my credentials…I have a Masters degree in National Security, A Bachelors in Psychology (with an interest in critical incident stress and related issues), and an Associates in Emergency Management (which included an internship in a Emergency Planning Agency) – not to mention hundreds of hours of continuing education (ICS 300, etc.). I have taught national security and government at the college level for 10 years. I have over 8 years in grant writing (in fact, I edited a book about this), curriculum and policy development (including a curriculum industrial safety), government affairs and media experience – including supervising others. Several of the grants I managed were in long-term recovery (including one where I worked IN the FEMA DRC). I have been a disaster volunteer for 11 years to include over 700 hours as an officer and instructor in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary (working within the actual ICP for Ike and inter-agency drills and exercises like Harbor of Safe Refuge, NLE 09, and Rogue Vessel my role in the USCG is not to socialize like a boating club) countless hours in CERT (where I am a coordinator/trainer level, drill evaluator, etc.), ham-radio activities and grant-funded long-term recovery projects. I was also a paid consultant in the long-term recovery efforts at Ike for a non-profit group. Furthermore, I had the reccommendation and references of several “titans of the industry.” Oh and, I Speak fluent Spanish and am gaining fluency in Arabic. If I didnt have to go a meeting, I would go on. Jeff, can you PLEASE enlighten me as to what else someone like me could do to be competitve in this industry if it indeed in need of new talent??? — Esmeralda Valague.

15 01 2010
Jeff Braun

Esmeralda, not sure I have a good response for your question. You definitely have some fantastic background, not only in emergency management field, but in a variety of skill sets. I would think you would be a strong candidate for many positions. What types of position do you hope to obtain?

12 03 2012
William E. Zagorski Sr.

Esmeralda, unfortunately governmental leader look for the experience more than education in this field, I had 24 years military experience as a disaster specialist before moving into the local government sector.

I wish you the best but if you are interested many EMC’s could use your assistance as a volunteer and it is a way to get your foot in the door.

I have worked in County and City government now over 20 years and still love what I do

16 02 2010
Esmeralda Valague

Being a career-changer, I would be interested in any position where I can learn. I enjoyed my internship with USCG Sector Houston-Galveston – Planning Department. Planning would be an option. I enjoy training including drills and exercises and other related types of training. Liasion officer and/or public information would work too. Really I am wide-open. I just don’t know if I am uncompetitive or if the economy has flooded the applications with people with tons of PAID operatoins experience to trump my background. Thanks for the interest in guiding the process for me.

18 02 2010
Jeff Braun

It definitely seems that many individuals are looking for jobs, and I think individuals are holding on to their positions with the economy being so shaky. Seems like planning jobs come open from time to time, even with the tough economic times. Best of luck in your search.

18 05 2010
William E. Zagorski Jr.

When it comes to Emergency Management, my dad is one of the best. When I was younger, I wanted to be the one to take over when he retired. Too bad as of now I’m planning to go into becoming an English Major.

However, I hope one day in the future to take some classes, and if being a writer doesn’t work out for me, then I’ll look into working the same job as my dad does now.

2 01 2011
2010 in review « Jeff Braun’s Emergency Management Blog

[…] Emergency Management: One of the 50 best careers of 2010 January 2010 7 comments 5 […]

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