There is a whole field of career opportunities out there that most people don’t even realize exists. But it won’t be a secret for much longer.
If you can keep a calm head in an emergency, are organized and detail-oriented, and can manage relationships, then a career in emergency management and security might be perfect for you.
When an emergency of some kind happens, the people we usually see are the first responders – police, firefighters and paramedics. However, when a large event occurs, like a gas spill, a train derailment, a terrorist attack, a forest fire or an earthquake, there is a whole team of people running the show from behind the scenes. And that’s where the emergency management profession comes in.
This field is one that very few people know about, so competition for jobs is low, and salaries tend to be high. The demand for qualified people to fill these positions is growing in an economy where many career fields are suffering. Why?
Population increases mean more and more people are living in areas where a disaster is likely to occur – like near forest fire, flood and earthquake hazard zones. Climate change is also affecting the incidence of and locations of emergencies and is bringing the importance of emergency planning and response to light. We’re living in an age where domestic and international security concerns are high. And, there is a growing recognition of the need to implement solid business continuity practices to ensure businesses can weather emergencies and disasters.
Who Are Emergency Managers? For many years, diploma of security and risk management first responders were the same people who fulfilled behind-the-scenes roles as emergency managers. They juggled both the responsibilities of emergency management and their main job duties. They didn’t necessarily have specific training in the field, and because emergency management duties were “off the side of the desk,” they didn’t get the attention they deserved.
Today, emergency and disaster response departments are discovering the advantages of appointing positions to strictly oversee the emergency management function – someone whose attention isn’t divided. This opens up a whole field of careers for people who aren’t first responders, but who would thrive in a job where they are just as instrumental in saving lives, preserving our environment, and protecting people and assets from disaster.
What Are Some of the Jobs in this Field? Depending on your training, experience and education, there are several career paths you can take. The most common job titles include:
- Emergency Program Coordinator
- Disaster Planning Specialist
- Director of Safety and Security
- Manager of Security
- Business Continuity Specialist
- Risk Management Specialist
Emergency Program Coordinator: One career path is as an or emergency program coordinator for your local city or municipality. In this role, you will put together and update the community’s emergency plan, which will include an analysis of hazards and risks in the area, and strategies for prevention, mitigation, response and recovery. In layman’s terms, the plan will answer the following questions:
- What types of emergencies is my community vulnerable to? Are we located in an earthquake zone? Do many trains carrying hazardous materials run through our community? If it rains too much, are we vulnerable to mud slides?
- What strategies can we put in place to prevent emergencies from taking place altogether – or mitigate their effects if they do happen? Should we restrict building permits in mud slide areas? Clear dead trees in forest fire zones? Outline clear disaster response routes?
- How will the community manage the response if an emergency does occur? Where will we set up an Emergency Operations Centre (a location from which an emergency can be managed)? Who should be involved – do we need representatives from first response agencies, hydro, forestry, First Nations? How will they be trained and know how to work together?
- Where will the general public go if an emergency happens? Do we have a team of trained Emergency Social Services workers to ensure that receptions centres are set up and staffed?
- When the emergency is over, how will the community recover? Are many people, animals and businesses displaced? Has infrastructure, such as roads, hydro or railways been disrupted? Will we need to liaise with non-profit disaster organizations for recovery assistance?
You will also be responsible for setting up and maintaining the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), developing relationships with individuals, businesses, and organizations in your community, and managing training and exercise programs. For example, during planning for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the City of Vancouver ran several exercises simulating emergency events that could happen. These exercises helped identify gaps in training or skills that could then be remedied prior to the event.
Where Else Are Emergency Program Coordinators Employed? Today, you will find emergency management specialist positions in many organizations, including colleges, universities, hospitals, healthcare organizations, utility companies and private businesses like shopping centres and hotels. In these organizations the duties are similar – you still create the emergency management plan, develop relationships and arrange training and exercise programs – but the difference is that your main audience is not the residents of your community, but the staff, students, customers or tenants at your organization. Your job is to make sure plans are in place to protect your people and property before, during and after an emergency.