Emergency response managers coordinate the efforts of emergency workers,
such as fire crews and paramedics, in emergency situations. Most of their
time is spent planning for the unexpected.
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.
While it's their job to respond to emergencies, most emergency managers
spend almost all of their time planning for emergencies. They build relationships
with various organizations and educate the public.
"As an emergency manager, my work is not necessarily all about response
as much as my work is about project management," says Murielle Provost. She
is a city manager of emergency preparedness.
"My work is all about the networking that I have to do, and understanding
organizations' roles and responsibilities in an emergency," says Provost.
"Of course, it's all about writing plans and protocols and making sure
your stakeholders and your community partners are all trained and exercised,"
Provost adds. "So as an emergency manager there's always two aspects of my
job -- operational readiness and everything that includes, and community preparedness
and everything that includes."
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 return 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.
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've got to have a level head because usually you're called in when
everything's falling apart around you, and so you can't go in there all excited
and all upset," says Les Boatright. He's the emergency response manager for
Kansas City Power & Light. "You've got to keep a pretty level head."
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 not doing enough preparation.
"Emergency management has been going on for a long time, but it is a field
that is growing and sort of coming into its own as a professional field,"
says Robin Cox. She's a university professor in the graduate programs in disaster
and emergency management. "So as a professional field we see growth and opportunities
on the academic side, the training side and the job demand side."
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 managers can be found working in many settings, including cities,
universities and seniors' homes. You'll also find emergency response managers
at corporations and utility companies.
"[Y]ou're really dealing with the unknown -- how's a company going to continue
if one of their buildings gets taken out by a tornado, or a terrorist attack,
or whatever it is," says Boatright.
"You've got to have plans in place and you've got to test those plans
to make sure they work," says Boatright. "It's one thing to write them down;
it's another thing to test them to make sure they work. You don't want to
test it during an emergency."
In smaller centers, the fire chief or chief of police often serves as the
Emergency response managers find their work at times stressful, yet rewarding.
It's a lot of responsibility making sure a community stays safe.
"Like the army, every day is different," says David Galea. He was in the
army for 32 years. He's now the director of emergency preparedness for a city.
"I'll be honest, the job's not all fun -- there's some boring administrative
stuff that goes with it, but there's also some exciting days," says Galea.
"You don't know what's coming, and you have to develop solutions on the
fly, so it's interesting. You meet great people -- the people that you work
with, and the citizens when you go out to talk to them and make them aware
of what some of the issues are... There's variety in the job -- it's meeting
people and knowing that you're helping people and making a difference."