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Is There Really A Difference Between 'Emergency Management' and 'Homeland Security'?
June 09, 2010
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I've been asking this question today and - being at FEMA's 13th Annual Higher Education Conference, AND among a goodly number of academics who are supporting both kinds of programs - I am finding there are a lot of different opinions.

This is a very small sampling, of course, and mostly from those folks I managed to run into during the course of my day.  But this is who writes the course curricula, requirements and expected outcomes that eventually wind up on the FEMA Higher Ed College List.

Generally, everyone acknowledged there was a different focus between Emergency Management programs and Homeland Security programs.  Emergency Management programs are all-hazard driven.  Homeland Security programs have a single discipline focus (terrorism).

There were, however, some very colorful opinions about Homeland Security degrees and whether they stand alone or are really more of an adaptation, or speciality, of Emergency Management.  Homeland Security programs are generally funding-driven, and most exist because of DHS funding.  As that dries up - as it is already beginning to do - many of those smaller or less well-known programs are likely to disappear.

Depending on which side you are looking from, there was either concern or evasiveness about the non-collaborative nature of Homeland Security programs.  No argument that Homeland Security is internally focused; more cops-and-robbers and deliberately guarded.  Emergency Management programs are  externally focused toward our communities, our resources and partnering.

There is certainly a longer and more robust history for Emergency Management as a discipline - there is a pretty well-developed body of knowledge, principles and (coming soon) a set of specific curriculum standards. Likewise, planning for a (foreign or domestic) terrorist attack (i.e.: Homeland Security) is an important consideration for our nation's preparedness.  But then, so is planning for a major public health emergency like a pandemic.

How many different silos should we be creating for these disaster preparedness specialities?  What will we be calling the next disaster du jour?

Ultimately, I think it all boils down to a quesiton of semantics.  Would the end result be any different if we just made up a new name? 

How does 'Disaster Management' sound?


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