Emergency Management Students Need Experience! -- Redux

Instead of complaining about the lack of experience in newly graduated emergency managers do something about it.

A lot of folks have asked why I haven’t posted many blogs lately.  I have a great answer:  I haven’t had time because I retired!

I’ve lost count of how many Emergency Managers have retired and are now busier than they were before. Seasoned EM’s are so much in demand; there are so many opportunities to consult and present and teach. It is easy to stay very busy.

When I retired, I went the teaching route. My motivation was (still is) training the next generation of Emergency Managers – the ones that will be taking over. Passing on my knowledge and experience is very, very important to me.

I teach in the Master’s program at CSU Long Beach, educating a lot of mid-career people on the ins-and-outs and intricacies of our profession.  Before I retired, when I was hiring new employees, it was important to find someone with a strong background in Emergency Management – both experience and education. Many of the applicants were (or had been) in the military or public service. They knew a lot about response, yet didn’t know how to develop a risk assessment and create a mitigation plan for a small city. They could participate in a press conference, but didn’t who Dennis Mileti was, much less his work on emergency notification.  

Now, I see those same kind of people in my courses. I insist they have an understanding of basic emergency management theory, ethics in research with human subjects and some real-world experience to expand their understanding of our field. You know all those folks who wonder what we do when there isn’t a disaster? I want them to understand what being an emergency manager is really all about.

Risk and Crisis Communications is a good example. You might be surprised what some students hadn’t considered: being responsible for communicating with special populations in their jurisdictions; the importance of social media in response and recovery; Peter Sandman’s formula for Risk = Hazard + Outrage and its applicability to risk communication.

When I teach this course, there are two-person team projects assigned to work for real community partners. I ask my colleagues to help by providing real problems for them to work on. Students have:

  1. Researched outdoor warning systems and produced a summary with statistics for a emergency management agency in Texas.
  2. Wrote a comprehensive paper examining social media use on a university campus, with recommendations for current emergency plans.
  3. Described a general social media strategy, with SOP’s, for a State Emergency Management Agency.
  4. Developed a paper summarizing actions to stand up a global social media response organization, including a recommendation for adopting ICS principles.
  5. Drafted an Emergency Information Guide for a Ministry in Ontario, Canada.

Before students are allowed to graduate in this program, they have to complete either a thesis or capstone project AND defend it. Since these students are all over the U.S., they come up with some interesting projects. Some that are currently in progress:

  1. Continuing community resilience after federal mitigation funds run out; working with a couple local jurisdictions
  2. Mitigating disaster related stress in children through music; working with a national organization.
  3. Creating community resilience with community gardens; working with an agricultural program at a university.
  4. Discretionary decision making for Peace Officers during a disaster; thesis.
  5. Developing a white paper to integrate several special districts to create more a efficient law enforcement agency; working with a county Sheriff’s Department.

Here is my challenge for you: Instead of complaining about the lack of experience in newly graduated emergency managers – do something about it. Find a similar program and offer to tutor/mentor a student so they do have some real world experience.

Or send me an email; I am gathering information for next semester. If you have a project, I might just be able to help.