Internship Programs Develop the Next Generation of Emergency Managers
Although the coordinator position is new, the state has already been helping to place interns in its offices and with the counties. Local governments can send FDEM a scope of the work they are looking to accomplish with an intern and the state tries to find interns who are qualified for and interested in those duties. The information also is posted on the division’s website.
In addition to helping local offices get interns for their projects, Herbert has been placing interns in Florida counties to help with local mitigation strategies. Through funding from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and a partnership with Florida State University, 17 counties received interns to help with local mitigation strategies. The interns worked 40 hours a week for 13 weeks over the summer and were paid.
“We just really want to foster a learning environment and hopefully be able to have some of these interns be ready to take positions in Florida and move emergency management forward,” Herbert said.
Massachusetts Town Benefits From Interns
After attending a meeting for Massachusetts’ emergency management directors and watching students present about the internship process, Brian Gallant wanted to implement an internship program in his office. As director of the Sandwich, Mass., Office of Emergency Management, Gallant contacted the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, got a list of interested students, selected two and “the rest was history,” he said. The office’s first emergency management interns worked during the fall 2011 semester, and at the end of April he was interviewing more students to be interns over the summer.
For small towns like Sandwich, which has a population of about 20,000, volunteers can be an invaluable resource.
“We’re a volunteer agency, they are unfunded positions and these kids are beating our doors down and are eager to do it,” Gallant said.
The first interns helped with three main projects: updating plans by combining the flood and prehazard mitigation plans into one document, entering information into a new statewide resource management system and community outreach.
Sandwich is applying to become a StormReady Community — a preparedness program that’s sponsored by the National Weather Service — and one of the requirements is completing three outreach seminars to a variety of groups. The original plan had been for the interns to develop the presentation and the office staff would present it, but Gallant said the interns were eager to present it themselves.
And even after the first two students completed the internship program, they didn’t want to stop working with the office. Gallant said long after the process was complete, one of the interns was still offering to help the office and working on projects.
“They were excellent,” he said. “I can’t say enough about them — they were great.”