The problems facing public safety officials today are complex, requiring the attention of multi-faceted, highly educated leaders. The rapidly evolving profession of emergency management will require leaders who not only can apply their practical skills, but use social and natural science...
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As the profession continues to grow, EMI strives to support continued growth of existing emergency management collegiate programs by defining core curriculum at each academic level. (EMI, 2009, p. 8) It is essential that the core curriculum address competencies in executive leadership. Dr. John Hook advises that in recent years, many organizations have experienced crises due to failures in leadership at the top. (Hook, 2008, p. 1) As such, development of senior leaders should be a high priority and he has written a book outlining the requirements for senior executive effectiveness. On a routine basis emergency managers address risk, risk avoidance, promote change of policies, procedures and behaviors and ultimately lead during crisis situations. "Leadership is more important during times of trouble." (Hook, 2008, p. 352) Emergencies are a fact of American life and threaten safety, property and the economy. The ability to manage during a crisis can be developed through an expanded leadership knowledge base attained in a master's degree program in emergency management.
"A quickly changing social landscape, changing job roles, rapid technological advancement, domestic terrorism and increased scrutiny have combined to renew the debate over higher education" for public safety workers. (Roberg and Bonn, 2004) EMI has also acknowledged a need to create new knowledge and its strategic plan calls for research through the EMI higher education community. Highly educated emergency managers are needed to answer this call for action.
The profession of emergency management has evolved from the disciplines of law enforcement, fire-rescue and the military. Police officers report that "officers with criminal justice degrees reported that the degree substantially improved their knowledge and abilities on a wide range of areas from the criminal justice system to conceptual and managerial skills." (Carlan, 2007) "Police officers with criminal justice degrees value its mental and conceptual contributions." (Carlan, 2007) So, it is true when fulfilling the functions of emergency management. Higher education will better position our communities for identify risk, mitigate and manage risk when needed.
"When people are seriously injured they expect good, professional medical care to be readily available, but curiously when major emergencies have turned into mass-casualty incidents we have been content to leave their management to people who are completely lacking in formal education." (Alexander, 2008, p. 1) Society will no longer accept reactive emergency management.
The costs of emergency management failures are increasing and the just-in-time emergency management will be too costly. This disaster inflation phenomenon is the result of population shifts and increased infrastructure replacement values. Cities across the nation are becoming more densely populated and complex. Communities may have emergency managers with the most innovative and sophisticated technology, vast amounts of equipment and staff, but if they do not have the leadership that can handle the problem, regardless of the risks, failures will occur with huge financial implications.
The future of emergency management is bright as more and more quality academic programs are surfacing across the nation. It is critical that the profession evolves to the senior executive level to best position our country to prevent and prepare for disasters.
KATHY L. FORREST is program manager for the Mid-Atlantic Center for Emergency Management at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD, and a graduate student in the Police Executive Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Previously, she served with the Frederick County Division of Emergency Management and was the senior law enforcement analyst for the Sanford, FL, Police Department. Forrest is an International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), a certified law enforcement instructor and National Incident Management System (NIMS) trainer. She holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College in Orlando, FL, and the Florida Law Enforcement Analyst Certification from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Alexander, D. (2008). A Career in Emergency Management. Disaster Planning and Emergency Management, April 2008.
Blanchard, B. (2009). FEMA Emergency Management Higher Education Program Description. U. S. Department of Homeland Security, National Preparedness Directorate.
Fuller, C. (2008). The Challenges and future opportunities of emergency management education: a student's perspective. Emergency Administration and Planning, University of North Texas.
Greenberg, S. (2008). Master of Science in Management: Emergency Management Leadership Program. Johns Hopkins University, School of Education, Division of Public Safety Leadership.
Heifetz, R. and Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the Line: staying alive through the dangers of leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.