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10 Emerging Skills in Emergency Management

Industry Advice Political Science & Security

No matter where you live, your life has inevitably been impacted by emergency management. Nearly every sector of the globe has experienced catastrophic damage or casualties as a result of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. In fact, according to Our World in Data, approximately 45,000 people globally have died from natural disasters each year over the past decade—representing around 0.1 percent of global deaths.

While many of these events aren’t preventable, the emergence of emergency management has kept the mortality rate of these events lower year after year. Skilled professionals in this field have contributed to highly impactful innovations like methods of earlier prediction, resilient infrastructure, and effective response systems.

If you’re interested in this diverse and dynamic field, here’s everything you need to know about emergency management and the skills you need to excel in the industry.

Skills Every Emergency Management Professional Should Have

Emergency management is a growing field that’s constantly evolving with the increased needs of the people it serves. Professionals who hope to succeed in this industry should consider developing their skill sets to match the current standards of emergency management services. Here’s a list of the top ten emerging skills in emergency management job postings.

The top specialized skills in emergency management and their frequency in job postings, which is between 29% and 88%

1. Emergency Management

Emergency management is a broad term often used to describe the coordination and management of resources and responsibilities in response to an emergency. Some of these responsibilities might include gathering, managing, or analyzing data to make informed decisions about preparedness or recovery.

While part of this skill is reactive to the emergency at hand, its main objective is to become proactive using data from previous disasters. This data informs future emergency preparedness plans and effective recovery protocol. Prospective emergency managers, directors, and public information officers need this skill to effectively manage teams and make high-stakes decisions that affect the communities they serve.

2. Emergency Preparedness

Much like emergency management, emergency or disaster preparedness focuses on proactively preparing for various disasters. Emergency management professionals must have experience in creating effective emergency plans for a variety of threats. This skill has become essential to the field as a result of communities slowly creating infrastructures and processes to ensure safety.

According to a survey conducted by FEMA, about 68 percent of those surveyed have taken basic measures to prepare for a possible natural disaster, and that number is growing slowly. One major cause for this gradual rise in individual emergency preparedness is the fact that only 68 percent of people feel they are financially prepared for an emergency (i.e., homeowners insurance, flood insurance, renters insurance). Communities that are more susceptible to this disparity need the support of emergency management professionals with well-developed preparedness skills.

3. Emergency Response

Emergency management professionals need an ability to respond to disasters or challenging events as quickly and effectively as possible. Longer response times are often the cause of increased or permanent damages, more fatalities, and distress and confusion among the communities affected.

COVID-19 is an excellent example of why this skill is essential to most disasters or emergency events. Many mistakes made in responding to the pandemic in the first few weeks caused widespread fear and doubt in the systems intended to mitigate the catastrophic impact this virus had on several vulnerable communities.

4. Incident Command System (ICS)

Businesses aren’t immune to the damaging effects of ineffective emergency management. As a result, many companies have emergency response teams that interface with public emergency services to try and mitigate the impact of disruptions in their operations. This is accomplished through organized communications and coordination through incident command systems (ICS). These systems standardize the command, control, and coordination of emergency response.

A great example of this is in the utilities industry, specifically electricity. Utility company operations are directly affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes and blizzards. When thousands of customers lose power, utility companies are expected to respond effectively and efficiently alongside government and support groups. ICS provides a common hierarchy, leading responders from different sources to achieve a common goal. Professionals who want to work in the private sector should consider developing this highly specialized skill in emergency management to ensure they understand the structure and terminology of business response plans.

5. National Incident Management Systems (NIMS)

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a lot like incident management systems in that it’s meant to standardize emergency response. NIMS is slightly different, however, in that it focuses on guiding all levels of government, nongovernmental, and private sector organizations to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from emergencies. The main goal of this system is to provide shared terminology, systems, and processes to ensure effective emergency response and preparedness. Individuals interested in emergency management in any sector need this specialized skill to understand the industry standards.

The top common skills in emergency management and their frequency in job postings, which is between 49% and 67%

6. Operations

When a disaster or emergency occurs, the first aspect of business or everyday life that’s affected is operations. In emergency management, operations identifies an emergency incident, defines the impact, allocates resources, and communicates the status to others. Prospective professionals hoping to break into this field need a clear understanding of the various roles within emergency response, such as incident commanders and public information officers, to ensure the correct information is shared with the right incident response teams.

7. Planning

Emergency management professionals need to be excellent planners. Planning is an integral part of several job responsibilities and required skills previously mentioned. The proactive aspect of emergency management is crucial to its overall objective of making communities impacted by disasters prepared and safer to address possible challenges.

8. Communications

Most industries want professionals who are effective communicators, but for employers looking for emergency management professionals, this skill is a requirement, not a preference. Depending on the job title, emergency management professionals write reports, create and present various presentations, and articulate emergency plans. These tasks require effective communication skills to be accomplished successfully.

9. Coordinating

Coordination is an integral part of emergency management. As mentioned, incident command systems were created with the sole objective of streamlining the emergency response process. However, there are still several moving parts of emergency management that live outside of these systems. In these cases, effective emergency management professionals need coordination skills to ensure no response tasks slip through the cracks.

10. Management

Management, much like emergency management, deals with the leadership responsibilities that come with managing a response team. Management requires confidence, effective communication, and an in-depth knowledge of the industry. Emergency management professionals who take the time to develop the skills listed above will inadvertently strengthen their management skills that will help them succeed in any emergency.

The Changing Tide in Security and Resilience Skill Requirements

The required skills to excel in emergency management have evolved in the last few years. These shifts in job requirements are a result of technological advancements and the evolving expectations of the emergency management industry.

According to government data, the following skills have been included in an increasing number of emergency management job postings over the past two years:

  • Management
  • Communications
  • Emergency response
  • Coordinating
  • Operations
  • Report writing

The increase in employers seeking these skills demonstrates how emergency management roles are solidifying as leadership roles in response to crises. Effective managers need to have proper communication skills and an understanding of operations to successfully lead. This shift isn’t surprising looking at emergency response jobs in research or data collection.

Emergency response in a globalized world is complex, so the emergency management field needs effective response and coordination more than ever before. These are just a few examples of why understanding industry skills and requirements is essential to breaking into the field.

Develop the Right Skills For Success

Developing the right skill set is essential to any line of work. While there are several technical aspects of research-related jobs in emergency management that may not require every skill listed above, it’s still in your best interest to learn more about the industry. One way to do this is through a graduate program, like Northeastern’s Master of Science in Security and Resilience Studies program.

“Prospective students may know the technical side really well, but might want to broaden their other skills. This degree can help them better understand the context where their infrastructure fits and how it might be dependent upon other infrastructures,” says Ann Lesperance, director of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University. “It gives students the kind of analytical tools to help them look closely at this relationship.”

Experiential learning offers students the opportunity to apply the concepts discussed in coursework to current situations facing the field to better understand the relationship between the varying infrastructures of emergency response. In addition, students are supervised, instructed, and mentored by industry experts, making Northeastern the best place to develop your skill set and thrive in emergency situations.

If you think you’re ready for this type of immersive education, check out Northeastern’s Master of Science in Security and Resilience Studies program to see what you can do to jumpstart your career in security and resilience.