What Are the Most Important Skills for an EDM Student to Have?
By Daniel Hahn
Faculty Member, Emergency and Disaster Management at American Military University
The interesting thing about being an emergency manager is the variations within the field – a professional can work for local, state, or the federal government or in a variety of private sector industries. There are many practitioners who hail from one of the established response disciplines of fire, EMS, or law enforcement. Craig Fugate, the FEMA Administrator comes from a fire background. Add to this mix those with military backgrounds from any of the five services (including the Coast Guard) and the plethora of job specialties available through the Department of Defense, and emergency management appears to be a hodge-podge of personnel with different skill sets. This is a good thing.
Why are there such a large number of people from diverse backgrounds in emergency management? The opportunities are numerous in this field. If you want to be an emergency manager, having the ability to communicate ideas–regardless of how abstract or defined–to another person or a group of persons is a critical skill. If you think being an emergency manager means sitting in a room in front of a computer all day you are sadly mistaken.
I equate an emergency manager to a jack of all trades; someone who does not necessarily know the answer, but knows where to find the answer. Many times this means asking a colleague or associate or a contact made during the course of a planning meeting, exercise, training session, or chamber luncheon.
Every aspect of life is the purview of the emergency manager regardless of title. Keeping a business open; helping citizens before, during, and after a disaster; reacting to an act of terrorism; assisting the needy; and teaching future emergency managers are all emergency management responsibilities.
So what are the most important skills for an emergency manager?
- The ability to communicate
- The ability to adapt to change
- The ability to network
Probably the best example of a document describing what an emergency manager should be is the FEMA course “Fundamentals of Emergency Management” Independent Study 230.b from May 2011.
In my mind the most important part of this course is the part regarding the Principles of Emergency Management. This information can be found in unit 2 of the course guide.
An emergency manager must be patient, and an emergency manager must be professional. Some of this can be taught in school, but some must be learned through experience. This is not just an occupation, it is a calling, continuous education and sharing of knowledge is part of the game.
About the Author: Daniel Hahn is the Plans Section Chief for the Santa Rosa County Florida, Division of Emergency Management. Daniel was named the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA) 2009 Emergency Management Professional of the year. Daniel earned his master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management with AMU. Daniel is working on a doctorate in business administration with a specialization in homeland security policy and leadership. Daniel is an active member of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). Daniel also teaches emergency management classes for the University of West Florida, American Military University, Barry University, and Pensacola State College.