Home Crisis Management Making the Grade: Skills to be a Successful Emergency and Disaster Management Student

Making the Grade: Skills to be a Successful Emergency and Disaster Management Student


By David Munro Faculty Member, Emergency and Disaster Management at American Military University

You’ve made the step to pursue formal education in emergency and disaster management. You’ve been learning all your life but have you taken the time to identify the skills required to be a successful EDM student? I’m going to provide some thoughts on what it takes to be prepared for EDM coursework. I define preparedness as those pre-course, or pre-milestone (e.g. mid-term paper), activities that are taken that lead to success. These include planning, organizing, visioning, reading, and writing.

Disaster team picPlanning
Regardless of the organization you work for, or position you hold, you likely spend much of your time planning. Whether you are part of a specific first response activity, emergency support function, non-related function, or managing your home, you have–or are working on–contingency plans for just about everything you do. Being a successful student requires the same approach and mindset. In developing your plan you need to schedule your work, classroom, research, and family time to develop a balance where nothing is sacrificed. Using current software for time and task management helps streamline long existing time management methods and will allow you to quickly prioritize your milestones.

Get organized for your courses by developing a file system and back it up. Don’t just dump your files. There are only 168 hours in the week so organizing your files will save some of this valuable time for use in other areas. Use virtual space to store and backup your files. If you haven’t already, you should invest in bibliography and style management software. Learn to use it; this software will help you format your papers and citations in forum posts. I’m not saying that you don’t need to pick up the latest style guide and know it front-to-back but life sure is easier with the right software.

Having a clear vision of what you want out of your education will contribute directly to your success. Take some time to identify what success looks like to you. Spend some time mind-mapping your success and create specific objectives to achieve those goals.

If you haven’t spent time in the library lately, you need to. Emergency and disaster management has often been described as an uncomfortable mix of many disciplines so there is always more to learn. The library research databases at AMU offer virtual 24-hour librarians and, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, there is a large staff of fully qualified librarians ready to help. Read related peer review journal articles, particularly the ones you don’t necessarily enjoy, as a great way to improve your critical thought. The library also has tools to help you to do better research, cite and reference appropriately, and write better.

You need to spend a lot of time writing. The only way to become a better writer is to spend time doing it. Much of your education is centered on your ability to communicate through writing, so get good at it. Continuously improve your skill at articulating your thoughts and ideas through words on paper.

About the Author: David Munro is an Adjunct Instructor at the APUS School of Public Service and Health and is the Director of Emergency Management for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. His career in incident and emergency management at the federal, local, and tribal government levels spans over 20 years. David has a Ph.D. in Public Policy with a homeland security specialization, holds an MBA, and is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®).


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