Preparedness & Recovery

It’s Time for Emergency Management to Adapt

The Emergency Management Leaders Conference will take place in June 2018 in Tampa.

by Elizabeth Zimmerman / March 19, 2018
Snow in Atlanta AP/David Goldman

We have all seen the statistics. In 2017 alone, disasters cost the U.S. more than $300 billion. Wildfire “season” is now all year. Hurricanes are as much or more about the water than the wind. The aging population in the U.S.—the most vulnerable in a disaster—will double by 2050.  Emergency managers in Atlanta and other parts of the Deep South are confronted with snowfall. Infrastructure is aging and misinformation is booming.

Regardless of who is elected, and how much money is spent, emergency managers make due and focus on the goal of saving lives. As these accelerations keep taking place, however, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for governments to keep up. The best means of communication no longer lie in the hands of the public sector. Our organizations struggle to be credible sources within the community. There is real concern that these changes could start resulting in lives being lost. No longer are stories local and isolated: a snow storm in New York or a false alert in Hawaii is global news.

As emergency managers, we are accustomed to playing the hand we are dealt, but now it is time to ask for new cards. We know things will go wrong when we fail to prepare, so what are we doing as a community to empower policymakers to better help us do our jobs?

These are the realities confronted by emergency managers today. And while our community has adapted to changes in the past, the changes we confront are happening faster and are more complex. The differences in how cities, states, and tribes are adapting to these changes—or not—are as diverse as the communities themselves.

To address these critical questions, we’re convening a first of its kind conference to get at these questions. A unique opportunity to engage directly with emergency management leaders; we’ll bring thought leadership and the policy debate on these questions from Washington D.C. and operation centers throughout the country together. The most notable events are convened on the basis of states, cities, tribes, or international perspectives, and our thought leadership is stove-piped making the very whole of community approach, that makes our response strong, lacking when it comes to policy leadership. We have the opportunity to start bringing these conversations together and forging a new approach to adapting emergency management for the next century.

The Emergency Management Leaders Conference will take place in June 2018 in Tampa. Main stage speakers include experienced emergency management experts, private sector leaders, and non-profit partners. We’ll identify the key challenges, and discuss opportunities for how we can adapt the field of emergency management to meet emerging challenges.

Logistics and communications expertise in the private sector have been transformative to our field. Are we doing all we can to seize the opportunities that exist? Artificial intelligence can help us plan better to prevent disasters in the first place. Health care advances provide better solutions for helping the most vulnerable be safe. But like all things, it takes time, creativity, and know-how. EMLC will bring people together in a new way to tackle these questions.

Every emergency manager goes to bed at night wondering if they’ve done everything they can to be ready for that next no-notice incident. Every day, we know someone is out there doing it better. There’s a new idea that needs to be explored, implemented and exercised. There’s a technology that may or may not work for your community. EMLC will offer us a chance to dialog, listen, and push forward these changing dynamics by first having a conversation about what we mean by adapting to be resilient.

I hope you will join us.

Elizabeth A. Zimmerman has spent more than 30 years in the emergency management field and served as the Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Obama Administration. She is now a Principal at Elizabeth A. Zimmerman LLC, an emergency management consulting firm and is the Chairwoman of the Emergency Management Leaders Conference.