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My Thoughts on the Profession of Emergency Management

In response to a questionnaire I received.

Brian Stoll with the University of Illinois Chicago sent me some questions and asked me to provide answers based on my perspective and experience.

I was thinking this would be a good blog post, so see below:

EM as a Career:

  • What do you consider essential skillsets for EM?

The ability to work in concert with others and build partnerships with a diverse set of organizations and people.

  • Can you recommend suggested training / credentials?

I do not think that the CEM as it is currently configured provides any assurances as to the knowledge and skills of the holder.

  • What do we do? Why do we do it? Why is it important?

If we don’t do it, no one else will. First responders are focused on disaster response. We need to lead the charge on disaster resilience which is really disaster mitigation. Climate change impacts are increasing and will get worse. We need to chip away at the issue

  • What makes your job unique and enjoyable?

I tell people that what I do as an EM is “I try to get people and organizations to work with one another.”

Required Reading:

  • What are the “go-to” publications in the field?

Since I blog my blog and my Disaster Zone podcast can help anyone. Certainly Emergency Management Magazine and Homeland Security Today have good information sources.

  • What do you consider the most valuable resource on your bookshelf?

The dictionary!

Lessons Learned:

  • What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in EM?

Relationships are the grease that makes what we do work—across the board.

  • How did you learn it?

Over 33 years in the business. Networking!!!

Advice for the EM Beginner:

  • What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten when you were starting out?

It is not about disaster response & bonus item, Logistics is critical in a response.

  • What three things should every new EM practitioner do / focus on / remember?

1. You have to have a plan and be able to respond—that is the expectation, Don’t screw up a warning—it is very public

2. Your organizational readiness will be determined by the tenure of the people who you have worked and trained with

3. If logistics was easy it would be called taxes!

Specialization in EM:

  • If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what steps should they take?

You might wander around a bit if you are following me. Don’t be afraid of taking risks. Better to be hung for doing something proactively versus being hung for being afraid to act. Experience is a great teacher. Look for opportunities to do different things. Become a better communicator in writing, listening and speaking. Humor helps a lot!

  • What are some things that new EM practitioners can do that would be applicable across the EM spectrum?

We touch everyone in a community. Expand your horizons beyond government and look for public/private partnerships and relationships. When it comes to emergent volunteers, it is better to give up some control in order to be more effective. Give them direction and turn them loose. Read, read, read. You must read a daily national newspaper!

Your Message to the EM Community:

  • What message would you like to convey to the EM community as a whole?

Our time is now. The profession is front and center because of the frequency and size of disasters. Be ready to step up and lead. There are not that many leaders. Remember, we lead without authority, so I say we are facilitators of the actions we want to see accomplished. There is no command, only coordination in our business.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.
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