The growing professionalization of security and emergency managers has reached the point where a “trade school” approach isn’t the only educational path to success in the field.
It’s important for emergency managers to get a college education, but not necessarily by majoring in emergency management per se. “Dealing with hazards, disasters and what you do about them is a very difficult task to perform,” says B. Wayne Blanchard, manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Higher Education Project. “Having the skills one picks up in college puts one on the right track forward in dealing with administrators and policymakers, and the political context within which hazards, disasters and what you do about them are placed.”
“The idea is to gain a body of knowledge on common core subjects, undergo the rigors and discipline of academic study, and learn perseverance,” adds Aaron Kenneston, emergency manager of Waswhoe County, Nev. “Certainly it is a bonus if you can attend an emergency management or homeland security degree program.”
When FEMA’s Higher Education Project started in 1994, Blanchard notes, most emergency managers didn’t have a college degree in any subject. “And most had only, at best, a passing acquaintance with the social science research literature on hazards, disasters and what to do about them.”
All that’s changing as the scope of disaster planning, response and mitigation becomes more apparent and worthy of classroom time in a number of complementary disciplines.