Emergency Management is often a term that we hear in association with a government body. We see emergency management often linked to the federal government through programs and agencies involving the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. We also see a presence of state and local emergency management during coverage of disasters and other types of major events that occur each year throughout the nation. It is common to see emergency management instances where law enforcement, firefighting and public works in involved within the scenario. But does emergency management have a place in the private sector? Is there a need for this sort of function in business and organizations that are not traditionally controlled as a government entity? In this article, we will be taking a look at the need and capacity for integrating emergency management into the business and non-governmental organizational environment.

Crises Happen: Are you honestly prepared for them?

Whether your business or organization is big or small, local or international, disasters and other types of crises will occur. These events can be large-scale in nature such as an enterprise-wide computer hacking event to acts of terrorism from domestic and international protest groups. These events could be in localized hazardous nature such as from flash flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and even workplace violence incidents. Disasters Happen! They have always happened and they will always continue to happen. Preventing some types of disasters will always be feasible but to prevent all types of disasters is only what one can wish for and sadly a wish that will never come through. There will always be opposing groups that take to terrorism and violent acts in order to get their mission known. Be it climate change or natural cycles, there will always be natural hazards that will constantly pose risks and threats to businesses and organizations within the vicinity of such events.

As many disasters cannot essentially be prevented one-hundred percent or eradicated, this isn’t to say that actions cannot be taken to effectively reduce the loss of life and financial stabilization when they do occur. Preparedness is a realistic option for responding to the threat and hazards that natural, technological and man-made disasters pose to an organization and/or a business entity. To prepare for such an event is to prevent loss of life, damage to property, work stoppages and loss of financial and economic stability within an enterprise. Taking preparedness actions before and event occurs will be more effective than attempting to respond to an event that has already happened. This is because actions will be ensuring life and economic saving measures have been made before the normalcy of the environment is turned into something that is overwhelmingly chaotic and confusing for most people to endure. Disasters sadly provide the ability of a free-fall of cascading hazards and threats to happen all at once because the guard and defenses that have been naturally put in place are low due to the horrific events that are taking place after something majorly negative has occurred.

 

The Emergency Management Specialist: An overview of the position.

Emergency Management can be defined as ‘a managerial function charged with creating the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters’ as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Needless to say, a specialist in the field of emergency management takes of the tasks and functions defined as what emergency management is. Emergency management itself isn’t exactly a field of occupation; it is more of a discipline or a field of management that can be applied to various types of scenarios whether in a capacity of government or the private sector. While FEMA defines the discipline in relation to communities, assuming that it means townships and government organizations, emergency management can be applied to other venues as well including businesses and organizations outside of the realm of federal, state, tribal and local governments.

  • There are many roles officially and unofficially stated of the responsibilities and functions of persons specializing in the field of emergency management. However, to create less confusion and provide a general understanding of the general roles of emergency management specialists – most of these types of duties include the following roles:
  • Developing successful programs that define the local system to management major events, incidents and emergencies through planning and coordination programs in order to support the major emergency management functions of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery operations
  • Is responsible for the coordination of multiple-entity agencies, entities and personnel who assists one and other in the preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery of major events related to natural, technological and man-made crises and threats
  • Acts as a commanding leader of coordination during a major incident (often called the ‘Incident Commander’) to ensure that the emergency management system that has been put into place works accordingly without confusion and/or errors from those entities involved
  • Maintains partnerships with external entities within the emergency management program while also establishing new partnerships with new external entities

 

In a broad spectrum, the emergency management specialist in responsible for the functional and operations aspects of a disaster or major event that will impact the normalcy of the environment of which these specialists are employed within. When a disaster occurs, emergency management specialists and personnel will be activated to manage the event with the goal of protecting life, preventing further damage to property, ensuring economic stability and the return to normalcy in a timely fashion. The emergency management specialist will be a ‘born leader’ and will be driven by risk and hazards that create the need for his or her job functions to begin with. The specialist will be experienced, educated and passionate about the field of emergency management. Emergency management will always require a special kind of person who is intent on making their core function and lasting mission to protect an entity during a major event where natural, technological and man-made threats are involved.

 

Should you hire an Emergency Management Specialist?

Now that we’ve developed a basic understanding of what a disaster is, what emergency management is and where an emergency management specialist plays a role – it is important that we consider the options on whether or not a business or organization needs an emergency management specialist present. Businesses and organizations, large and small have different environments that call for different levels and measures of protection. A barber shop nestled on a popular city street wouldn’t need to hire a person specifically positioned to deal with emergency management scenarios. This sort of position in a barber shop would be completely unrealistic. A manufacturing plant located in a rural community with hundreds of workers would need such a position. The plant employs many workers whose lives need to be protected and most often, the plant serves as an asset to the local economy. At least such a specialization should be included within the functions of the safety or security manager responsible on the premises.

The emergency management function doesn’t always require a sole specialist who only deals with this sort of position. These functions can be applied to other RELATED positions where such functions are applicable. This includes environmental, health and safety (EHS) managers and personnel who are in charge of physical security of such locations. However, if elevated risk and hazard environments are present due to the type of activity that the business or organization deals in, a need for such sole positions may be required in order for preparedness success. In the end, a specialist who is exclusively responsible for emergency management is going to be more focused than someone in a position that only includes such activities within a bigger list of duties and responsibilities within the organization. In conclusion, it is important to look at the environmental factors of the business or organization. Is there a need for a direct manager whose responsibility solely and exclusively reflects emergency management and organizational continuity? Continuity is a word that hasn’t really been mentioned in this article and while it warrants an article all on its own, it still heavily relates to what emergency management provides for a business or organization which is the ability to continue the critical functions of the business or organization after a major event or incident has occurred.

In the end, emergency management is an important topic to consider in a business or organizational environment. If not considered, the risk will only increase to the day that something terrible actually does happen where immediate and effective management is required in order for a successful return to normalcy. Does your business or organization need an emergency management specialist?

About the Author

Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn J. GossmanB.S., M.S., M.B.A., SEM, PDS
Shawn J. Gossman is an article and publication contributor of rural and remote-based emergency management, continuity and public health topics. Shawn holds a Master of Science concentrating in Emergency Management and a MBA in Hazardous Environment Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Shawn is dedicated to helping rural communities and organizations be a part of the Whole Community approach of National Preparedness.