You’ve heard the term “not all super-heroes wear capes”, right? Well, if you’re an emergency manager that saying couldn’t be more true. In a world of uncertainty, the key purpose of their role is to ensure that an emergency doesn’t turn into a full-scale disaster and if it does, having a plan in place to minimize damage and loss of life.

Due to the nature of the role, it can be extremely varied, especially between different countries. This post explores in detail what the role of an emergency manger involves, how they’re helping to create a safer world, and the routes people take to start a career as an emergency manager.

What is Emergency Management?

Emergency management doesn’t deal directly with the aftermath of a disaster, and often doesn’t deal with a disaster as it happens, although it can be responsible for coordinating a response effort. Primarily it focuses on stopping an emergency turning into a disaster by managing and updating processes and resources. The World Health Organization describes an emergency as;

“The state in which normal procedures are interrupted, and immediate measures need to be taken to prevent that state turning into a disaster.”

Despite this, emergency management does have an important role to play in both natural disasters and non-natural disasters alongside other organizations and emergency services.

Emergency Management During Natural Disasters

In recent generations, there have been a number of disasters that have devastated towns, cities, and sometimes even entire countries. Some of the highest profile and deadliest natural disasters that people will likely remember in recent times include:

  1. The 2004 Indian Earthquake and Tsunami – A 9.1-9.3 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra.
  2. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans – A category 5 hurricane which led to unprecedented flooding in 2005.
  3. The 2010 Earthquake in Haiti – A 7.0 magnitude earthquake that continued to deliver in excess of 53 aftershocks measuring 4.5m or more.

The aftermath of such events is usually handled, in part, by humanitarian organizations. Organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross are set up specifically to enter such disaster zones and help people affected by disasters and war.

In cases like these, emergency management is put in place to ensure minimal loss of life and damage limitation. Businesses and organizations may have anticipated such disasters and reached out to local communities to make sure they know what to do when the event occurs. They may also help to coordinate aid and emergency services after the disaster.

Others Areas of Emergency Management

It’s not just preventing the loss of life and damage caused by natural emergencies that emergency management deals with – it also takes place at a local level too. Many businesses working with hazardous materials or in dangerous environments must understand the risks, and have a plan in place to ensure that workers and kept safe at all times. Examples may include nuclear power plants or mining.

Other types of emergency or disaster that emergency planning is likely to be involved with include:

  • Acts of terrorism
  • Health epidemics
  • Industrial accidents
  • Adverse weather

What’s Actually Involved in Emergency Planning?

Emergency managers complete a range of tasks including assessing risk, implementing safety plans, coordinating the response of non-emergency services and raising awareness of public safety issues.

Although emergency managers are sometimes office based and busy completing administration tasks, they are often called into the field to observe and assess different areas to understand the risks involved in different situations.

10 of the most common responsibilities an emergency manager is likely to come across in their career include;

  1. Researching, writing and implementing safety development plans and reports for businesses or government organizations
  2. Completing risk assessments in the case of events such as terror attacks, adverse weather or where mass groups of people may gather at locations such as football stadiums, music venues and city centers
  3. Working with local communities to ensure they are prepared for an emergency situation and advising on procedures after an emergency has occurred
  4. Working with businesses and employees to prepare and conduct safety exercises and train staff on what to do in case of an emergency
  5. Keep up to date with and make amendments to procedures that are impacted by changes in government legislation
  6. Respond to incidents that have gone beyond an emergency and that have turned into a disaster and assess the level of support and aid required
  7. Conduct risk assessments in the local area which could include analyzing gas and electricity networks, the potential for the outbreak of disease, road and transport links and river or flood defence systems
  8. Developing marketing and awareness campaigns to inform the public of incoming emergencies or changes to procedures that may impact their safety
  9. Liase with emergency services including the police, the fire service and the army and update them on emerging situations
  10. Work with outside agencies such as PR companies to brief them on emergency situations and manage the public response of the business or organization they work for

Life as an Emergency Manager

A career in emergency planning or management can be extremely varied and very rewarding. As the first line of defence against natural and man-made disasters, they carry a lot of responsibility, advising officials and institutions on emergency plans that ensure the safety of citizens.

In addition to advising officials and businesses, the role could also involve the creation and delivery of marketing campaigns to advise citizens of safety procedures to ensure they are ready to face any risks they may encounter.

Naturally it can sometimes be a high-pressure environment to be involved in. If an emergency or a disaster is currently taking place, then don’t expect to be sat around watching. You might be asked to be on-call and as the expert you’ll need to be level-headed and able to review and analyze plans and data at it happens.    

Typically, there are two types of emergency planner with most people specializing in one area. These are:

  • Emergency planning and management for public safety
  • Supporting businesses doing business continuity management

Skills and Qualifications

The route to becoming an emergency planner starts with gaining an emergency management degree or diploma. To give yourself the best chance of landing a job, you should also familiarize yourself with some of the key skills required in this role. Developing these skills while you are studying will help you to become a stand-out candidate when applying for a position and excel once you start your new role.

Some of the key skills employers will be looking for and ones that you must develop include:

  • Outstanding communication – Being able to communicate clearly with individuals at all levels is vitally important in all types of situation
  • Staying calm under pressure – You never know what might happen next so being able to keep a level head in a stressful situation is a must
  • Attention to detail – Plans and processes will be tested to the max if they’re required. Paying close attention to detail and taking a thorough approach to your work could save lives and prevent further emergencies from occurring
  • Multi-tasking – A key skill is being able to prioritize tasks and manage a range of deliverables all at once and sometimes under pressure. You could be working with multiple agencies or multiple projects at any one time
  • Being deadline driven – Having the capability to work to deadlines and being willing to put the hours in to complete tasks is a key requirement
  • Analytical approach – The role can involve working with a lot of data and trying to understand why, how and when emergencies may happen. Being able to understand the data is one thing, understanding it and translating it into useful insights is another


For an entry level position as a fully qualified emergency planner you could expect to earn up to $30,000 per year. However, it’s important to note that this is an average figure and varies between states, companies and government organizations. Looking at job openings in the local area will give you a clearer picture of what you might expect to earn.

For those looking at career progression, the median salary for an Emergency Management Director in 2018, as defined in a report by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, was $74,420 per year with the hourly rate being $35.78. The top industries that emergency management directors work in in the USA are government and health care and social assistance.

A Safer World Thanks to Emergency Managers

Across the world, organizations are working hard to forecast and develop strategies to eliminate and minimize the impact of man-made and natural disasters through emergency planning.Having the responsibility of creating and assessing plans that keep hundreds, if not thousands, of people safe may not be for everyone. It’s a high-pressured job, however, with great responsibility comes great reward. It’s a job that has its ups and downs, but it’s one where you can go home knowing you’ve made a positive difference in the world – something that a lot of people are looking for as they decide upon which career path to follow.