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Educating future homeland security and emergency managers

George Haddow of
Tulane University

Emergency managers play a critical role in homeland security. Homeland security agencies at all levels of government include emergency management responsibilities. However, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, it has been a challenge to reach a balance between what are perceived as homeland security priorities and those priorities held by emergency managers.

One of the best hopes for successfully achieving this balance is through education. Emergency management, as a discipline and a profession, is still far from mature, while the homeland security discipline is in its infancy. However, demand for well-educated professionals in both disciplines is growing, which in turn should result in the rapid maturity of both professions in the coming years.

Future homeland security/emergency managers face a number of new challenges, including the new CBRNE risks associated with terrorism and the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events associated with global climate change. In addition, these new homeland security/emergency managers must deal with reduced funding levels; new technologies; rising economic and environmental impacts from natural and man-made disaster events; and increasing demands on their time to communicate with the public and the media. 

Most importantly, new homeland security/emergency managers must take an all-hazards approach that includes both natural disasters (i.e., hurricanes, droughts, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.) and man-made incidents (i.e., terrorists attacks, hazardous material accidents, oil spills, etc.)

Future homeland security/emergency managers must become proficient in the following six skill sets:

  • Facilitation -- Future homeland security/emergency managers must be able to bring agencies from across government to better prepare their community for the next disaster. 
  • Coordination -- They must be coordinators with the skill set and authority to direct the activities of multiple government agencies, voluntary and non-governmental organizations, and non-profit groups in responding to disaster events.
  • Communication -- This new generation of homeland security/emergency managers must be communicators committed to sharing information with both their partners and the public, and be capable of working seamlessly with traditional and new media outlets. 
  • Partnering -- They must be constantly seeking new partnerships with the business sector, economic development organizations, community groups and others to ensure that all parties in their community are served. 
  • Policy Making -- They must engage in making policy at all levels of government that protect their community and reduce the impacts of future disasters.
  • Leadership -- Finally, the next generation of homeland security/emergency managers must become leaders in their community, ready to bring everyone to the table to address those threats, natural and man-made, that could harm their fellow citizens, destroy their community’s economy and damage the natural environment.

Homeland security and emergency management education programs in universities, colleges and junior colleges across the country must build curriculums that provide the next generation of homeland security/emergency managers with these basic skills. The result could be a better balance between the need to prevent future terrorist acts from harming Americans and reducing the impacts from -- and preparing for -- the next natural disaster.

 

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