Recent years have tested the emergency management field like never before. The COVID-19 pandemic, an uptick in natural disasters, ongoing mass shootings, and industrial accidents have highlighted just how much public agencies, healthcare organizations, city and municipal governments, and private businesses rely on emergency management professionals to help them maneuver through disasters.
As organizations in the private and public sector prepare for and respond to everything from surges in the need for medical services to overactive hurricane seasons, they seek the right experts to fill a range of emergency management jobs.
The number of natural disasters has increased tenfold since 1960, according to a 2020 report from the Institute for Economics and Peace. Climate scientists predict the coming years will bring even further increases as global temperatures continue to rise, causing droughts and fueling more intense weather conditions.
This will lead to loss of life and cost the nation billions of dollars. In 2020 alone, the U.S. suffered a record-breaking $95 billion in damages from weather and climate disasters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Emergency management professionals play an invaluable role in helping communities take life-saving preparation measures to protect people and their livelihoods. In the coming years, communities will turn to them in this regard with growing frequency.
Ongoing deforestation presents another threat that will require more emergency management professionals. Researchers have linked the devastation of wild spaces to emerging infectious diseases. With the destruction of biodiversity, the world will experience more outbreaks of viruses like COVID-19 and bird flu, say ecologists, epidemiologists, and other scientific experts.
Both organizations and communities depend on disaster management professionals to assist them in preparing for public health crises such as the recent global pandemic. The responsibilities of professionals in disaster management jobs include readying hospitals and other healthcare facilities for such crises and taking actions to lessen their impact.
In response to health and environmental hazards caused by industry and natural disasters, the government regularly passes an onslaught of new regulations that organizations must comply with. This too results in a demand for professionals to assume disaster management jobs that support organizations in their efforts to stay in compliance with laws and to safeguard their employees’ well-being.
The following disaster management jobs offer a sampling of the diverse types of work available in the field.
Environmental health and safety managers identify hazards that could potentially endanger employees’ health and safety or pose a threat to the natural environment. This can involve inspecting workplaces for potential hazards in the following categories:
By finding hazards and fixing them proactively, environmental health and safety managers help prevent workers’ injuries, sicknesses, and deaths. Hazards come in all forms. Environmental health and safety manager locates risks for:
- Slips, trips, and falls due to inappropriate footwear or unfavorable surfaces
- Exposure to toxic substances, diseases, and other biological or chemical hazards
- Exposure to extreme temperatures, deafening noises, or other physical hazards
- Excessive physical strain on the body from repeated movements or other strenuous activities
To identify these hazards, environmental health and safety managers conduct assessments and audits and collect samples to analyze the presence of dangerous biological, chemical, or radiological materials. Additionally, they investigate accidents to determine their causes and then devise remedies that prevent them from occurring again.
After identifying hazard risks, environmental health and safety managers develop plans that outline policies and procedures to improve the organization’s operations. This might include setting up special handling procedures for chemicals or rotating work assignments to prevent muscle fatigue for machine operators.
Another core component of an environmental health and safety manager’s work is ensuring compliance with health, safety, and environmental regulations and standards. Compliance work can involve drafting inspection reports, organizing training for workplace safety, and ensuring proper hazardous waste disposal procedures are in place.
Although not always required, most employers prefer environmental health and safety managers to have a master’s degree in disaster management, occupational safety and health, or environmental safety. This advanced degree can develop environmental health and safety managers’ expertise in critical scientific principles needed to address workplace and environmental hazards.
Most environmental health and safety manager positions also require around five years of experience in the field.
The tasks environmental health and safety managers perform demand a unique skill set including:
To locate risks, environmental health and safety managers must effectively analyze accident logs, workplace layouts, and operational procedures, among other things. They also need to think creatively to find solutions that eliminate or lessen the danger unavoidable risks may pose.
Organizations rely on environmental health and safety managers to keep them in compliance with a web of governmental regulations and policies. Environmental health and safety managers must stay abreast of these standards and all their evolutions.
Often the difference between safety and dangers lies in small details. Environmental health and safety managers need an acute eye to identify potential hazards and the potential fixes for them.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies environmental health and safety managers as occupational health and safety specialists. BLS data shows these professionals had an annual median salary of $76,340 in May 2020. Top earners made more than $112,850 a year.
Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS expects the number of environmental health and safety manager positions to grow 4 percent, in keeping with the average growth rate for all occupations.
Hospitals must provide safe environments for employees, patients, and visitors. This involves understanding the facility’s vulnerability to various potential emergencies such as:
- Natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes
- Technological hazards, such as hazardous material spills and nuclear power plant incidents
- Human-caused emergencies, such as cyberattacks and active shooter situations
Hospital emergency preparedness administrators help assess their facility’s vulnerability to such emergencies. They then develop and maintain plans and procedures outlining how the hospital will respond to and recover from these situations, ensuring alignment with federal and state regulations.
The plans include detailed strategies for addressing numerous issues during an emergency such as:
- Communicating with staff, patients, and the community
- Securing alternate means of utilities (electricity, potable water)
- Addressing surges in the need for medical care
- Managing staff roles and responsibilities
Hospital emergency preparedness administrators coordinate with leadership teams to provide training across the hospital, readying the staff for an organized response should a disaster happen. They also conduct assessments to determine gaps in education and training among staff regarding adherence to and knowledge of safety regulations, then respond accordingly.
Other responsibilities of a hospital emergency preparedness administrator include:
- Organizing the testing of disaster-related equipment
- Developing systems for gathering and tracking data such as disaster supply inventories and hazard surveillance
- Coordinating exercises and drills with community partners to practice emergency plans
- Adjusting emergency plans in accordance with lessons learned in practice exercises
Hospital emergency preparedness administrators need at least a bachelor’s degree in disaster management or a related field. However, having a master’s degree in disaster management offers a decided advantage for many openings. An advanced degree in disaster management offers in-depth training in subjects such as disaster communication, key to success in the position.
Many hospitals also require candidates to have worked in health care for several years with experience in emergency preparedness or safety compliance. Work experience gives hospital emergency preparedness administrators a chance to sharpen key skills needed for the job including:
Hospital emergency preparedness administrators must effectively communicate with staff and leadership across an entire facility to deliver vital information about disaster preparedness and emergency response. This involves successfully expressing complex ideas in accessible ways orally and in writing.
To successfully coordinate training sessions and exercises, hospital emergency preparedness administrators must develop effective curriculums. They need to design exercises that give participants a chance to practice their skills in a meaningful way.
Many of the tasks performed in the position require program coordination and collaboration. Hospital emergency preparedness administrators need to motivate teams to work together. They also need to inspire trust and confidence.
The BLS classifies hospital emergency preparedness administrators as emergency management directors. These professionals had a median annual salary of $76,250 in May 2020. The BLS reports that top earners made upwards of $142,870 a year.
The BLS projects 4 percent growth in the field between 2019 and 2029, in line with the average growth rate for all occupations.
During public health crises and other emergencies, communities need timely and accurate information. This helps the public appropriately respond to the emergency. It also limits confusion and disorder and helps keep rumors in check.
Public information officers work with media outlets to disseminate instructions and clear information about nonemergency situations, such as road closures, and emergency situations, such as severe weather or health epidemics. This allows community members to safeguard themselves and their property.
When it comes to emergencies, public information officers deliver details about:
- Potential hazards and their nature
- Affected areas
- Evacuation recommendations
- Traffic control
They also alert the public about response efforts, offering specifics when available about emergency medical sites, shelters, property damage, injuries, and road closures.
During emergency recovery, public information officers continue to provide the community with key information regarding:
- Essential services restoration
- Cleanup activities
- Potential health effects
- Available assistance
Public information officers avoid releasing any information that could infringe on individual privacy, put anyone in danger, or compromise investigations. They ensure whatever information they share fits within official guidelines and laws. Public information officers also work to address concerns within communities by hosting public meetings in which they note the public’s attitudes. Based on their analysis, they may revise their approach.
For example, to allay fears and lower tensions, they may schedule more frequent news reports. Or, they may shift more time and attention to address issues the public seems most concerned about, such as the status of hospitals and missing persons.
Other responsibilities of a public information officer include:
- Coordinating press releases and writing speeches, social media posts, and articles
- Strategizing effective ways to cooperate with the media
- Developing methods to project a consistent public image
Government agencies typically look for public information officers with a background in public relations and disaster management. The position requires at least a bachelor’s degree in either subject, but many employers prefer a public information officer who holds a master’s degree in disaster management or communications. Additionally, public information officers need several years’ work experience in public information to build a solid understanding of the media.
To succeed in the position, public information officers should cultivate the following skills:
Public information officers need excellent writing skills to craft clear messaging in speeches, press releases, and other public information materials. They also need to write concisely and know how to shift their writing’s tone to fit various situations.
Public information officers often interact with the media and the public during tense situations. They need to maintain their composure, articulate themselves clearly, and form connections that engender trust.
Providing information during emergencies often demands juggling many responsibilities and coordinating with various groups of people. This requires public information officers to pay attention to details and stay organized.
The private sector refers to public information officers as public relations specialists. The BLS reports that public relations specialists had a median annual income of $62,810 in May 2020. Top earners made more than $118,210 a year.
The BLS expects positions in the field to grow 7 percent between 2019 and 2029, almost twice as fast as the average growth rate projected for all occupations.
Emergency management coordinators use their expertise in disaster response to:
- Ready communities for emergencies
- Lead response efforts during and after emergencies
Professionals holding this disaster management job typically work for municipalities and government agencies, but they can also work in the private sector. Their work focuses on keeping communities safe during disaster situations in coordination with public safety officials, nonprofits, government agencies, and elected officials.
Emergency management coordinators develop plans that outline procedures for responding to all types of disasters ranging from hostage situations to nuclear incidents to wildfires. The plans also include steps for assessing hazards and addressing them ahead of time.
This involves ensuring organizations have the leadership and supplies in place to respond to various emergencies. For example, plans identify staff member duties during emergencies, necessary equipment to stay operational, and items such as personal protective gear to stockpile in preparation for an emergency.
Part of disaster readiness involves orchestrating training. Emergency management coordinators hold sessions that teach staff protocols to follow in various circumstances, how to use safety equipment, or procedures for search and rescue missions.
Emergency management coordinators also organize practice exercises that run emergency responders, staff, and volunteers through disaster simulations, giving them the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice. This also helps identify problem areas in emergency plans so adjustments can be made. Following emergencies, emergency management coordinators help assess the damages. They also organize efforts to get food, medical services, and other needed assistance and supplies to those affected.
Other duties of emergency management coordinators include:
- Meeting with community members, public safety professionals, and local businesses to share information
- Working with agencies across a community to share emergency resources during emergency response
- Analyzing the damage after emergencies and applying for federal funding for recovery efforts
Emergency management coordinators need at least a bachelor’s degree in disaster management or a related field such as public administration. To advance in their careers, they benefit from earning a master’s degree in disaster management. This advanced degree helps them cultivate expertise in the development of emergency response and preparedness plans, the creation of strategies for emergency communications, and the application of scientific principles to disaster management.
The position’s management responsibilities call for three to five years of experience in disaster preparedness and emergency response and recovery. This experience can help build essential skills for emergency management coordinators such as the following:
Effective communication is central to successful emergency response. Emergency management coordinators need to express themselves clearly both in writing and orally to create emergency plans and share information with emergency management and public safety professionals.
Emergency management coordinators must carefully analyze risks and threats to determine how to best plan for and respond to them. They also need to think critically when strategizing how to make the most of resources before, during, and after emergencies.
To successfully prepare for and respond to emergencies, emergency response coordinators need to bring people together under trusted leadership. They must act decisively under stress and determine the pros and cons of the various possible solutions to problems.
Emergency management coordinators fit within the BLS’s emergency management directors category. These professionals had a median annual salary of $76,250 in May 2020. Those at the top of the salary scale brought in more than $142,870 annually.
The BLS anticipates a 4 percent growth rate between 2019 and 2029 for emergency management coordinator jobs. This is in line with the average projected growth rate for all occupations.
Emergency preparedness specialists focus on readying communities and organizations for disasters. In this disaster management job, professionals search for ways to lessen a disaster’s impact by identifying conditions that make communities more vulnerable to threats.
For example, community members with mobility issues or who lack their own transportation may struggle to respond to evacuation orders before a hurricane. This puts them at greater risk for injury or even death. Emergency preparedness specialists examine conditions within communities or organizations to uncover such circumstances and then devise strategies to address them.
Emergency preparedness specialists also focus on strategies for preventing emergencies. They may organize prevention activities in the public and private sectors such as:
- Regular equipment and operations inspections
- Surveillance system and security practice implementations
- Immunization campaigns
Additionally, emergency preparedness specialists develop initiatives that educate communities about what to do and what not to do during different emergency situations. This may involve producing materials about how citizens can protect themselves during natural disasters or how businesses can safeguard employees if an active shooter is on their premises.
Emergency preparedness specialists also assess their community’s or organization’s capacity to handle emergencies. They consider questions regarding:
- Supplies and equipment needed to respond to emergencies
- Training readiness among emergency personnel and staff
- Contingency planning (how to manage resources, communications, logistics, and so on during emergencies)
Other responsibilities typical of emergency preparedness specialists include:
- Coordinating training programs and deployment exercises
- Performing emergency response program reviews and audits
- Providing technical assistance to other disaster management professionals in emergency plan development
Emergency preparedness specialists need at least a bachelor’s degree in disaster management, public health, or a closely related field. Earning a master’s degree in either of those disciplines may open up more job opportunities. An advanced degree can deepen knowledge of emergency preparedness strategies.
In addition to the right education, emergency preparedness specialists need three years of experience in the field to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world situations. Work experience also helps build the following skills key to an emergency preparedness specialist’s success:
Emergency preparedness specialists must plan strategically. This requires critical thinking and analysis to evaluate risks and devise strategies for resolving them.
Educating communities about how to prepare for disasters requires excellent communication skills. Emergency preparedness specialists also need to coordinate training sessions and collaborate with other disaster management professionals in developing emergency plans, which requires them to express themselves clearly and explain their ideas.
Emergency preparedness specialists manage many programs simultaneously, and they must coordinate with various leaders and agencies. This demands attention to detail and strong organizational skills.
The BLS does not record salary information specifically for emergency preparedness specialists. However, data from Zippia as of August 2021 indicates these professionals had an annual median income of $74,183, with top earners making as much as $159,000 a year.
The BLS projects emergency management positions will grow 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, in line with the projected average growth rate for all occupations.
Infection control officers oversee infection prevention and control programs. These programs work to ensure public health within organizations and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Infection prevention and control programs outline procedures and practices that help limit the risks of disease transmission.
This might involve implementing specific requirements for hand hygiene, cleaning procedures, and personal protective equipment use.
Infection control officers often work for healthcare organizations, but even cruise ship companies might hire them to control infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and noroviruses aboard their ships. When infectious diseases emerge, infection control officers set protocols and guidelines to address the safety of patients, healthcare workers, students, teachers, and others who may be affected.
In healthcare organizations, infection control officers also work to address healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which are infections patients acquire while receiving medical care. They review practices to evaluate the degree to which staff members adhere to best practices related to infection control, such as:
- Using ventilation systems in areas housing patients with contagious airborne illnesses
- Isolating patients with contagious diseases
- Disposing of biological hazards properly
Infection control officers also supervise training programs that educate staff on health topics and infection control practices.
Additional responsibilities of infection control officers include:
- Advising on methods for decontamination
- Monitoring infection incidences
- Investigating hazardous practice complaints
- Ensuring infection control programs comply with governmental regulations
- Educating staff on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards
Infection control officers typically need a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field such as public health or nursing. They also need a master’s degree in either a clinical specialty such as nursing or in public health with an emphasis in disaster management or infection control. This educational background provides infection control officers with key knowledge about detecting, preventing, and responding to public health challenges.
Most infection control officer positions require several years’ work experience with regulatory agencies in infection control.
Essential skills for infection control officers include:
An infection control officer’s job involves training employees and collaborating with various personnel to implement infection control programs. This requires the ability to build teams and form positive working relationships.
Infection control officers must convey critical information about disease transmission and preventive measures. This requires excellent communication skills and the ability to break down scientific concepts into simple terms.
Infection control officers must stay current on the newest regulations governing their work. They must also closely track the latest research and data on emerging infectious diseases. This requires organizational skills and attention to details.
The BLS classifies infection control officers as occupational health and safety specialists. In May 2020, occupational health and safety specialists had a median annual salary of $76,340. The highest earners made more than $112,850 a year.
Infection control officers can expect 4 percent job growth between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS. This is in keeping with the average growth rate projected for all occupations.
Healthcare consultants help healthcare organizations run more efficiently and effectively. They focus on ways to lower costs and improve patient care. This involves identifying problems areas in an organization and devising methods that address them.
It also involves developing sophisticated emergency management planning to ensure hospitals and other healthcare facilities can stay operational in all sorts of circumstances. Disasters often bring a surge in demand for medical care.
Although some might not initially think of a healthcare consultant position as a disaster management job, it often is. Healthcare consultants with a background in disaster management can provide hospitals and other medical facilities with expert support when it comes to developing and upgrading strategic emergency plans.
Emergency management planning in a healthcare facility involves:
- Assessing potential hazards that could negatively impact the ability to deliver healthcare services
- Strategizing ways to minimize hazards
- Devising procedures that keep critical functions and processes going during emergencies
- Organizing disaster response training
Healthcare consultants assist healthcare organizations with these different aspects of emergency management planning. For example, they can help facilities develop methods for staying well stocked in supplies such as pharmaceuticals or bandages during emergencies. Or, they could help facilities troubleshoot solutions for protecting and accessing patient records during emergencies.
Additionally, healthcare consultants can help facilities identify gaps in emergency response training. They also can offer recommendations on how to limit workplace accidents and stay in compliance with safety regulations.
At minimum, healthcare consultants need a bachelor’s degree in public health, business, or science. For career advancement, health consultants would do well to earn an advanced degree in public health with a focus in disaster management or health management. These advanced degrees can provide a more in-depth understanding of emergency management principles and healthcare systems.
The following skills help healthcare consultants thrive in their work:
Healthcare consultants must understand their clients’ goals. They also need to explain their recommendations. This requires strong listening skills and the ability to clearly express ideas and concepts.
Many tasks performed by healthcare consultants such as assessing vulnerabilities and troubleshooting problems call for analysis. Healthcare consultants also must interpret reports and surveys, among other documents, to make their assessments of the effectiveness of a healthcare organization’s practices.
To locate areas for improvement, healthcare consultants must conduct research within a healthcare organization. They need to find the reports and interview the people who can supply the relevant information needed for accurate assessments. This takes strong investigative skills.
Healthcare consultants fall within the BLS category of management analysts. These professionals had a median annual salary of $87,660 in May 2020. Top earners made more than $156,840 a year.
The BLS anticipates 11 percent growth for healthcare consultants between 2019 and 2029, almost triple the average growth rate projected for all occupations.
Those inspired by the opportunity to promote health and safety and limit the destruction and suffering caused by emergencies have a wide range of disaster management jobs to choose from. Learning how to prepare for disasters through the application of scientific principles and training in disaster communication provides an excellent foundation for a thriving career in disaster management.
Explore how Tulane University’s Online Master of Public Health in Disaster Management program prepares graduates to become experts in this important and growing field.