Americorps emergency management team

An emergency management specialist could...

Ensure emergency evacuation routes are set up to provide safe escapes and reduce traffic. Hurricane evacuation route sign Coordinate the delivery of food, water, and medical supplies to areas hit hard by a natural disaster. food and water stacked up to be distributed for hurricane Sandy relief
Make sure agencies are in place to set up temporary shelters for victims of a tornado. emergency tent Help communities apply for federal funds to manage severe flood emergencies. flooded building and car
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview There will always be both man-made and natural disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks, that affect public health and safety. Emergency management specialists are the officials that plan for these disasters—imagining and preparing for the worst—and then coordinating the emergency responses. Emergency management specialists work for local, state, and federal governments, as well as for law enforcement, the military and private agencies to ensure that people have the basic necessities, like clean water, food, temporary housing, sanitation, and first aid in a timely manner after a disaster. They also coordinate clean-up efforts. Emergency management specialists prevent or ease the human suffering, as well as the social chaos and instability that commonly follow a disaster.
Key Requirements Calm and decisive under stressful, emergency conditions, logical, with outstanding planning, teamwork, and communication skills.
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, computer science, foreign language, environmental science
Median Salary
Emergency Management Specialist
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)
  • Watch this video to meet the City of Los Angeles' general manager in emergency management, Jim Featherstone, describe "The Great ShakeOut" scenario, an emergency preparedness training exercise that millions of Californians will participate in to prepare for earthquakes.
  • In this video, you'll hear Tony Pearce, the Director-General of Emergency Management in Australia discuss how natural disasters compare to terrorism as a threat to national security.
  • Read this interview to meet H. Doug Hoell, director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, who has the challenge of encouraging teamwork among all the emergency responders.
Related Occupations
  • Civil preparedness officer
  • Industrial organization manager
Source: O*Net

Education and Training

The first step toward becoming an emergency management specialist is to earn a bachelor's degree. Local, state, federal, and private agency emergency management jobs will require at least a bachelor's degree in emergency management, environmental science, public safety, public administration, business management or a related field.

By researching emergency management and related job postings prior to graduation on the IAEM and FEMA websites, you can learn more about specific jobs and their requirements. Management level and director level jobs will require several years of related work experience in addition to education, but in some cases a master's degree will replace or reduce the the relevant work experience requirement.

The terror attacks on 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the threat of future terrorist attacks and flu pandemic threats have created a high demand for professionals that are formally trained in emergency management, as well as an overall awareness of the need for such professionals at all levels. This demand has been met by a number of colleges and universities that are now offering emergency management degree programs.

Other Qualifications

Because emergency management specialist must develop relationships with local, city, state, or national leaders, strong interpersonal and communications skills are critical. They must also display confidence, calmness, and decisiveness in an emergency.

Watch this video to see how emergency management specialists coordinate responses to disasters, such as floods, tornadoes, or acts of terrorism.

Nature of the Work

Emergency management specialists coordinate disaster response or crisis management activities, provide disaster preparedness training, and prepare emergency plans and procedures for natural (e.g., hurricanes, floods, earthquakes), wartime, or technological (e.g., nuclear power plant emergencies, hazardous materials spills) disasters or hostage situations. They plan and coordinate emergency responses, analyze vulnerability, assess consequence management capability, develop budgets and strategic plans, understand Homeland Security and Emergency Management initiatives, and work with public and private organizations to develop and implement emergency response policies and procedures. Emergency management specialists also often have the duty of coordinating and conducting public education programs, and coordinating and developing training exercises for emergency response agencies.

Work Environment

Emergency management specialists work overtime and irregular hours during crisis situations. Disaster situations are mentally and physically demanding.

On the Job

  • Keep informed of activities or changes that could affect the likelihood of an emergency, as well as those that could affect response efforts and details of plan implementation.
  • Prepare plans that outline operating procedures to be used in response to disasters or emergencies, such as hurricanes, nuclear accidents, and terrorist attacks, and in recovery from these events.
  • Propose alteration of emergency response procedures based on regulatory changes, technological changes, or knowledge gained from outcomes of previous emergency situations.
  • Maintain and update all resource materials associated with emergency preparedness plans.
  • Coordinate disaster response or crisis management activities, such as ordering evacuations, opening public shelters, and implementing special needs plans and programs.
  • Develop and maintain liaisons with municipalities, county departments, and similar entities to facilitate plan development, response effort coordination, and exchanges of personnel and equipment.
  • Keep informed of federal, state, and local regulations affecting emergency plans and ensure that plans adhere to these regulations.
  • Prepare emergency situation status reports that describe response and recovery efforts, needs, and preliminary damage assessments.
  • Design and administer emergency or disaster preparedness training courses that teach people how to effectively respond to major emergencies and disasters.
  • Inspect facilities and equipment, such as emergency management centers and communications equipment, to determine their operational and functional capabilities in emergency situations.
  • Consult with officials of local and area governments, schools, hospitals, and other institutions to determine their needs and capabilities in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
  • Develop and perform tests and evaluations of emergency management plans in accordance with state and federal regulations.
  • Attend meetings, conferences, and workshops related to emergency management to learn new information and to develop working relationships with other emergency management specialists.
  • Collaborate with other officials to prepare and analyze damage assessments following disasters or emergencies.
  • Develop instructional materials for the public and make presentations to citizens' groups to provide information on emergency plans and their implementation process.
  • Train local groups in the preparation of long-term plans that are compatible with federal and state plans.
  • Review emergency plans of individual organizations, such as medical facilities, to ensure their adequacy.
  • Conduct surveys to determine the types of emergency-related needs to be addressed in disaster planning or provide technical support to others conducting such surveys.
  • Study emergency plans used elsewhere to gather information for plan development.
  • Apply for federal funding for emergency management related needs and administer and report on the progress of such grants.
  • Develop and implement training procedures and strategies for radiological protection, detection, and decontamination.
  • Inventory and distribute nuclear, biological, and chemical detection and contamination equipment, providing instruction in its maintenance and use.
  • Provide communities with assistance in applying for federal funding for emergency management facilities, radiological instrumentation, and other related items.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Emergency Management Specialists

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever seen news coverage or other pictures of an oil spill in the ocean and wondered how all of that oil could be cleaned up? Oil spills can devastate wildlife by covering them with oil, and they can damage our precious water resources by contaminating them with oil. Part of the problem of dealing with oil spills is that the oil can be challenging to clean up. In this science project, you will test the absorptivity of different materials (called sorbents) to discover which ones are best… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
No one can deny the devastating consequences of an oil spill on the local wildlife. Oil affects all levels of the ecosystem, from plants to fish and birds. What happens to water plants if you add motor oil to their pot? What is the effect of motor oil on the health of a goldfish, or water insects? What happens to the barbs of a bird feather if they are dipped in oil? Can you test different types of environmentally-friendly detergents for cleaning the bird feathers? Can you test different… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Tornadoes are a very destructive weather phenomenon that is very hard to predict. Certain weather conditions can indicate if a tornado is likely to occur, but the path that the tornado will take is completely unpredictable. Storm chasers are people who chase tornadoes and try to capture them on film or video. They often have a sense of predicting where and when a tornado will strike, but the best images are also due to a bit of luck and survival instinct. Even though tornadoes are… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
The papier-mâché volcano is a real classic, but there are many other ways to make an even more exciting and interesting science project focused on volcanoes! To get started on your own volcano-based science project, you will want to first have an understanding of how volcanoes form. This is related to tectonic plates. The entire outer shell of the Earth, known as the lithosphere, is made up of tectonic plates that are constantly moving. There are seven or eight large tectonic… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Unless you live in the Southern states, you only hear about the most destructive hurricanes. In fact hurricanes occur every year, even multiple times a year. Each hurricane is a tropical storm related to cyclones and tornadoes, some big and some small. Each hurricane is measured based upon several variables like: wind speed, diameter, direction of movement and speed of movement. Does the size of the hurricane correlate with the wind speed? What information can the eye of the hurricane… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
You can investigate how the geography of an area makes it prone to severe flash floods. Some areas, typically gullies or canyons, can flood extremely rapidly making it impossible to escape a flash flood. Compare the topography, or geographical shape, or these areas. What makes them prone to flash floods? Can you do an experiment showing how the flow of water increases as a channel narrows? Can you use topological maps of your region to identify areas at risk for flash floods? (NCAR, 2006;… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
What causes landslides? The USGS Landslide Hazards Program conducts research needed to answer major questions related to landslide hazards. Where and when will landslides occur? How big will the landslides be? How fast and how far will they move? What areas will the landslides affect or damage? How frequently do landslides occur in a given locality? Investigate the patterns of landslide occurrence in your area. Are they related to locations, geology, or topography? Are they more frequent… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Floods can be very destructive, capable of leveling whole towns and decimating crops and fields. Typically in regions prone to flooding there are cycles of flooding that occur, usually in areas where a wet season comes after a period of drought. You can use precipitation data to test if incidents of flooding have been preceded by periods of drought. Look for long periods of dryness in the precipitation data to indicate a drought. You can also conduct an experiment on dry or moist soil to see… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
What is geomagnetism, and how does it affect the earth? Visit the USGS Geomagnetism program for more information about this invisible force (USGS, 2006). How is the earth's magnetic field patterned? Are the magnetic poles located at the exact North and South Pole? How can the fields be mapped on the Earth's surface? What is declination? Use the mapping tools to study changes in declination patterns over time. (USGS, 2006) Read more

Ask Questions

Do you have a specific question about a career as an Emergency Management Specialist that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.


Free science fair projects.