If a person off the street was dropped into a meeting of emergency managers, within five minutes their head would be spinning by the terminology, acronyms and their meanings. This is exactly how I first felt when I began my internship, as if I was trying to drink from a firehose. Because I loved the field of emergency management I quickly became a sponge through reading, listening and taking classes. My first mentors, Hank and Denise, were able to help me to sift the information I was learning between good ideas, best practices and “hogwash”.
The reality is ALL of us in the emergency management field were students, beginners at one time and had tons of questions. Truly we should always have a learning heart and never stop being a student, for who can know everything there is about disasters?
During my internship there was an incredible amount of new terminology coming down. HSEEP and NIMS were among the many new programs and acronyms. Also using the Incident Command System (ICS) for all emergencies became a new training point.
I had questions such as, how does the first responding units evolve into an Incident Command structure? What does ICS actually look like operating out in the field during a large scale emergency? Who is available to work in the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) while the Incident Command Post is operating? How do I apply these concepts of ICS and EOC in a practical way for a community? How do you use ICS in rural areas with limits on personnel? What if the agencies did not want to work together?
Years prior to my joining the county, Hank had literally lived these experiences through different disasters, especially when an EF3 tornado came through the county. The county’s EOC was operational for over 11 days responding to the devastation. His experience and wisdom from this time period was exactly what I needed.
A lesson I learned was theories, knowledge and training was a good foundation but to truly grow I needed practical experiences applying these concepts in the real world. During my time with Hank and Denise I designed exercises, led meetings, and created emergency plans. Many employers are looking for experience as the “stamp of approval” that the person can do the job.
Education + Training + Experience = Gateway into Emergency Management
Question for the experienced emergency manager:
How did you gain relevant experience, the type of experience that gave you the “stamp of approval” in emergency management?
Question for the seeking or new emergency manager:
What road blocks are you coming across in trying to gain experience in emergency management?
Please share your comments below, I would love to hear from you.