I wanted to take one final look at Education AND Experience together in Emergency Management. As I have conveyed in my last two posts, without those who came before us, emergency management may have a whole different feel and look today. These emergency managers with their worldly experience and “get things done” type of attitude kept the profession a float, created the rules and established the plans most of us follow. We now need to build on what these emergency managers have created and add to it if we are going to make our profession what we need it to be in the eyes of the public, and the politicians.
We have all heard of the school of hard knocks, and many of us have probably learned a lesson or two in this school. But, in order to be credible and achieve our mission of preparedness at every level and in every facet, we need to educate ourselves in fields that we did not need to venture in to in the past. Emergency management was preparedness, but more so response, and therefore reactionary. As all of us know and as has been spoken about at every conference and in almost every discussion involving emergency management, we need to be more proactive. We cannot just keep rebuilding in the same places and expect better outcomes. We cannot keep allowing thousands of lives to be lost and billions of dollars to be spent rebuilding properties every year and think this is good emergency management. We need change, and change means new, better and different types of education. We need to collaborate with others in related fields for successful outcomes.
If you were at the International Conference of Emergency Managers conference in Reno, you heard a powerful and timeless speech by Dr. Dennis Mileti concerning what we need to do moving forward. In his book, Disasters by Design, he was espousing this message back in the 1990s. We need to be better educated and better prepared to deal with other professionals to do better planning and preparedness to prevent repetition every time there is a natural disaster.
Education will help bridge this gap! We need to understand and work with the scientist to better understand sustainability and resiliency through environmental factors. We need to work with the economist to create methods of influence in the language of money. We need to work with the political scientist to understand and work better in the political system for change. We need to work with engineers to design better products, warning systems and disaster resistant shelters to assist the population in areas where disasters will strike. We need to work with the local communities to stop building in the wildland interface, flood plains and behind man-made walls. We need to work with the insurance industry to create incentives for those who are making their properties more resilient and sustainable while not protecting those who chose to let insurance be their own method of preparedness.
What does this have to do with education? A well-rounded education at the undergraduate and graduate level is the key to forming the relationships and the knowledge base to deal with all of the above issues and many more that I have not mentioned. As terrible as it may sound, it is the key that first, grants us access to the “club” and second, then allows us to understand the systems and processes once we are on the inside. Experience though must go with this education, we need both. As I mentioned in prior posts, reach out to the local college or university and start working with the students who are acquiring the education to help you, while looking to you for the experience to help them. Let these students get involved, let them update or assist with updating your Emergency Operation Plan, EOP. Or, if there are small communities that relies on volunteers, direct the students towards these communities to assist them with their EOP. Allow these students and their ambition and technical savvy to help you with creating training programs, or to develop community based programs. Pick the brains of the next generation to see how they can help you, so you can help them.
The key to a good education in emergency management is the same thing that I have mentioned above, a well-rounded education. Colleges and Universities are utilizing two types of faculty for successful outcomes: experts in their various fields, and emergency management practitioners. We need, professors in Earth Science, English, Political Science, Government, Occupational Safety, Social Work and Mental Health and Trauma for theoretical and practical educational purposes. And, just as important, we need educators who are practitioners in emergency management, educators who have been in the field, understand the field and work or worked in the profession, to be a successful educational experience.
Education and Experience gives our profession the ability to move into the future and work hand in hand with the other policy makers to achieve a better outcome. Reach out to your local college or university and become a partner for the profession.