by Zhenya Gallon
Ask most emergency managers where they got their training and theyll
tell you, On the job. The
Emergency Management Institute of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
is out to change that with its Higher Education Project, in partnership
with scores of colleges and universities across the country. Wayne Blanchard,
who runs the project with the help of one assistant, is working with
NCARs Environmental and Societal Impacts Group to explore potential
collaborations and put out the call for more course developers.
No ones profiled the demographics of county-level emergency
managers recently, but Blanchards snapshot of the stereotypeacknowledging
exceptionsis a white, middle-aged man who started out in a different
career. Frequently he still wears other hats, such as fire department
chief. He has minimal access to top decision makers, has not formulated
risk or mitigation plans, does not keep up with disaster research literature,
and is isolated from the community he serves. His job is reactive, often
part time, and often underpaid and underfunded.
Degree and certificate programs at four-year colleges cant replace
hands-on experience, Blanchard says, but they can expand the knowledge
base of future managers, building a more diverse, community-focused
corps of professionals for whom emergency management is a conscious
This is a 20-year project to bring in a new generation of emergency
managers, Blanchard says. The goal is a cadre of articulate advocates
who can build and defend the case for disaster prevention and reduction
with elected and appointed officials at all levels.
Nothing short of a paradigm shift is called for, in Blanchards
view. Traditional emergency management focuses on a hazard or disaster
as an event and seeks to control it. I call that the technocratic
approach, he says. If thats all youre doing,
its not enough. The professional programs advocated by Blanchard
and other members of the hazards research community focus on building
disaster-resilient communities by examining vulnerabilities. The
vulnerability model asks why theres differential impact in a community.
Its a different way of looking at the world.
A typical program following this model brings together courses in
engineering, architecture, public administration, and the earth and
social sciences. The project has assembled an annotated list of colleges
and universities offering programs. Numerous course syllabi are posted
online, along with lectures, reading lists, and PowerPoint presentations
that serve as textbooks at several institutions (see On the Web).
When the project began in 1995 there were five programs offered at
four-year institutions in the United States: three leading to a bachelor
of science and two offering certificates. Growth has been exponential
since then. In mid-2002 there were 81 college- level emergency management
programs, including certificates, minors, and diplomas (34), associate
degrees (11), bachelors degrees (8), masters programs (21),
and doctoral programs (7). Another 90 to 100 were under development
or investigation, and the rate of growth was about one new collegiate
program per month. September 11th accelerated the rate, but it
was doing well before, Blanchard notes.
The project has paid for creating a number of upper-division, classroom-based
courses (all peer reviewed and available as instructor guides at the
Web site), and many more are under development. Blanchard is always
looking for new course developers, especially those willing to work
as part of a team. The project has formed partnerships for course development,
internships, or funding with the Association of State Floodplain Managers,
NOAAs Coastal Services Center, NSF, the North Carolina Division
of Emergency Management, the Public Entity Risk Institute, and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers.
The number of graduates, positions, and salaries are all on the rise:
Were making the case for professionalism. Blanchard
can be contacted at 301-447-1262, firstname.lastname@example.org