Tips on Hiring Campus Emergency Managers

Appropriate candidates must be well-rounded and experienced.

In my last article, I focused on the use of NFPA 1600 in creating a solid foundation to build or improve an emergency management (EM) program. Although there are other guidelines that should be followed in developing a good program (see bottom of this article), one key component is recruiting qualified personnel

The only way to assure a quality campus EM program is by hiring only competent and experienced emergency managers. Given the concerns expressed in many campus incident after-action reports following the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007, it is vital that university administrators ensure that the people recruited to perform the job are able to manage and administer the program. A degree helps, but a degree won’t necessarily land the applicant an entry-level job, even as a recent graduate from a university.  

In this job market, many excellent, full-time, experienced emergency managers have been laid-off, so there is great talent out there for the taking. With the lingering impact of the economic disaster, the competition for emergency management jobs has never been greater. Experience, in my opinion, is still the single most important job requirement in the emergency management profession.

The emergency manager today needs to be especially well rounded in four basic job duties: response, preparedness, recovery and mitigation/prevention. Having actually worked in a disaster and recovery situation is plus.

It would be foolish for campus administrators to risk an institution’s reputation and credibility on a novice with no real-world experience. There are just too many risks these days to allow non-experienced personnel to take the helm of a campus emergency management office. 

It’s not what you think you know; it is what you know, and the skills needed to get through a crisis:  experience and confidence. The ability to hit the ground running from day one is a powerful position to negotiate and compete from when seeking a job in this field.

Even with experience, getting the emergency management job in higher education can be difficult. In my next few posts, I’ll talk about my recent experiences in hiring a new emergency management specialist, and the credentialing processes that are setting the standards for hiring an emergency manager – the Associate Emergency Management (AEM) and Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) credentials.


2 Other Important Emergency Management Principles

Coupled with NFPA-1600, here are two other guiding principles that can help frame a quality emergency management program: 


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About the Author


With more than 30 years experience, David is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) currently administering the emergency management program at Santa Clara University in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area's Silicon Valley. David managed the UCLA Office of Emergency Management for seven years and pioneered the development of the campus' award-winning "BruinAlert" system. David championed development of emergency plans, policies and procedures in the aftermath of Virginia Tech in 2007 and consults higher education institutions on emergency management issues. David is a subject matter expert in mass casualty incident management, emergency notification systems, comprehensive plan development, emergency organization, EOC design and operations, crisis communications, threat and vulnerability assessment, disaster recovery, grant administration and auditing. In 2009, David and other campus emergency managers provided consult in the development of the first incident management course developed by FEMA/EMI specifically for higher education (IS-100HE, Introduction to the Incident Command System (ICS) for Higher Education). Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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