Do You Have What It Takes to Be a University Emergency Manager?

Emergency managers on a college campus must have additional competencies for their environments.

Emergency managers come from different backgrounds and offer a variety of experiences. Like county, state and federal emergency management, emergency managers within institutes of higher education (IHE) must have the skills to fulfill the traditional functions of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

FEMA and others put out a short document titled Emergency Management: Definition, Vision, Masson, Principles that provides useful information to the profession. One could argue that the list of eight principles in the document could serve as the foundation for the success and skillset for emergency managers.

But, emergency managers on a university campus must have additional competencies. Even within individual campuses, the emergency manager may need more specialized competencies based on the location and mission of the university.

The list of competencies in IHE Emergency Manager Core Competencies on this page is not exhausting, but perhaps a good starting point for others. They may also differ from institution to institution. I’ve broken them down into five categories:


  • Emergency notification systems
  • Planning
  • Weather
  • County mitigation plan
  • Special events management
  • Incident command
  • Collaboration and coordination
  • Emergency vehicle operations
  • Grants management
  • All hazard incident response
  • Training and exercise development
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Crisis management
  • Project management
  • Recovery and business continuity

University Competencies

  • Higher education organization
  • Student development
  • Situational awareness
  • Athletic and other special event planning
  • Research and laboratories
  • Animal research
  • Education abroad/international travel
  • Customer service
  • Continuing education
  • Procurement process
  • Cross-cultural communication

Education/Academic Competencies

  • Emergency management
  • Criminal justice
  • Business management
  • Project management


  • Emergency management
  • Project management
  • Training
  • Operations
  • Military

Additional Skills

  • Writing
  • Facilitating
  • Computer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Radio procedures
  • Teaching
  • Dispatch operations
  • Crime prevention

It could be argued that all emergency managers must be project managers. Depending on where the emergency management function falls within the IHE organization (public safety/police, environmental health and safety, student affairs, operations or standalone), additional skills may be needed to complement departmental goals and objectives, and to meet the needs often associated with being a force multiplier.

The next page has a list of essential tasks for IHE emergency managers.

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