Over the past 30 years, the planet has seen a steady rise in weather-related and geological natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and last week’s devastating Hurricane Sandy. There have also been large-scale disasters of man-made origins, such the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.
While these situations culminated in staggering amounts of damage and the loss of life, many hard lessons were learned from them and a new urgency to save lives in future disasters is gaining momentum. For those who want to choose an altruistic and truly life-saving career path, there are many opportunities in the professional field of disaster management.
Three of the most prominent U.S. organizations in the field are FEMA, the American Red Cross and the National Guard. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for federal emergency relief when local and state authorities become overwhelmed in a declared State of Emergency.
The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and offers services in five areas besides domestic disaster management: helping the homeless and the needy; the organization of blood drives; education for preparedness, health and safety; communication and comfort services for military members and their families; and international relief and development.
The U.S. National Guard is a reserve military force made up of part-time members who hold full-time civilian jobs. Among the many duties they perform, they provide security and transport during evacuations and have engineers to address dangerous situations and trouble spots. Between the three organizations, the enlistment and volunteer attendance is in the tens of thousands, with plenty of demand for those with skills that can be applied to disaster management.
Of the various career positions in disaster management, here are five:
1. Emergency Management Director
This position consists of developing emergency response plans beforehand and hiring and assigning workers to execute specific duties during emergencies and disasters. Emergency management directors respond to both natural and man-made disasters, which include terrorist threats on domestic soil. They also communicate with local and state law enforcement and fire departments. An undergraduate degree is not mandatory, however experience within the military and/or law enforcement is usually desired. The mean annual salary of this position is $62,850, according to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2. Emergency Management Specialist
This position involves leading response efforts during emergencies and disasters. Emergency management specialists also provide training to workers on emergency response teams. Specialists travel a lot to affected disaster areas where there expertise is needed. For the majority of specialist positions, an undergraduate degree is needed. The mean annual salary of this position is $56,900, according to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
3. Floodplain Management Specialist
An example of an emergency management specialist area of expertise, this position consists of the prevention of flooding in flood-prone areas through community-based education and management plans. It also requires inspection of areas to ensure they adhere to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations.
4. Technological Hazards Program Specialist
Another example of a particular emergency management specialist position, though this one deals with nuclear power plants. This specialist works under the direction of Homeland Security’s Radiological Emergency Preparedness (REP) program, designing emergency response plans and evaluating local, state and federal capabilities to execute the designed plans. This specialist works in close proximity to the power plant and regional authorities, and participates in all REP emergency exercises.
5. Fire Inspector and Investigator
One of the most well known positions in regards to disaster management, fire inspectors enforce fire codes in all residential, commercial and government buildings, and develop evacuation plans. They also investigate and examine evidence in the wake of fires to determine their cause. Generally, a high school diploma is sufficient academic training. This position earns a median annual salary of $52,230 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This article was written by Social Media Outreach Coordinator Logan Harper on behalf of CAREEREALISM-Approved Partner, 2U — an education technology company that partners with institutions of higher education such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which provides an online MPA program.
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