Over the last decade, emergency management has grown as a field, and certified emergency managers are in charge of disaster planning both across the country and around the world. As proof of its popularity, one need look no further than the Falls Church, VA-based International Association of Emergency Managers.
"We have almost 3,000 members around the world, 90% or more of whom are in the United States," says IAEM's marketing and communications director, Dawn Shiley-Danzeisen. "We're a nonprofit educational organization that is dedicated to promoting the goals of saving lives and protecting property during emergencies and disasters. These are the folks who coordinate the first responders, local government officials and anyone else, including private industry, who would be involved in planning for and mitigating a disaster and providing help after the event."
There are numerous benefits for members of IAEM, including a monthly newsletter, representation on legislative and regulatory matters at the federal level, list-serves where members can communicate and exchange resource information, and an annual meeting that drew more than 1,500 attendees in 2006. A big draw at the annual meeting is the presence of all the significant suppliers of emergency management and homeland security products and services. Members receive discounted fees for the annual conference, as well as the organization's many educational programs.
"We also have a certification program for both members and nonmembers," says Shiley-Danzeisen. "IAEM created the Certified Emergency Manager program several years ago with a FEMA grant, in order to raise and maintain professional standards. We're currently updating the program with another grant from FEMA. This is a very coveted certification that is maintained in five-year cycles. We also run a scholarship program-a 501(c)3 that provides scholarships to full-time students at the college level in emergency management or other related programs. This is not a needs-based scholarship; it's an awarded scholarship based on merit."
Although homeland security and disaster planning are a major focus for emergency management, the increased interest in IAEM doesn't seem to be linked to the events of 9/11 or any terrorist-related activity, says Shiley-Danzeisen.
"Emergency management has come into its own over the past decade or more," she says. "Ten years ago, there might have been one college program offered; now, there are programs at more than 100 universities. The whole field has grown from the local fire chief being emergency manager for the county to having an emergency manager who coordinates all the fire chiefs, rescue squads and government agencies. You want to have people who are educated and have the right resources at their fingertips to coordinate your response plans and be there if a disaster happens. You have to know how to manage the disaster as it's occurring and know how to clean up after it's over."