Emergency services managers oversee the development and implementation of plans to prepare for and handle the aftermath of natural disasters and other emergencies. They focus on preparation plans that minimize the damage and risks to citizens.
The job features many important responsibilities. In addition to developing emergency plans, emergency services managers also coordinate the response to a natural disaster with other public officials, including fire, police, public services, local leaders and nonprofit organizations.
Most emergency services managers work for local governments, including cities and counties. Others may work for state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, healthcare operations, businesses and schools.
What Does an Emergency Services Manager Do?
An emergency service manager primarily works in an office, although during actual emergencies, they often are expected to be on-scene. That includes time spent meeting with other officials to coordinate emergency plans, as well as in the field assessing the risks in specific areas.
The job generally breaks down into two areas: disaster preparation and disaster response.
For disaster preparation, job duties can include:
- Assessing the disaster risks and creating plans that will result in the best safeguards for people and property
- Meeting with other public safety officials to get input on creating the best plans, as well as taking recommendations from public agencies and private companies on developing the most effective emergency response plans
- Developing and overseeing emergency response training programs and emergency response exercises for staff and volunteers
- Maintaining the various facilities used for disaster response
For disaster response, duties can include:
- Coordinating response among different agencies, ensuring the sharing of resources and equipment
- Assessing the damage following disasters or emergencies
- Reviewing emergency plans of individual organizations, such as medical facilities and schools, to ensure they are adequate
- Responding in such a way that gets business operations (if they work for a private company) or public services working again as quickly as possible
Job Growth & Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), considered the most reliable source for job information in the United States, projects an 8% increase by 2026 in emergency management director jobs. This position is very similar to emergency services manager.
Another 800 people are expected to move into the profession between 2016 and 2026, resulting in almost 11,000 people in the job.
The BLS expects retirement of older emergency directors could provide opportunities, especially for those with the right mix of education and experience.
The median annual wage for the position varies by industry, with those working in private industry making the most. According to the BLS, as of May 2016, the median salaries for the position by industry were:
- Professional, scientific, and technical services – $95,890
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private – $88,850
- Hospitals; state, local, and private – $81,790
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals – $65,910
- State government, excluding education and hospitals – $60,000
Salary and job market data vary by geographic region and other factors. Job seekers are urged to conduct their own research.
How to Become an Emergency Services Manager
The best jobs in emergency services management come to those with the right combination of education and experience.
The BLS recommends that those who wish to enter the occupation earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Many in the field earn a master’s degree, such as an MBA or a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.
Working in an assistant or junior director role can give future emergency services managers the experience they need to succeed in the field. Part of the benefit is learning to make fast decisions in stressful situations, when every minute matters. They also learn the people skills and types of resources needed in distinct types of emergency situations.
An emergency services manager can also further their career and increase the depth of their knowledge by earning the Certified Emergency Manager designation from the International Association of Emergency Managers or the Certified Business Continuity Professional from the Disaster Recovery Institute International.
Skills for the job include critical thinking, decision-making (under immense pressure), leadership and communication skills.