Working as an Emergency Management Director: The Basics

Emergency management directors are an essential and important part of disaster and crisis management. If you are passionate about helping others, teaching, assisting or motivating them, as well as planning for and responding to disasters and emergencies, then becoming an emergency management director could be the perfect job for you. This is a varied role, and involves a combination of technical and personal skills, as well as educating, planning, analyzing and coordinating, as well as many other tasks and responsibilities. Here are just a couple of things to know about working as an emergency management director, what skills you may need and how you can become one.

What is an Emergency Management Director?

Emergency management directors, or EMDs, deal with natural disasters and man-made emergencies. These can include:

  • Flooding
  • Drought
  • Forest fires
  • Acts of terror
  • Riots
  • Hazardous waste spills

EMDs are incredibly skilled and knowledgeable. They are normally employed by the federal or provincial government. However, there is an increase in private-sector emergency management careers, particularly in the healthcare industry or in resource extraction. As an EMD, you could be working in a range of settings, including local or state government, schools, hospitals or professional, scientific or technical services. While many EMDs work in offices, they may also travel to meet with different organizations and groups, so time can be split between working in the office and working in the field. The location and the types of tasks you will have to do will depend on where you are employed. During an emergency, EMDs will work in the command center, as they need to be available to answer the questions of their colleagues.

What do they do?

EMDs have a huge variety of responsibilities and tasks, and these can include:

  • Conducting assessments or consulting existing research of the risk factors. Then they develop plans accordingly which typically detail the approaches to risk prevention, public education and emergency response.
  • Assessing hazards and preparing plans to respond to disasters and emergencies in order to minimize the risk to people and property.
  • Meeting with private companies, public safety officials and the general public to receive recommendations in regard to emergency response plans.
  • Coordinating emergency responses.
  • Establishing relationships with stakeholders affected by the risks.
  • Maintaining facilities that are used during emergency operations.
  • Organizing emergency response training exercises and programs for responders, staff and volunteers.
  • Following an incident, performing damage assessments and evaluating the existing procedures.
  • Reviewing local emergency operations plans. If necessary, revising these.
  • Applying for federal funding and reporting on the use of allocated funds.
  • Preparing and analyzing damage assessments following emergencies or disasters.
  • Coordinating shared resources and equipment within the community and across communities in order to assist in emergency response.

While the specific responsibilities you may have as an EMD will vary depending on where you are working, these are a few of the general tasks that you may find yourself completing.

Business Continuity Management

EMDs can also be known as BCMs, depending on the area in which they work. In general, those employed by the government are EDMs, and those working for private companies or smaller organizations such as a university are known as BCMs. Business continuity management is concerned with the advanced planning and preparation of an organization, in order to help it maintain business functions or quickly resume them after the occurrence of a disaster. Working in these areas may require you to have additional qualifications in areas such as information systems administration, computer science or another IT field.

If you are interested in cybersecurity, working as a BCM could be the ideal job for you, as there is an increasing demand for experts who know how to help protect individuals and organizations from data theft and cyber-attacks. Disaster recovery and business continuity help organizations respond to an incident and prevent loss of functions or data. This usually involves working through a plan with the organization to ensure they can continue functioning during the crisis and return to normal as quickly as possible.


Who can become an Emergency Management Director?

There are many skills and traits that make a good emergency management director, on top of the technical training and experience that you will need. These skills include:

This is the ability to objectively analyze a situation in order to make a judgement about it. As an emergency management director, you will need to anticipate hazards and problems that may arise from emergencies in order to respond effectively.

  • Decision-making skills

You will need to make decisions in stressful, time-sensitive conditions, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of all the solutions and approaches, as well as the costs and benefits of each action.

As EMDs work with a wide range of people, from different levels of the government to the general public, you will need to have excellent communication skills in order to write out and communicate your emergency preparedness plans. Communication not only involves speaking but it also involves actively listening to others and being able to collaborate.

  • Leadership skills

You will need to organize and train a variety of people in order to ensure effective emergency responses. Leadership skills encompass many other skills such as communication, organization, motivation, flexibility, delegation and strategic thinking.

  • Interpersonal skills

You will be working with other government agencies, the general public and law enforcement officials in order to coordinate emergency responses, and interpersonal skills are the ability to interact and communicate well with other people.

These are just a few of the skills and characteristics you will need to work as an emergency management director. These can be learned and developed during your training, as well as during the work experience you will need to complete in order to work as an EMD. You may already have many of these skills, and just need to know how to apply them in the various situations you may find yourself working in as an emergency management director.

How do you become one?

In order to become an EMD, you will need a combination of higher education and practical experience. In general, a bachelor’s degree in a related area is the most basic requirement. These areas can include public health, business or public administration, accounting, finance or emergency management. There are also many types of further qualifications and degrees that you can undertake in order to work as an EMD, such as a Master of Public Safety.

In general, higher levels of qualifications make you eligible to apply for higher level jobs, as they show a passion and dedication to the field as well as an advanced knowledge and skillset. Therefore, a master’s degree in a related area could help your application stand out in a pool of applicants. Furthermore, this course can be completed online, which offers a flexible learning option. There are numerous benefits to online study, such as:


Cost is a large factor when considering to become a student again, often it puts people off entirely. The price of tuition fees and educational resources, as well as necessary expenditure such as rent and utility bills or other living costs can seem far too high. A large benefit of the rise in online courses is that most of these costs are removed. When studying online you can work from your own home and thus rent and commute costs disappear. You should also be able to continue your current job and work your studies around it. In some cases you may find you are eligible for financial support from the institution – it is worth contacting to ask about any help that is available. As a student you would also be eligible for student discounts which can help with some of your daily spending.

Online courses also have the benefit that they can have cheaper fees than the same course where you attend in person.


When you learn from home, you can have more control over your learning environment. This can allow you to create an atmosphere in which you can learn comfortably and efficiently, boosting your enjoyment of the course. Online study is great for those who do not enjoy learning in a classroom setting. It can give you the tools and freedom to set your own learning pace and make the course work for you. You will also have the chance to develop healthy learning skills and habits that you can use in the future.

Your physical location can also have an impact on the courses that you can study when you are studying in person. You are restricted to the courses available to you at your local university or college if you are unable to travel further. They may have something similar enough that you end up taking it, rather than the course you are actually fully interested in. This is just a waste of time and money and can delay your career advancement. However, when you study online, you have access to many more courses and institutions, which means you can find something that works for you.


Another huge benefit of online courses is the flexibility and control that they offer. When studying a course that can be accessed from any location, at a time that suits you, you have the ultimate control over your learning experience. Many of these courses are also designed to be completed alongside your other commitments, which means you do not need to put the rest of your life on hold in order to pursue your dream career. Having more control over the pace at which you learn can go a long way to improving your enjoyment and efficiency at learning, helping you become a strong independent learner.


An online course will clearly provide you with all the technical knowledge you will need to start or further your career in the field. However, you will also learn and practice personal and interpersonal skills which will help you stand out to employers. There are many soft skills that are particularly useful for those working in emergency management, such as communication, time management and critical-thinking, which employers will look for on hiring. When you study an online degree, you will be developing many of these skills alongside your technical knowledge. For example, you will have to use your time management and organizational skills in order to complete your courses and any other commitments you have. These all need to be completed to the highest level possible, and some will also be time sensitive. When working as an EDM, you will also have to switch quickly between tasks and constantly prioritize, perform multiple tasks and process information. These skills are vital in any workplace, and you will have practical examples of times when you have used them to provide to employers in a job interview.

As well as the qualifications required, you will also need extensive work experience in a related occupation. This can include law enforcement, military, fire safety or another field of emergency management. Work experience is incredibly important in many jobs, as it shows a potential employer that you have practical experience on top of the technical skills and knowledge you have acquired. In terms of working as an emergency management director, previous work experience enables applicants to make difficult decisions in stressful situations, as well as preparing them to collaborate with different agencies to make sure that proper resources are used in emergency responses.

Working as an emergency management director is a very challenging and rigorous career, that requires very specific and developed skills. You will need a lot of practical experience on top of education and qualifications. There are many different roles or settings you could work in as an EDM, from dealing with natural disasters to helping businesses recover from cyber-attacks, and your existing experiences may help inform your career choices. Further education can help to prepare you for the challenges of the roles, as well as teaching you how to develop and apply the personal skills you may already have gained through your previous work experience in a related area or career.