Growing Opportunities for Emergency Managers in the Private Sector

Emergency ManagersIf you’re looking for a position as an emergency manager, the first place you might think to look is government. You may want to rethink your job search strategy: Recent employment indicators show the private sector is now the fastest-growing area for emergency managers.

A third of all emergency management positions are in the private sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hospitals are the biggest employers, and there are also many opportunities in universities, corporations, and consulting companies.

Emergency Management in the Private Sector

Just as cities and states need emergency managers to plan for anything from a natural disaster to a terrorist attack, companies also need trained disaster recovery professionals to keep the business running when the worst happens. Companies like Cisco, Genentech, Target, and Walt Disney, have emergency managers who develop contingency plans detailing how to handle possible disruptions to their businesses.

The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) reports many similarities between emergency managers in the public and private sectors. Both roles are responsible for a jurisdiction, both plan for disasters, and both need to be aware of available resources.

Michael Schulz, who heads a Chicago-based emergency management consulting firm with international experience and directs the M.A. in Emergency Management Leadership program at Adler University, also defines the emergency manager’s role—in any sector—as socially responsible for strategies that address both physical and psychological damage during and after an emergency.

There is no such thing as a typical day for an emergency manager. You could be meeting with law enforcement agencies in the morning, teaching department managers how to run a safe community event at lunch, and implementing an emergency drill in the afternoon. It’s all in a day’s work. Other responsibilities include creating and maintaining budgets, developing evacuation plans, and conducting safety training for employees.

Wal-Mart’s 40-seat emergency operations center is similar to ones found in government agencies, says David Henry, the company’s emergency preparedness and planning manager. Writing for the May 2010 issue of Emergency Management, Henry says the department has “subject-matter experts focused on potential disruptions, such as interstate closures or snowstorms, every day.” Experts focus on a specific area such as transportation, logistics, or store operations and stay updated on current circumstances, he says. The company also has an in-house meteorologist.

And whether a company has a full-blown emergency operations center or a department of one, developing disaster-response contingency plans is key. These plans must cover how employees will communicate, where they will go and how they will keep doing their jobs, explains a May 2007 article titled “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning Definition and Solutions.”

The article explains that details vary, depending on the company’s size and type of business. For a company such as Wal-Mart, maintaining supply chain logistics would be crucial. For a manufacturing company, getting mainframe computers up and running would be a priority.

Private Sector Disaster Relief

Emergency managers can also work for private-sector companies that help with disaster relief. While nonprofit organizations such as the Red Cross provide assistance, for-profit organizations are hired by governments to assist in recovery efforts.

These companies operate and maintain critical infrastructure, such as transportation, utilities, and communications systems. People working in these organizations strive to identify risks and make systems less vulnerable to threats, as well as plan how to quickly recover from a crisis.

Emergency Management Career Path

The outlook for emergency managers in the private sector is rosy. While local and state governments are cutting budgets, overall hiring in the private sector is expected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. And some industries will exceed this growth rate.

In healthcare, emergency management openings are expected to grow by 18 percent. In the professional, scientific, and technical services industries, hiring will increase by 22 percent from 2012 to 2022. The IAEM has noticed a jump in members joining from the healthcare and higher education industries.

Rich Cooper, business liaison director with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says in a summer 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics article: “[Emergency management in the private sector] is an area with potential for huge employment growth.” Other names for this role are “business continuity expert,” or “emergency operations director,” he explained.

And while emergency managers are needed across all 50 states, the metro areas with the highest demand for emergency managers (both private and public sectors) are:

  • Chicago
  • New York City
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Houston
  • Minneapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Indianapolis

Salaries in the private sector are higher on average than local and state government agencies. The highest-paying industries, according to the BLS, are:

  1. Conglomerates: $102,570
  2. Physical Engineering and Life Sciences R&D: $100,150
  3. Petroleum Manufacturing: $99,370
  4. Utilities: $97,170
  5. Scientific and Technical Consulting Services: $91,190

University salaries average $87,130 annually and hospitals pay $81,210 a year.

A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement, and many organizations require a master’s degree in emergency management or related field. Universities and university-associated hospitals are more likely to require a master’s degree.

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