What is an Emergency Response Planner?

Imagine the worst-case scenario actually happening. Then imagine people expecting you to fix the damage done. That’s your job if you’re an emergency response planner.

The demand for emergency response planners is growing, as they play a key role in preparing for, protecting, and maintaining public safety. As part of a team of skilled professionals, they anticipate and react quickly and intelligently to threats to public safety such as:

  • Terrorist attacks
  • Natural disasters
  • Epidemics such as Ebola or the Zika virus
  • Major industrial accidents
  • Extreme storms
  • Out-of-control floods or fires

Former program Director Mike Schultz, M.S., described Adler University’s M.A. in Emergency Management Leadership as one of the nation’s “most focused” to “specifically train emergency management leaders who can logically and systemically assess the immediate and long-term threats to communities and their populations and quickly develop responsive strategies and initiatives to mitigate them.” He added, “Modern emergency management leadership must constantly endeavor to explore those threats and the likelihood of their occurrence in formulating effective emergency response plans.”


What Does An Emergency Response Planner Do?

Emergency planners spend a lot of their time developing blueprints for coping with disasters. An effective emergency response planner has to spearhead outreach to relevant community organizations and contacts, and maintain relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders—mayors, police chiefs, business leaders—who come together when a crisis erupts.

An effective disaster and emergency response plan accounts for potential risks specific to a community or region, so an emergency response planner has to tailor risk assessments to local challenges such as chemical factories, nuclear plants, city centers, or major sporting venues. They also design and conduct disaster and safety exercises, evaluating their outcomes. Planners coordinate their efforts with local officials to make sure preparation exercises accurately simulate a real crisis.

Community outreach is also essential; planners need to know their business community, service organizations, top government officials, and anyone else they have to collaborate with in an emergency. They must also deliver safety training in their communities and raise awareness of public safety issues by setting up booths and distributing emergency preparedness promotional materials at special events, festivals, and conferences.

While the planning and analysis components of the job happen in an office, there’s also plenty of fieldwork. Many emergency response planners serve as duty officers in 24-hour response systems that address crises in real time. When trouble erupts, an emergency response planner assesses the situation and level of response required, and then collaborates with emergency services personnel in hospitals, fire and police departments, and other organizations. After an emergency, the planner coordinates disaster damage assessments and other post-disaster functions, including on-site visits to disaster areas. Naturally, the job may include substantial overtime during emergencies that may separate emergency response planners from their families for days, weeks, and even longer.

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Who Makes a Good Emergency Response Planner?

To succeed as an emergency response planner, you need to be:

  • Careful to use sound, independent judgment within existing guidelines
  • Passionate about setting proper priorities and goals, coordinating multiple projects, and meeting critical deadlines
  • Excellent at public speaking and instructing small and large groups
  • Capable of preparing clear, concise, and effective written materials, and keeping accurate records and files
  • Fluent in research methodology and data analysis
  • Devoted to building and maintaining effective working relationships with people
  • Adept at communicating with a diverse range of people from different backgrounds
  • Skillful at interpreting, applying, and explaining complex laws, policies, and regulations
  • Able to learn new emergency-response technologies
  • Qualified with degrees or certification in Emergency Management Leadership, Public Health, Fire Science, Criminal Justice, or a related field

Common Certifications for Emergency Response Planners

The multifaceted requirements—and dangers—of emergency response planning mean advanced certifications may give people an edge with potential employers. With a master’s degree in Emergency Management Leadership from Adler University, a graduate will fulfill International Association of Emergency Managers’ training requirements to apply for certification as a Certified Emergency Manager or Associate Emergency Manager. The program also helps students learn what they need to pass exams and earn the Emergency Management Institute Professional Development Series Certificate of Achievement.

Emergency response planners primarily work for government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Many businesses and nonprofit organizations employ emergency response planning professionals as consultants to deal with specific needs and logistics in case of emergencies and disasters. Jobs in firefighting, law enforcement, and emergency medical response often become launch pads for careers in emergency management. Some people gain crucial experience working in the management office of a government agency, helping people understand the best practices to develop response plans, prepare status reports, or work effectively in emergencies.

Other titles for people who do this type of work:

  • Disaster relief coordinator
  • Emergency preparedness planner
  • Emergency management specialist
  • Emergency planning coordinator
  • Civil resilience officer
  • Civil contingencies officer
  • Emergency management coordinator
  • Emergency management officer
  • Emergency preparedness coordinator
  • Emergency management exercise planning and development coordinator

Emergency Response Planner Resources and Websites

Emergency Response Planner Twitter Handles

Interested in learning more about becoming an emergency response planner? Find out more information about Adler University’s online master’s program in Emergency Management Leadership below.


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