When a disaster occurs, most people run away from the site, while a handful of others run toward it. If your mindset places you in the latter category, then you are likely to do well in the public safety and emergency management field. A career in homeland security and emergency management is challenging and emotionally draining, but for the resilient individuals who choose this field, the opportunity to save lives and mitigate risks to the community is well worth it.
Qualities You Need To Succeed in a Homeland Security and Emergency Management Career
Choosing a career path can be a difficult decision as it is, but deciding if a demanding career, such as this one, is right for you can be even more challenging. In order to be competitive in the public safety and emergency management field, you’ll need to have education, specific training and solid experience. In general, there are a few key qualities you should have if you intend to pursue a career in homeland security and emergency management.
You must have a clean criminal record
As an emergency manager, you will frequently work with law enforcement and sensitive data. Therefore, most positions in this field will require successful completion of a background screening. Having any criminal events on your record may disqualify you for a position in emergency management.
You stay calm under pressure
This is arguably one of most important qualities for emergency managers. Whether you are responding to a natural disaster, car wreck, human-made environmental disaster, pandemic or terrorist attack, you need to be able to control emotional stress and remain calm. Staying cool under pressure is important because it allows you to think on your feet and to develop appropriate response plans to each unique situation. Calmness in the midst of a disaster is also reassuring to your team and to the people you are trying to help.
You are able to analyze situations objectively
Critical thinking skills and objective analysis go hand in hand with staying calm under pressure. Your emotions may be leading you toward one course of action, but you need to step back and analyze the situation objectively to figure out if it is truly the most appropriate path. For every possible response, you must consider the potential consequences, including the best-case and worst-case scenarios. This is a necessary quality when working in the homeland security and emergency management field.
Your communication skills are excellent
Effective emergency management centers on great communication, both written and oral. You will need to be able to clearly present information to a variety of audiences, so you must be highly proficient in English. Having fluency in other languages is a bonus and will help you stay competitive in a public safety career.
Clear directives are essential in emergency management as they will help prevent confusion among the team, which can also prevent the situation from escalating further. Excellent communication skills include the ability to actively listen to others and consider feedback with an open mind. Effective leaders are receptive to new ideas, and they are quick to adapt to new strategies when needed.
You have humility
Perhaps the most underrated quality of an effective emergency manager is the capacity to accept responsibility, take criticism and move forward. It is inevitable that you will make mistakes and, sometimes, your mistakes can be costly. Good leaders never pass the blame. They acknowledge their mistakes, analyze what went wrong and identify the correct solution to avoid making the same mistake in the future. They strive to become a better employee and leader.
Stepping Into a Career in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Now that you know what qualities are necessary for emergency management, here are a few next steps to help you get started on your career path.
Pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree
A high school diploma is a basic requirement for a career in public safety and emergency management. However, to stay competitive, many professionals in this field are earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in emergency management.
Learn about the Incident Command System (ICS)
ICS is the emergency response coordination system used around the United States. It is also mandated by law. If you are interested in homeland security and emergency management, you would do well to be familiar with, at least, the common principles of the system.
Gain experience by volunteering in emergency management
Volunteering with your state, county or local emergency management is a great way to begin building your field experience. Depending on your area, some jurisdictions have many volunteer opportunities available to help during real disasters. The American Red Cross in your area may also have volunteer programs available.
It is important to network and build your contacts when pursuing a career in homeland security and emergency management. This will help you learn about the many different positions and opportunities available in this vast and rewarding field.
The Colangelo College of Business at GCU offers a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which is an ideal degree program for law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical response and environmental health and safety workers. As part of Grand Canyon University, our business school offers a rigorous academic curriculum within a faith-based setting. Find the Request More Info button at the top of the page to explore our available degree programs.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.