Paul Sambanis (Adjunct Assistant Professor – Emergency Management and Continuity Planning Program at UIC)

Emergency Management as a Career

As part of our campaign for National Preparedness Month 2021, we engaged subject-matter experts in the field of emergency management to have them weigh in on a few key areas. Our goal is to support increased visibility of EM as a profession (#MakeEMMoreVisible), not only for those who may be studying it at UIC, but also for those who may be considering entering the field.

A little about Dr. Sambanis: Dr. Sambanis is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Emergency Management and Continuity Planning Program  in the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at UIC’s School of Public Health.  For more than fifteen years, he has focused on practicing risk management and regulatory compliance in Chicago, Illinois.  His work has included environmental assessments, emergency response, business continuity, resilience characterization, and remediation for a variety of public and private sector clients. He is also Non Executive Director of Gpost, a free app where everyone shares safety posts as well as a secure and intelligent messaging platform that sends real-time information and alerts to the community - based on location.

His academic accomplishments include being a GIS, Spatial Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA), and HAZUS expert, which, in combination with his strong quantitative background, creates the ideal profile for his current research involving risk visualization and decision support content for managing disasters or measuring resilience.  His past research includes evaluation of a geospatial health risk computer program funded by the USEPA known as Spatial Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA), implementing the CDC BRACE climate change adaptation framework for the state of Illinois, and developing a Private Sector Integration Plan for the creation of logistical inventory software to be used during a disaster response event.

Specialties include but not limited to project management, researching, and lecturing in the fields of environmental risk assessment, mitigation, resilience, health and safety, sustainability, and emergency response.

What do you consider essential skillsets for EM? Essential skillset for EM includes being able to be organized and methodological when approaching any incident.  You need to see the big picture and take steps to get to the end state.

Can you recommend suggested training / credentials? Certainly, recommend taking UIC School of Public Health Emergency Management and Resilience Planning Graduate Certificate Program.  Alternatively, FEMA offers numerous web-based and instructor-led courses for free via the Emergency Management Institute.

What do we do? Why do we do it? Why is it important? We solve complex problems in a short period of time and under pressure.  We do it ensure everyone is safe and go home to their loved ones.  It is important that some takes ownership in an incident and proper protocol is followed or the incident will get worse and spiral out of control.

What makes your job unique and enjoyable? My job is unique since I get to train individuals to go out into the world to help people during incidents. I love learning from my students and they help me keep my skills fresh.

What are your “go-to” publications in the field? In my opinion there is no “go-to” publication that I would recommend since incidents vary dramatically in the emergency management field.  I believe the key is doing your research and ensure you have reviewed applicable do rules, regulations, and peer reviewed articles.

What do you consider the most valuable resource on your bookshelf? Since my experience is heavy in the chemical industry, I would say Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) and NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards are the most resources on my bookshelf.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in EM? It takes a team to get through incidents.

How did you learn it? Experience.

What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten when you were starting out? The most important advice I would say is get out there and get involved.  FEMA and other federal, state and local government agencies rely heavily on volunteers.  You need to get involved to ensure this is truly you are comfortable and passionate with what will be expected from you.

What should every new EM practitioner do / focus on / remember? EM practitioners need to understand that daily small steps lead to big changes. You need to focus on the priority of life safety and then the rest will follow. If you can get out everyone out safe that is a big win and the rest will follow.

If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what steps should they take? If someone wanted to follow in my footsteps, they would need to study hard and get involved with as much as possible.  The Emergency Management is a community of people that are always looking to share knowledge and share practices.

What are some things that new EM practitioners can do that would be applicable across the EM spectrum? Practice, Practice, and Practice.  You don’t want to wait until after the emergency to learn something.  Get involved now and learn as much as you can so you will be prepared.

What message would you like to convey to the EM community as a whole? Please reach out to me directly.  I love meeting new people and finding ways to collaborate.

To learn more about Dr. Sambanis, visit his profile on LinkedIn. You can also learn more about the Emergency Management and Continuity Planning Program, or the Gpost app.

 

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