Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Eric Holdeman (Thought leader in the areas of emergency management and homeland security)

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 Eric Holdeman: Eric Holdeman is a professional emergency manager who is passionate about providing information that can help families, businesses and governments become better prepared for disasters of all types. His goal is to enhance everyone’s disaster resilience. His areas of expertise include building regional coalitions between agencies, governments, the private sector and non-profits. Planning, Regional planning, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) design and construction, multi-media public education programs, Joint Information Center (JIC) formation and operations, media relations, social media, meeting facilitation and integration of technology into emergency management and homeland security programs are just a few of the areas in which he has extensive experience.

Eric currently works professionally in the areas of building disaster resilience for a five state and five Canadian provincial area in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, he has experience and expertise in port security, emergency management and risk management. He has also authored numerous articles for professional journals and opinion pieces for local, regional and national newspapers. He is a Senior Fellow and contributing writer for Emergency Management Magazine and columnist for the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). An experienced and accomplished public speaker he is sought after to present at national and regional conferences. Eric has a popular blog on emergency management and homeland security topics at

What do you consider essential skillsets for EM? The ability to work in concert with others and build partnerships with a diverse set of organizations and people.

Can you recommend suggested training / credentials? I do not think that the CEM as it is currently configured provides any assurances as to the knowledge and skills of the holder.

What do we do? Why do we do it? Why is it important? If we don’t do it, no one else will. First responders are focused on disaster response. We need to lead the charge on disaster resilience which is really disaster mitigation. Climate change impacts are increasing and will get worse. We need to chip away at the issue

What makes your job unique and enjoyable? I tell people that what I do as an EM is “I try to get people and organizations to work with one another.”

What are your “go-to” publications in the field? Since I blog, my blog and my Disaster Zone podcast can help anyone. Certainly Emergency Management Magazine and Homeland Security Today have good information sources.

What do you consider the most valuable resource on your bookshelf? The dictionary!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in EM? Relationships are the grease that makes what we do work—across the board.

How did you learn it? Over 33 years in the business. Networking!!!

What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten when you were starting out? It is not about disaster response. (Bonus item, Logistics is critical in a response.)

What should every new EM practitioner do / focus on / remember?

  • You have to have a plan and be able to respond—that is the expectation, Don’t screw up a warning—it is very public.
  • Your organizational readiness will be determined by the tenure of the people who you have worked and trained with.
  • If logistics was easy it would be called taxes!

If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what steps should they take? You might wander around a bit if you are following me. Don’t be afraid of taking risks. Better to be hung for doing something proactively versus being hung for being afraid to act. Experience is a great teacher. Look for opportunities to do different things. Become a better communicator in writing, listening and speaking. Humor helps a lot!

What are some things that new EM practitioners can do that would be applicable across the EM spectrum? We touch everyone in a community. Expand your horizons beyond government and look for public/private partnerships and relationships. When it comes to emergent volunteers, it is better to give up some control in order to be more effective. Give them direction and turn them loose. Read, read, read.  You must read a daily national newspaper!

What message would you like to convey to the EM community as a whole? Our time is now. The profession is front and center because of the frequency and size of disasters. Be ready to step up and lead. There are not that many leaders. Remember, we lead without authority, so I say we are facilitators of the actions we want to see accomplished. There is no command, only coordination in our business.

To learn more about Eric Holdeman, view his biography.


Share and Follow: Feel free to share this story, and #MakeEMMoreVisible by clicking the icons at the top of the page. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.