Nim Kidd (Chief – Texas Department of Emergency Management)
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.
What do you consider essential skillsets for EM? There are several skills that are essential in emergency management, but I think some of the most useful are being a proactive thinker: being able to recognize and address situations that could end up becoming disasters; having good communication and interpersonal skills. Nonetheless, I would say that above all emergency management requires having a passion for public service.
Can you recommend suggested training / credentials? You can arrive in the emergency management field through many career paths in public/private service: the healthcare sector, emergency response, or even education sector are all viable options for a career in emergency management. The emergency management field is diverse, and like any profession, you need a combination of education, training, and experience to be competitive. There are Undergraduate and Graduate level degrees in emergency management at several higher education institutions. In Texas, we have great educational/training resources within the Texas A&M University System, specifically West Texas A&M University has a BAAS in Emergency Management. Additionally, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) offers specific training and courses, and is known globally for its superb training. Every emergency management professional must be familiar with the principles of emergency response coordination, and FEMA at its Emergency Management Institute offers specific courses for anyone wanting to progress in an emergency management career.
What do we do? Why do we do it? Why is it important? When disaster strikes and life as we know it is disrupted on a large scale, emergency managers are the coordinators, tasked with creating order from chaos. The effectiveness and efficiency of the emergency manager’s coordination not only saves lives but helps restore a sense of order. Emergency response and recovery are important aspects of emergency management, but we can’t forget that preparedness is just as important. Being prepared improves the chances for survival and helps lessen the loss of lives and property.
What makes your job unique and enjoyable? Managing emergencies is a unique job that gives you the opportunity to serve your community during its most challenging times; but even more important, and what I enjoy the most about it, is that we can help communities prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against emergencies and disasters.
What are your “go-to” publications in the field? Texas A&M's TEEX and FEMA's Emergency Management Institute both provide great access to materials, trainings, and courses. Beyond the materials provided by these institutions, however, I believe that one must always “go to” the law, rule, or policy that governs emergency management in their state or jurisdiction.
What do you consider the most valuable resource on your bookshelf? As stated above, I think that every emergency manager’s list of valuable resources must include the law, rules, and policies that govern emergency management in their state or jurisdiction. In Texas, Chapter 418 of the Government Code, also called the Texas Disaster Act, is what governs how we respond to disasters. At the federal level, Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations and the Stafford Act provide the statutory authority for federal disaster response activities. Additionally, I would recommend emergency manager’s read important pieces of federal legislation that are passed in the aftermath of major natural disasters such as the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, and the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA).
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in EM? I believe devastating events create windows of opportunity. These events, like 9/11 or a major hurricane, create opportunities for change. After an event, the activity in the short period that follows tends to focus on improvements. It’s important to capitalize on the long-term commitments expressed during that time and follow up to ensure we follow through after that window of opportunity closes.
How did you learn it? I learned through responding. Take 9/11, for example. It’s vital to follow up on the after-action reports and ensure mistakes are not repeated. Learning from our mistakes is key to making our communities better prepared and capable of responding to the events of the future.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten when you were starting out? We all carry baggage, and throughout your career you will encounter events that add to that baggage. I wish I had been better informed as a young firefighter about the ways to best handle the baggage that stays with each of us from the disasters we respond to.
What should every new EM practitioner do / focus on / remember?
- Remain proactive and expect the unexpected.
- Learn to recognize a problem before it becomes a disaster.
- Understand the importance of effective communication.
- Identify and recruit the best people for your emergency response team.
If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what steps should they take? I started my career in emergency response as a firefighter, a job that allowed me to hone my skills as a problem solver, to assess the situation, and then try to find the best approach toward a solution. These skills along with a passion for service and a combination of training and education, are the foundation for a career in emergency management.
What are some things that new EM practitioners can do that would be applicable across the EM spectrum? Once you choose emergency management as a career, continue to receive all the training you can and stick to the fundamentals.
What message would you like to convey to the EM community as a whole? Emergency management is a noble profession, and the actions we take before, during, and after a disaster matter. As emergency managers, what we do and how we do it can mean the difference between survival and loss. We must continue to enhance the professionalization of this career path with increased opportunities for education, training, and certification for those considering emergency management as a profession.
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