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Todd De Voe (Emergency Manager, Educator, Keynote Speaker, Podcaster)

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 Todd De Voe: I am the Director, Emergency Management for a tech firm now; in my past I was a city emergency manager for two coastal communities in Orange County California. Before I was in emergency management, I worked in emergency medical services, and I am a Navy veteran. I have my CEM, National Emergency Management Executive Academy Graduate, two master’s degrees and I am working on my PhD.

What do you consider essential skillsets for EM? You need to be able to collaborate with others and build bridges with others.

Can you recommend suggested training / credentials? Attend the National Emergency Management Academy.

What do we do? Why do we do it? Why is it important? We build teams. We must understand what all functions in our jurisdiction do: public works, planning, parks, fire, police, economic development, city management etc. We must learn how to use the strengths that the jurisdiction has and overcome the weaknesses by filling in gaps. We need to build bridges with other jurisdictions, and the county. Why do we do it, because in a large-scale disaster, we cannot handle it on our own, no matter how large of a city you may work for. Super Storm Sandy, Katrina,  are good examples of large jurisdictions that could not handle the disaster on their own.

What are your “go-to” publications in the field? Crisis Response Journal, Journal of Emergency Management are the two that I use.

What do you consider the most valuable resource on your bookshelf? I have about 600 books in my personal library. Right now, I would say that I reference Black Wave and Building Resilience both by Daniel Aldrich the most. I also have some great leadership books that I use when I am writing as well.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in EM? Build strong relationships.

How did you learn it? When I was working on nuclear power planning issues, it was great to have people to lean on when I questions. Without that support I would have been lost at times.

What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten when you were starting out? When you walk in the room listen, be the fly on the wall, and take it all in.

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

  • Write, learn to write well.
  • Read, do not stop reading, set time aside every day to read.
  • Find a mentor, an “old EM” and develop that relationship.

If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what steps should they take? I would not want anyone to follow my footsteps, I learned by making mistakes, however, I am happy with my results.

What are some things that new EM practitioners can do that would be applicable across the EM spectrum? Expand your knowledge, do not focus only on emergency management, learn economics, learn land use, learn planning, lean what the needs of local business are, and learn how insurance works for individuals.

What message would you like to convey to the EM community as a whole? Emergency managers are becoming better, they are more educated, have a broader understanding of issues and challenges that are facing our communities today.  Emergency management can no longer be a collateral duty assigned to an untrained individual.  We need to develop a body of academic research, and we need to have stronger emergency management centric education.

To learn more about Todd De Voe, visit his blog. You can also follow him on LinkedInTwitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also check out his EMWeekly podcast, which brings news, interviews discussing trends and issues that impact Emergency Management, First Responder’s, military, education, public safety, communications, disaster volunteer organizations, public health, humanitarian groups, NGOs, professionals, students, and researchers.

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