What is the Day-to-Day Job of an Emergency Management Director?

emergency management
emergency management

The climate change crisis has impacted Canada tremendously, warming the nation at twice the average global rate and increasing the likelihood of forest fires, flooding and drought.[i]  Beyond natural disasters, man-made emergencies such as hazardous waste spills, riots, and acts of terror warrant the need for diligent emergency personnel. Canada’s safety relies on knowledgeable experts, including emergency management directors, tasked with planning how to respond when disaster strikes. Wilfrid Laurier University’s online Master of Public Safety program and Graduate Diploma in Emergency Management help active professionals advance in the field.

In this post, we’ll attempt to answer the question “What does an emergency management director do?” by examining the day-to-day life of an industry professional.

Emergency Management Director: An Overview 

While many Emergency Management Directors (EMDs) are employed by the federal or provincial government, there is an increasing number of private-sector careers in emergency management, particularly in healthcare and the resource extraction industry. While the details of their duties vary considerably depending on where they are employed, some responsibilities are common across most jobs in the field, governmental or private: 

  • Conduct assessments  (or consult existing research) of risk factors and develop plans accordingly. These plans typically detail approaches to risk prevention, emergency response and public education.
  • Establish relationships with the stakeholders affected by these risks, including the government, private industry, local residents and other public safety agencies (ex. police and fire).
  • Set up classroom sessions and emergency drills for first responders, staff and community members to ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
  • Ensure that key facilities and resources, such as safety equipment, are kept in good working order. This might entail conducting inspections.
  • Coordinate response in the event of an emergency, ensuring that all responders are following established plans and procedures.
  • Perform damage assessments following an incident and evaluate the effectiveness of the existing procedures. Where did they succeed? Where did they fail? How can they be improved in the future to further mitigate harms?[ii] [iii] 

What is the Career Outlook for Emergency Management Directors? 

Job Outlook 

Emergency management is an increasingly popular field due to the climate factors we mentioned earlier, as well as the pressures of a steadily growing population. Employment trends in Canada are consistent. Additionally, the US job market for EMDs is expected to grow by roughly 8% between 2016 and 2026, or about on par with other occupations.[iv] 


Although salaries fluctuate depending on location and designated job title, the potential for increased earnings is consistent with higher-level positions in the industry. On average, emergency management jobs earn about CAD $76,343, with more senior positions averaging $129,782.[v] This roughly accords with the United States Bureau of Labor’s finding that Stateside emergency management directors earn an average of USD $74,420 (CAD $97,306).[vi] 

The Day-to-Day Work of an Emergency Management Director

EMDs often split their time between working in an office and in the field. The profession is like many senior management roles that involve strategic planning and coordinating teams. Between drafting and disseminating documents, scheduling meetings and conferences, and helping develop educational and public relations-related resources, an EMD will log ample time at the desk. 

However, unlike many senior managers, EMDs also spend quite a bit of time in the field. This is particularly true when their jurisdiction includes remote wilderness regions. It’s important to spend time on the ground, observing local conditions and getting to know stakeholders and peers in the region. One of the most important roles of an emergency management director is running practice drills (or mock emergencies) to test response times and to witness plans in action. These drills allow the director to identify unforeseen issues, amend procedures accordingly, and to help responders improve their performance. 

During emergencies, a director will always spend most of his/her time working in the command centre because they must always be available to colleagues with questions. This command centre may be remote, located in a federal hub or HQ, or situated in a local facility. 

What Do Emergency Management Directors Need to Know? 

EMDs require a mixture of practical experience and higher education. The academic rigour of Laurier’s online Master of Public Safety program teaches the principles of emergency management with a curriculum aligned with the objectives and responsibilities of Public Safety Canada. To learn more about how you can advance your career and keep Canada safe, get your program guide today or set up a call with an enrolment advisor on your schedule.



[i]       Government of Canada. Natural hazards. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/policing/emergencies/hazards.html

[ii]      Environmental Careers Organization of Canada. Emergency Manager. https://www.eco.ca/career-profiles/emergency-manager/

[iii]     United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Emergency Management Directors: Occupational Outlook Handbook. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/emergency-management-directors.htm#tab-2

[iv]     Ibid.

[v]      Neuvoo. Emergency Management Salary. https://neuvoo.ca/salary/?job=Emergency%20Management

[vi]     United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.