Online Emergency Management Programs: What You Learn And Why It Matters

Online Emergency Management Programs: What You Learn And Why It Matters
Online Emergency Management Programs: What You Learn And Why It Matters

Emergency preparation and response is a year-round responsibility, which is why more public safety professionals are seeking online emergency management diplomas than ever before.

These programs are designed for those already working in public safety or emergency management jobs who want to improve their credentials. Their day-to-day work is often too critical to take time off to study, or their postings too remote to attend classes on-campus. In an online diploma program, you can take courses at your own pace, acquiring skills that you can apply on the job immediately.

We want to answer some of the most common questions we receive about online emergency management diplomas in this post, such as:

  • What does “emergency” actually mean in a public safety context?
  • What do you learn in an online emergency management diploma program?
  • What emergency management jobs are available to graduates?
  • How do I apply for an online emergency management diploma?

What Does “Emergency” Mean in a Public Safety Context?

First, let’s look at what we mean by an “emergency.” Here’s how it’s defined in Canada’s National Emergency Response System summary:

“A present or imminent event that requires prompt coordination of actions concerning persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people, or to limit damage to property or the environment” (source).

Looking further into the same document provides some more specific examples of emergencies:

  • Natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and ice storms
  • Public health emergencies, such as viral pandemics
  • Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive attacks

What we can gather from this is that emergency management jobs are concerned with incidents that affect a broad cross-section of the public (whether on a local, regional, or national scale). Public Safety Canada divides these responsibilities into four quadrants:

  • Disaster Mitigation and Prevention: Proactive measures, such as mapping natural and manmade hazards and building infrastructure that mitigates the risk of said hazards.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Developing plans to deal with emergencies, training stakeholders, and conducting drills and exercises.
  • Responding to Emergency Events: Executing plans, and coordinating public, private and non-governmental organization (NGO) response.
  • Recovery from Disasters: Assistance programs to facilitate rebuilding and repair (source).

You can think of these quadrants as a cycle, with prevention laying the groundwork for preparedness; preparedness dictating response; response transitioning into recovery efforts; recovery focusing on prevention of future crises.

Success in an emergency management job depends on understanding this interconnectivity, and the relationships between the practitioners and stakeholders involved in dealing with disasters.

What Do You Learn in an Online Emergency Management Diploma Program?

Keeping Canadians safe from a disaster requires cooperation from a range of people: healthcare, fire and police, the military, civil servants and community members. Public safety professionals are the glue that holds this apparatus together.

An online diploma in emergency management from Laurier will help you see the bigger picture, teaching you to understand how everyday decisions impact the public safety ecosystem as a whole. This includes:

  • Analyzing the individual and inter-agency roles that public safety services at all levels of government and private organizations follow to protect citizens in times of natural and/or human-made disasters.
  • Examining the history and origins of emergency planning and management through the lens of various public safety jurisdictions.
  • Designing solutions to meet potential challenges, constraints and barriers to effective and integrated emergency planning and preparedness.

These are the insights leaders need, which is why most senior emergency management jobs now require advanced academic credentials. In combination with the experience you’ve gained on the job as a public safety professional, an online emergency management diploma completes the picture of a qualified candidate for promotion.

While course curricula will vary from one school to another, we can broadly divide what you can expect to learn into two categories: emergency management planning and interagency disaster management.

Emergency Management Planning

Emergency Management Planning

No disaster happens in a vacuum. Nor should the response to a disaster ever be unilateral. A central concept you will learn through an online emergency management diploma from Laurier is the all-hazard approach to planning.

An all-hazard approach suggests that, while there are many different types of hazards -- biological, technological, environmental -- all hazards tend to affect society and emergency response systems in similar ways. Public Safety Canada (PSC) discusses the concept’s origin in its All Hazards Risk Assessment Methodology (AHRA) Guidelines:

“As risks often cross boundaries and [agency] mandates, an effective means to deal with them is through a horizontal approach. […] When viewed from this perspective, the ownership of risks is more often than not shared across the mandates of Ministers, or even across jurisdictions.

Therefore, a coordinated approach is required to manage risks effectively by assessing them using the same methodology and then treating them through a collaborative approach that recognizes the interdependencies amongst ministerial mandates. The AHRA process is premised on the assumption that risks are co-owned and co-managed” (source).

In other words, a major catastrophe is everyone’s challenge, and responsibility should be shared by all who are in a position to help. An online emergency management diploma ensures that you are familiar with this multidisciplinary approach used by PSC and other disaster response leaders:

  • Explore the history and origins of emergency planning and management through the lens of various public safety jurisdictions.
  • Prioritize and apply risk assessment concepts and strategies to scenarios drawn from recent real-life emergencies.
  • Analyze and design solutions to the potential barriers to effective and integrated emergency planning and preparedness.
  • Learn about the concept of institutional “resiliency” in emergency planning and how it can ensure long-term sustainability.

By the end of your studies in Laurier’s online diploma program, you’ll be able to evaluate various emergency management responses with considerable insight. Your ability to evaluate their effectiveness and propose improvements will help you stand out from the rank and file.

Inter-Agency Disaster Management

Inter-Agency Disaster Management

What are the practical roles and responsibilities of public safety services responding to a crisis? What should you do when you walk onto a mass disaster scene, and how do the various agencies on the ground work together? Who takes precedence? What mutual resources can be called upon?

You will learn essential lessons about the interactions of fire, police, emergency medical services, military and other services on topics such as:

  • scene control
  • preparedness
  • response priorities
  • risk mitigation
  • tiered response systems

These lessons will be driven by historical case studies that reveal what went right (and wrong) in previous disaster scenarios. In the process, you will also learn a great deal about each service.

Each has its own unique training, education, policies and expertise, which provides plenty of opportunity for critical review and comparison. These characteristics may mean different agencies are better suited to central or supporting roles.

Because the particularities of every disaster, such as geography, timing and scale are also unique, understanding how each service is expected to contribute makes for rigorous investigation, review of best practices and evidence-based research.

An online emergency management diploma from Laurier provides you with the critical-thinking framework you need to answer these questions. This is a skill set that you will use to develop your own policies and to guide your communication with other agencies when you’ve taken on a leadership role of your own.

By the end of your studies, you’ll be prepared to:

  • Command personnel at a mass disaster scene.
  • Prepare and evaluate action plans.
  • Design and debate ways to improve how different agencies cooperate during preparatory and response phases of disaster management.
What Emergency Management Jobs are Available to Graduates?

What Emergency Management Jobs are Available to Graduates?

An online emergency management diploma can lead to new possibilities as a public safety professional. In this section, we’ll look at emergency management jobs available in the public and private sectors.

Last year on the blog we took a deep dive into the day-to-day life of an emergency management director. For those who missed it, we’ll give you a quick recap:

  • Potential Salary: The median annual salary for emergency management directors in Canada is $73,345, with more experienced workers earning as much as $107,759 according to a survey by job site Neuvoo (source). In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found the average was comparable, at USD $74,420 (roughly CAD $105,000 as of April 2020).
  • Workplaces/Industries: There are emergency management jobs for directors in a variety of settings, including governments (federal, provincial and local); hospitals; universities; extractive industry (such as mining and oil); and corporate offices.
  • Day-to-Day Experience: Each day on the job for an emergency management director (EMD) will vary. Some aspects of this career will be familiar to any office-dweller: attending meetings; drafting reports; doing research; disseminating information to the public; managing subordinates. One of the things that makes the job unique, however, is the amount of time an EMD will spend in the field. This may be necessary to become familiar with the area being managed or to participate in preparedness drills and simulations.

In the event of an actual emergency, an emergency management director will also be a crucial cog in their employer’s response. This may involve working from a command centre or heading toward the front lines to personally supervise the execution of the plan.

Other Jobs in Emergency Management

While we don’t have exact statistics on the current number of EMDs in Canada, we can use statistics from the US as a comparison. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of 2018 there were just under 10,000 emergency management directors working in the country (source).

However, this dramatically understates the number of professions that rely on what you’ll learn in an online emergency management diploma. Some organizations which deal extensively with disasters have multiple EM roles, like the Red Cross, which employs junior emergency management coordinators.

There are also specialists and consultants who work with organizations in an advisory capacity. These help NGOs, municipalities, and companies that need EM expertise, but don’t require a full-time hire.

Consultants provide insight into matters such as:

  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Identifying potential hazards and assessing vulnerabilities.
  • Developing disaster response plans that harmonize with local and federal procedures.
  • Training and continuing emergency management education for current employees.
  • The latest academic research and best practices in the field.

In addition, many public safety professionals choose to pursue an online emergency management diploma because they have specifically been directed to do so by their superiors. There are many management roles in fire departments, EMS, search-and-rescue services, and other services that require a strong foundation in emergency management.

How Do I Apply for an Online Emergency Management Diploma?

How Do I Apply for an Online Emergency Management Diploma?

If you’re curious about what higher education in emergency management can do for your career, there are several programs out there. We advise you to do your research to find the one that fits most closely with your professional goals.

Wilfrid Laurier University’s online graduate diploma in Emergency Management is a unique post-graduate credential that can be completed in as few as 16 months. The program was designed by experienced public safety professionals and aligns with Public Safety Canada’s current standards and practices.

Laurier’s graduate diploma is a useful standalone credential that can also be applied toward the requirements of a Master of Public Safety degree if you choose to pursue further education. Either way, Laurier’s graduate diploma in Emergency Management puts you in an optimal position to benefit both now and in the future.

If you’d like to learn about our program, click here to read more and contact one of our enrolment advisors. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may still have and to provide you with a brochure where you can take a closer look at our curriculum.