The leaders of our emergency world are at an interesting crossroads right now. The more I become submersed into this fascinating and exciting career, the more I see just how different it is from any other. And I’m not talking different based on just what we do. I’m talking different based on the how and the who!
Emergency management is unlike many professions because the formal education and training for this field has really only excelled in the last 10 years or so. Prior to that, our profession was dominated, and arguably still is, by people who really know their stuff because they DID their stuff. And they did it for years.
Fast forward several years and you begin to see the rise of a younger generation of professionals who bring training, theory, and unique perspective to an exceptionally experienced table.
Why is this of any bloggable value? Because I believe if we don’t acknowledge what is merging in our profession right now on all sides, we will miss the only opportunity in this field to combine the best of both worlds.
I absolutely love getting to know the “good ol’ boys” as they are sometimes referred to in my area. The things they’ve seen and done, the experiences, they’re just invaluable! Disasters are selective. They choose when and where they’ll hit and we just sort of deal with it and try to sort through the response in an after action report. The guys who have worked in first response their whole lives and become integrated (or “voluntold”) into emergency management are basically walking after action reports. But instead of sifting through notes, I have the opportunity to ask questions and dig deeper. And the return value for my time spent asking those questions is perfectly competitive with my time spent studying books, reading theory and completing training.
And it goes both ways.
Over the last several years, those of us who have been working towards higher education in emergency management have also had some chances to gain real-world experience. At the same time, those with all of the experience have started participating in formalized training and furthering their own higher education.
So that leaves us to decide what to do with this meeting point. In years to come, we will lose the vast amount of experience that saturates our current networks, and though we will have experiences of our own, it won’t replace or replicate what is already here. Everyone who enters emergency management will likely have been formally trained as education makes candidates more competitive. The profession may become less dominated by the fire chief of 20 years (a total generalization, I know) and captured by a rising generation.
What we have, RIGHT NOW, is the opportunity to marry the energy, excitement and education of the rising professionals with the knowledge, experience and oversight of the veterans. The opportunity to learn from each other to pass along key lessons and strengthen the network, or hold animosity towards one another over which is more important: education or experience.
It feels pretty special knowing your profession is at a pivotal moment where it is deciding what it will become. I hate that it’s taken us so many disasters to get here, but I love recognizing big changes so I don’t forget to take advantage of them before it’s too late.