Second Careers in Emergency Management

As much as we all might love or hate being a law enforcement officer, all good things must come to an end. Since many law enforcement agencies offer retirement at an earlier age than the private sector, we are afforded the opportunity to start a new, second career. If you have been involved with emergency management while active with your current department, your transition may be that much smoother to an emergency management job, whether it be to the private sector or another government agency.

After the attacks of September 11th, there has been a rapid growth in the emergency management field, and now Homeland Security, for qualified professionals. These positions are a natural for those who have been involved in this work for a period of time before they retire. The knowledge and skills possessed by those who use them on a daily basis are highly desirable beyond the police department.

How do you get involved with emergency management in your department? First you can ask for that assignment or even volunteer for it. When I first got involved with emergency management in my department in the late 1980s, people thought that I was crazy. At that time emergency management was thought of as a punishment detail that only dealt with hurricanes and plane crashes. Terrorism only happened "over there." Now emergency management work is considered a choice assignment with the potential for real career advancement and promotion potential. Some law enforcement agencies are the lead agency for emergency management in their jurisdictions. Two examples of this are in New Jersey. The New Jersey State Police is in charge of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and the Bergen County Police Department is in charge of the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management.

If you are with a small agency that does not have a full time emergency management position, you may be able to be the liaison to your city's Office of Emergency Management or get involved with the OEM in the town in which you reside.

Once you get involved with emergency management, you will be able to start attending training courses and conferences on emergency management, Homeland Security and Business Continuity. Don't be put off by the name of "emergency management." Today these classes and conferences are a blend of all different disciplines and the knowledge can be used on a daily basis in law enforcement, such as the Incident Command System course. At these functions you can start to develop one of the most important assets that will help you in your search for a new career, your professional network. No matter how impressive your resume may be, without your network it may be very difficult to get that first interview to impress your potential new boss.

By joining professional organizations, such as the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), and attending their functions you will hear first hand of the latest openings for emergency managers. You will soon find out that your skills are not just limited to emergency management or Homeland Security employment opportunities, but also may be needed in business continuity. Even before the attacks of September 11th, the business world was learning that each of its separate disciplines of security, safety and business continuity could not successfully function on its own but had to work together in order for them to obtain the maximum results at the time of an incident. Business continuity is not just making sure the computer network keeps running during an outage, but the whole business enterprise is addressed. The four phases of emergency management: Planning, Response, Recovery and Mitigation also apply in the private sector, even though they may be called by different names.

Some of the possible jobs that are available are:

  • Emergency Manager, whether for a government agency or a private business, this person would oversee the entire emergency management program
  • Emergency Planner for the Federal, State or local government. This position is also in the private sector
  • Emergency Response Specialist, though mostly involved with the public sector, private consulting firms are offering this service to their clients to manage a crisis situation
  • Business Continuity Planner, analyzing a business's operation and planning how to prevent and recover from a business interruption

As you can see, some of these positions mirror the phases of emergency management. Conduct an online job search using the term "emergency management" and you may be surprised with the number and type of jobs that the search returns.

One of the benefits of seeking a second career is the flexibility of working either full-time, part-time or project-to-project as a consultant. If you are covered with health insurance into retirement you may wish to work for a higher salary and waive that benefit. If you don't have health insurance you may wish to seek a position that offers that benefit. Another advantage of emergency management work is that the salary is often that of primary employment, where the security field is often considered as a supplement to a pension and is compensated accordingly.

Being involved with emergency management while you are still on the police department not only allows you to add value to your current duties, it may also help prepare you for a second career. The saying "when one door closes another opens" can truly apply to you.