Careers for Disaster Research Specialists in Emergency Management

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The disaster research specialist, also known as the disaster information specialist, ensures that communication during times of disaster or crisis remains intact. Disaster research specialists, in particular, are an essential part of the emergency management team, as they provide critical information on relevant topics, including health information, when it is urgently needed in times of a disaster.

Disaster research specialists are information professionals, such as librarians, who may be needed at any time, from the preparation phase to the recovery phase. They are the information professionals who form a hub, as they know where the information is located and they know how to access it. Although librarians will never become full-time disaster research and information providers, many learn the core competencies required to do so, therefore being of assistance whenever needed.

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The Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC)

The Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC), through the National Library of Medicine, which was created in 2008 with the mission of providing disaster research specialists, such as librarians, with the health resources needed to provide information to emergency management specialists during a natural or manmade disaster or crisis, works to bring together disaster research specialists and disaster and emergency responders.

For example, during a crisis involving hazardous materials or radiation, disaster research specialists may provide critical information to first responders regarding such topics.

Disaster research specialists are also often called upon to do everything from track mission persons to contacting family members and helping individuals fill out claims forms following a disaster. Because the recovery phase from a disaster can last weeks, even months, these professionals may be needed for extended periods.

The National Library of Medicine is currently involved in expanding the role of disaster research specialist jobs and promoting awareness that any librarian can serve in this capacity during a disaster.

The DIMRC is committed to accomplishing a number of things, including:

  • Ensures health information on patients is accessible during disasters
  • Development of innovative products and services to serve health professionals and the public
  • Performs research that contributes to health information management (HIM) during a disaster
  • Collaboration with relevant agencies and community representatives

The DIMRC has worked to create an international disaster health information listserv (DISASTR-OUTREACH-LIB), which allows individuals to share information with one another. This listserv now has more than 600 members.

The Disaster Information Model Curriculum

The Disaster Information Model Curriculum, which was developed by the National Library of Medicine DIMRC, provides the framework for librarians and other professionals seeking jobs as disaster research specialists.

This model curriculum, which is often adapted and adopted by a number of organizations seeking to provide training on disaster information services, is based on reviews and assessment conducted by the National Library of Medicine. It proposes education certificates at both the basic and advanced levels, with a requirement of at least 15 contact hours at the basic level and 12 contact hours at the advanced level.

Individuals who complete this curriculum should be able to do a number of things:

  • Recognize the psychological and sociological impact of disasters and emergencies
  • Understand the role of information professionals in disasters and emergencies
  • Recognize organizations involved in disasters and emergencies
  • Understand communications systems during disasters and emergencies
  • Understand the technology used during disasters and emergencies
  • Implement outreach programs for responders and the public
  • Understand the legal and ethical for populations in disasters and emergencies
  • Understand how to use emergency information systems, including health information systems

Some of the courses within the model curriculum include:

  • Disaster Health Information Sources: The Basics
  • Resources for Disaster Preparedness and Response
  • Roadmap to Disaster Health Resources and Tools
  • Information Roles in Disaster Management
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS), an Introduction
  • Introduction to the Incident Command System
  • Ethical and Legal Aspects of Disaster Response

Resources for Disaster Research Specialists

Individuals can learn more about Disaster Research Specialists and the DIMRC by visiting the National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health).

More information on disaster research specialist jobs and salary statistics can be found by visiting:

The American Library Association

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