Whether at the federal, state, or local level, emergency management remains a relevant issue, with communities across the globe working to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters and terrorist attacks. Increasingly complex natural hazards, disasters and emergencies must be handled by a number of competent and highly skilled professionals, including emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, management specialists and, of course, public health professionals. All of these professionals must work together to take charge and handle any type of crisis situation that may arise.
The Job Description of Public Health Professionals Working in Emergency Management
Public health professionals are a very significant component of the emergency management team, as these professionals serve to address a number of issues related to natural and manmade disaster response.
In particular, public health professionals, within a disaster medical assistance team, coordinate a number of activities, including:
- Patient evacuation
- Food and drug safety
- Victim identification and mortuary services
- Toxicological assessments
- Provision of healthcare/medical personnel, equipment, and supplies
- Environmental and communicable disease control
- Assessment of health and medical needs
- Hospital care coordination
- Radiological, chemical and biological hazards
- Mental health and crisis counseling
- Public health information
Public Health Careers in Emergency Management
Public health professionals are required at all stages of response and recovery during a natural or manmade disaster, so many different types of public healthcare professionals may be called upon to provide services to victims during these times of crisis:
- Public Health Advisor
- Public Health Dentist
- Public Health Nurse
- Public Health Inspector
- Outreach Worker
- Public Health Physician/Medic
- Public Health Planner
- Environmental Health Technician
- Public Health Nutritionist
- Public Health Specialist
- Radiological Health Specialist
- Water Resource Specialist
- Environmental Health Specialist
- Public Health Administrator
- Internal Health Specialist
- Health Educator
- Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
- Laboratory Specialist
- Food Safety Specialist
- Mental Health Counselor
Public health professionals in emergency management often work as paid consultants for hospitals, police departments, fire departments, and emergency medical services departments. They are also found within health departments, local community governments, governmental agencies (including the military), nonprofit relief agencies, such as the American Red Cross, and private companies, such as hospitals, oil companies, and airlines.
Although salary and employment statistics vary among public health jobs, these skilled professionals often enjoy competitive pay and benefits.
Degrees and Training for Public Health Professionals in Emergency Management
In addition to possessing skills in their individual professions, public health professionals in emergency management must bring a specific skillset to their jobs. In particular, they must have excellent teamwork skills; they must be able to act calmly under very stressful conditions; and they must have excellent oral and written communication skills.
Further, these professionals must have specific emergency management training in addition to their medical skills, which is often gained through a degree or certificate in emergency management. It is through these programs that public health professionals gain a deeper understanding of:
- Emergency plans, emergency response training, and warning systems
- Planning principles and techniques
- Laws and regulations associated with crisis situations
In addition to seeking a separate degree in emergency management, many public health professionals choose to focus their graduate degree on emergency management. Many colleges of public health provide these emergency management-focused programs for public health professionals.
Also offered as graduate certificates or continuing professional education programs, emergency management programs for public health professionals are designed to allow these professionals to acquire the skills needed to provide a coordinated health response to disasters and humanitarian emergencies.
Coursework is focused on the areas of occupational health and safety, crisis management, disaster preparation, and environmental issues.
Just a few of the courses offered in these programs include:
- Radiological Emergency Planning: Terrorism, Security, and Communication
- Effective Risk Communication: Theory, Tools, and Practice Skills for Communicating About Risk
- Management and Leadership Skills for Environmental Health and Safety Professionals
- Analyzing Risk: Principles, Concepts, and Applications
Resources for Public Health Professionals in Emergency Management
- American Public Health Association
- Association of Schools of Public Health
- Council on Education for Public Health
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Department of Homeland Security