The Role of Urban Planners in Emergency Management

Urban planners have a rather broad job scope, as they can be involved in any number of activities related to the growth of an urban area, including planning for times of disaster or crisis.

They may make recommendations regarding the use of community land; they often work on policies regarding low-income housing; and they may work to identify ways to attract employers to an area, such as factories, officers and shopping centers. They also often consider the creation and availability of transportation facilities within an urban area, and they often work with other professionals, such as civil engineers, to ensure that the basic infrastructure of an urban area, including sewer and water, is adequate and suitable as a community grows.

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The Urban Planner in Emergency Planning and Disaster Readiness

The major focus of urban planners is to keep an eye on the future. Because they are responsible for anticipating the needs of an urban community in upcoming years, emergency management and preparing for a natural or manmade disaster is a natural offshoot of this profession.

Any type of urban development or redevelopment calls for urban planners who are tasked with ensuring citizens are not placed at risk during a disaster. Urban planners must consider all aspects of emergency management, including risk assessment and hazard vulnerability, throughout all phases of planning and development.

For example, urban planners must consider the effect of large-scale urban and industrial projects. Often referred to as “hazardousness of place,” urban planners must consider restricting land use as to protect citizens from disasters.

They may also be called upon to improve the urban infrastructure for emergency management personnel. For example, they may need to consider evacuation routes, the location of hospitals and fire stations, or an improved road system.

Job Opportunities in Urban Planning and Emergency Management

According to the American Planning Association, about two-thirds of all urban planners work in areas of government, including city and county governments, regional planning agencies, and metropolitan planning boards. They also often work for state and federal agencies, including:

  • The Department of Transportation
  • The Federal Emergency Management Association
  • The National Park Service
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • Housing and Urban Development

The American Planning Association notes that the fastest growing segment of the urban planning profession is in the private sector, with 27 percent of all planners surveyed by the American Planning Association reporting they held jobs with private consulting firms and private developers.

Degrees in Urban Planning

The majority of urban planners possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in urban and regional planning, although many urban planners possess a master’s degree from an accredited college or university in urban and regional planning or a major recognized by the American Planning Association.

Urban Planning Job and Salary Forecasts and Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the number of planning jobs is expected to increase 15 percent between 2006 and 2016, while U.S. News and World Report ranked the urban planner as one of the “best careers” in 2009.

The American Planning Association’s 2012 Planners Salary Survey revealed that the annual, average salary for a full-time urban planner was $71,000, with the top 25 percent earning an average, annual salary of $95,200. Urban planners with professional certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners earned, on average, $16,000 more than non-AICP members.

The top-paying states for urban planners, according to median salary, according to the 2012 survey, were:

  • District of Columbia $90,100
  • California $90,000
  • Nevada $86,200
  • New Jersey $84,500
  • Connecticut $80,000

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