Rick Schumacher served as a PSYOP Team Leader in Northern Iraq (2003-2004). He is a graduate of the Hauptmann School of Public Affairs with a MPA in Disaster and Emergency Management. He is a Tillman Military Scholar and is developing the Community Vanguard Initiative, a veteran-focused organization centered on community engagement in emergency management.
Networking opportunities can be found in many different focus areas, concentrated on industry, region, and even race/national origin, gender, and age. Each of these focused networking events brings together similar types of individuals. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you want to take away from the experience. I have had my fair share of networking experiences, mostly with negative results.
As almost anyone who has deployed to a disaster as part of an emergency response team can attest, there are striking similarities between combat operations and emergency response. There are potentially life and death decisions to be made and often considerable damage that needs immediate attention. There is mass confusion and need for continued presence of mind. There are multiple organizations traversing and working in the same area that need to be deconflicted. There is usually a lack of consolidated command, control and communication.
Many people have the impression that emergency management is encompassed in the flashing lights and oscillating sirens of fire engines and other emergency response vehicles. However, if we look at the sector from a higher elevation, we can see that the issues of emergency management cut across many different disciplines and matters. My personal focus is related to how hazard risks affect socially vulnerable populations (lower socio-economic communities, the elderly, those less able to easily communicate, etc.) at a higher rate than more socially stable and affluent populations.
The emergency management field can provide extensive career opportunities for transitioning veterans in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. Some titles that may interest veterans seeking a new career include continuity of operations specialist, preparedness specialist, emergency management specialist, training and exercise manager, and mitigation planner, to name just a few. Because contemporary emergency management comes from the lineage of civil defense, military experience can act as a core element for excelling in this field. However, focusing on being a first responder may not be the best option. The more expansive your search for positions in other aspects of emergency management, the more likely you will have success.