Any Advice for an aspiring Emergency Preparedness professional?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  elena rapisardi 8 years ago.

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  • #101902

    Brian Bovaird
    Participant

    Hello everybody! I am brand new to govloop, although I hear about it ALL THE TIME from Mary Davie, and thought I would start this thread with the hope for some feedback. I am currently a professional firefighter in Baltimore City looking to make a career progression into emergency preparedness and planning within the Federal Government. While I am also open to the private sector, most of my family works for the Federal Government and it seems like it would be a good fit for me as well. I am interested in staying in the DC/Baltimore region and know that there are lots of opportunities. Obviously FEMA is a good place to begin my search, and I also understand that a lot of agencies and centers have in house experts to create and manage issues such as continuity of operations planning (COOP), all-hazards preparedness, and disaster exercises. This is the type of work that I am interested in pursuing. Some of the questions that I have are:

    • What is the scoop on USA Jobs? Is this a good host of opportunities or a waste of my time?
    • I have a business administration degree and I am interested in getting a Masters in Emergency Planning, should I start now and attempt to take advantage of some type of coop hire or wait until I find a position and negotiate education reimbursement?
    • Does anyone know of any individuals involved in this field that would be willing to take a few minutes and chat with me about making myself more marketable and navigating some of the challenges of “cracking the shell” into the world of the Federal government?
    Thank you all for taking the time and effort to consider my questions and I look forward to exploring this website and all of the material it has to offer!
  • #101920

    elena rapisardi
    Participant

    Hi Brian
    Unfortunately I am not a US citizen.
    But I am working on issues related to civil protection, web 2.0, crowdsourcing.
    here is my linked in profile http://it.linkedin.com/in/elenarapisardi
    if you think that it could be of any interest please contact me.we can have a skype talk.

    Kindly,

    elena

  • #101918

    Chris Bennett
    Participant

    Hi Brian. Great questions! I just posted a blog about preparedness on GovLoop today in fact: http://bit.ly/CB2-Hurricane

    My advice:

    1. Take initiative to improve your own town’s emergency preparedness resources. Baltimore’s page (http://bit.ly/ccQ1Lb) has some good resources, but you could do better, right? Make it more accessible to the public? Focus on a particular ethnic group in the city? Do something for children? Make a “Prepare Baltimore” blog, etc. You don’t need to be a techie to do it – it’s more of a time and energy effort but it will get you recognized and accelerate your career goal. I made OneStorm.org because Ready.gov sucked and that started my career in emergency management.

    2. Join mailing lists, LinkedIn Groups, and other online collaboration spaces like this Discuss Business Continuity One (http://bit.ly/bFiBn5). Make sure to introduce yourself and pose the same questions you did on GovLoop there. Keep in touch with people who respond to you.

    3. Attend conferences, meetups, etc. when you can and network with people actually doing these jobs. There are lots of these events, especially in the northeast. Be bold and ask a vendor to get you in. We do it all the time for people to save them money (shh).

    4. Contact people directly that you find on GovLoop or elsewhere. Again, be bold. If you e-mail people like Max Mayfield, Michael Brown, etc. who held high-ranking jobs in the field, they will respond. Also, use LinkedIn to find business continuity managers of companies in your town, then ask them to lunch – just explain you’re not selling anything 🙂

    5. Email Steve Lewis of Boyton Beach Fire Rescue, FL (LewisSM AT bbfl.us) with your question and mention my name. Steve has taken the professional emergency management track and would have more focused career advice than I could offer on things like when to pursue your masters.

    6. Lurk on CrisisCommons.org and get to know the people involved.

    Good luck and hit me up anytime!

  • #101916

    Noel Carr
    Participant

    I’m a volunteer EMT in Sterling and I’ve thought about that career path as well. I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.

  • #101914

    R. Rudy Evenson
    Participant

    Hi Brian,

    Chris Bennett gave you some good advice, so I second everything he said.

    But first—

    What are you thinking????

    I worked at Golden Gate Natl Rec Area in SF for 8 years. It’s the only national park with its own structural fire department, which is located on the Presidio. (Yes I know there are plenty of parks with structural fire programs, like Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Lake Mead, but it’s not the same. Ask anyone.) Anyway, the Presidio–like the US Park Police SF Field Office–is essentially a training program for Bay Area local departments. New hires come in, get trained, work a couple years, then go into the local departments where they can make more money and have more of an impact. I reckon Baltimore is a pretty big organization, but if you can get into a smaller municipality or county outfit, you will have much more leeway to actually improve things than you will in any federal agency.

    That’s why I like the first thing that Chris had to say when he told you to focus on what you can do in your current department first. That may lead you into some good things.

    I would also say you should really look at what you want to accomplish before you decide to go into federal service. There is a lot more difference among all the various agencies than you might think. Although emergency services tends to be more of an interagency arena than a lot of fields, the really tight networks are still pretty agency-specific. Plus there are emergency planning opportunities in a lot of agencies besides FEMA.

    Feel free to call me anytime if you want to follow up on this. There are a lot of NPS opportunities near Baltimore as well.

    Good luck!

    Rudy

  • #101912

    Eileen Kent
    Participant

    Hi Brian, As a contractor to the government helping FEMA and agencies with products and services, I have found everyone at FEMA to be very approachable in the sense of asking for assistance as you did in this posting. If you give your area regional Administrator a call and ask them to “Point me in the right direction,” I’m sure they’d be happy to chat with you for 5 minutes. Most people I’ve found in the government are more than happy to give career advice and assistance. They know how tough it is getting in and they are looking for hardworking, dedicated people just like you.

    Here is a link to your region’s FEMA office: http://www.fema.gov/about/regions/regioniii/index.shtm

    Good Luck!

    Eileen

  • #101910

    Hi Brian, I am encouraged to see someone who wants to get into the fray.. I am an emergency manager working for the Feds, Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (we do water and power for the western US). You asked about USA JOBs. That was what I used when I got my position here, but those positions seem to be advertised under several different postings so you will have to read through a few. I work with high and significant dams, like Shasta, Folsom and so on here in Calif, and a few in Oregon and Nevada. We do a lot of exercises to constantly review our procedures and practice our steps and re-evaluate our emergency action plans, but the rewards are good pay and respect.
    If you plan to get into the EM world take every course you can get your hands on, learn all you can from the free courses that FEMA offers and any local training. Suggested courses are already identified in FEMA’s Five Year Plan, IS-100, 200, 700, and 800 to start, then for mid and upper level the 300 and 400 classes will be needed. They also have a course for the Professional Development series that include a few more courses that will aid you. You will also need to concentrate on the 700 series courses that are or will be available soon. Most of the college courses I have looked at rehash the same material, but they offer a paper degree. You really need to gain experience in EM to truely be effective. All the course work in the world won’t help if you don’t get some hands on experience. Volunteer in your community. Seek out job shadowing. Look at communities like IAEM, where you can get more information and assistance from your peers.
    I see many opportunities comming, with disasters like the one in the gulf, past disasters like 911 have brought our profession to the front and I can only see growth in this field. We are basically the ground floor, and the more issues that come up, the more the need for EMs becomes clear. The states have their own emergency managers as do the cities and counties, much like our fed brothers and sisters, and with the increase in empahsis for required training to receive grants and reimbursment, the EM field won’t be going away any time soon.
    The replies that you have received already have given you a good direction to head, starting where your at is the way to go and then expand outward. Look for ways to shine by developing a needed program, or identify a group that needs help and practice some of the skills you pick up…. Cert teams, help not only the community but increases your visibility to others, as you will find out, this is a trust field, get to know the other folks in EM well in advance of issues… trading business cards in the parking lot during an emergency is not the time to get to know your responders or fellow EMs.
    Good luck in your endeavors, I hope you find a good position that will match your vision, it is much better to have someone who wants to do this kind of work than a reluctant unhappy worker….who has to do it….

    Andre’

  • #101908

    Eileen Kent
    Participant

    See what I mean? Andre, you rock 🙂 Eileen

  • #101906

    Brian Bovaird
    Participant

    Wow! Thank you so much everybody. I am sorry that I did not post on here earlier, I have been busy taking all of your advice and checking into everything. You have been wonderful and have definitely given me a great jumping off point to really get into this next phase of my professional life. I am extremely excited and optimistic and will hopefully be collaborating with some of you in the near future as colleagues. Thank you again and I will definitely be staying in touch.

  • #101904

    Bryan Campbell
    Participant

    Hi Brian.

    My organization has an entire division that works heavily in the emergency preparedness realm. That division — National Security and Emergency Management Programs — has offices in D.C. although our company’s headquarters are in Oak Ridge, TN. NSEMP just about always has openings and is looking for fresh faces. You can see their whole list of current openings here: http://www.orau.org/national-security-emergency-management/default.aspx.

    Within that group you might want to talk to Monika Schiller about what kinds of things they are looking for in new staff members and what some recommended paths are to working with them. She can be reached at [email protected].

    Best of luck to you,
    Bryan

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