What Emergency Management Directors Do
Emergency management directors prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters or other emergencies. They also help lead the response during and after emergencies.
Most emergency management directors work for local or state governments. Others work for organizations such as hospitals, colleges and universities, or private companies.
How to Become an Emergency Management Director
Emergency management directors typically need a bachelor’s degree and many years of work experience in emergency response, disaster planning, or public administration.
The median annual wage for emergency management directors was $74,590 in May 2019.
Employment of emergency management directors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The importance of preparing for and minimizing the risks from emergencies will help sustain demand and employment for these workers.
Emergency management directors prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. They also help lead the response during and after emergencies, often in coordination with public safety officials, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
Emergency management directors typically do the following:
- Assess hazards and prepare plans to respond to emergencies and disasters in order to minimize risk to people and property
- Meet with public safety officials, private companies, and the public regarding emergency response plans
- Organize emergency response training for staff, volunteers, and other responders
- Coordinate the sharing of resources and equipment within and across communities to assist in responding to an emergency
- Analyze and prepare damage assessments following disasters or emergencies
- Review emergency plans of individual organizations, such as medical facilities, to ensure their adequacy
- Apply for federal funding for emergency management planning, responses, and recovery, and report on the use of funds allocated
- Review local emergency operations plans and revise them if necessary
- Maintain facilities used during emergency operations
Emergency management directors are responsible for planning and leading the responses to natural disasters and other emergencies. Directors work with government agencies, nonprofits, private companies, and the public to develop effective plans that minimize damage and disruptions during an emergency.
To develop emergency response plans, directors typically research “best practices” from around the country and from other emergency management agencies. Directors also must prepare plans and procedures that meet local, state, and federal regulations.
Directors must analyze the resources, equipment, and staff available to respond to emergencies. If resources are limited or equipment is lacking, directors must either revise their plans or get what they need from another community or state. Many directors coordinate with fire, emergency medical service, police departments, and public works agencies in other communities to locate and share equipment during an emergency. Directors must be in contact with other agencies to collect and share information regarding the scope of the emergency, the potential costs, and the resources or staff needed.
After they develop plans, emergency management directors typically ensure that individuals and groups become familiar with the emergency procedures. Directors often use social media to disseminate plans and warnings to the public.
Emergency management directors oversee training courses and disaster exercises for staff, volunteers, and local agencies to help ensure an effective and coordinated response to an emergency. Directors also may visit schools, hospitals, or other community groups to provide updates on plans for emergencies.
During an emergency, directors typically maintain a command center at which staff monitor and manage the emergency operations. Directors help lead the response, prioritizing certain actions if necessary. These actions may include ordering evacuations, conducting rescue missions, or opening public shelters for those displaced by the emergency. Emergency management directors also may need to conduct press conferences or other outreach activities to keep the public informed about the emergency.
Following an emergency, directors must assess the damage to their community and coordinate getting any needed assistance and supplies into the community. Directors may need to request state or federal assistance to help execute their emergency response plan and provide support to affected citizens, organizations, and communities. Directors may also revise their plans and procedures to prepare for future emergencies or disasters.
Emergency management directors working for hospitals, universities, or private companies may be called business continuity managers. Similar to their counterparts in local and state government, business continuity managers prepare plans and procedures to help businesses maintain operations and minimize losses during and after an emergency.
Emergency management directors held about 10,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of emergency management directors were as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||52%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||15|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||8|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||4|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||3|
Although most emergency management directors work in an office, they also typically travel to meet with various government agencies, community groups, and private companies.
During disasters and emergencies, directors often work in stressful situations.
Most emergency management directors work full time. In addition, most are on call at all times and may need to work overtime to respond to emergencies and to support emergency management operations. Others may work evenings and weekends to meet with various community groups in preparing their emergency response plans.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of emergency management directors.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Budget analysts help public and private organizations plan their finances.
EMTs and Paramedics
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$35,400|
Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$50,850|
Management analysts recommend ways to improve an organization’s efficiency.
Police and Detectives
Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.
|See How to Become One||$65,170|
Top executives plan strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals.
For more information about emergency management directors and their certifications, visit
For a career video on emergency management directors, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Emergency Management Directors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/emergency-management-directors.htm (visited ).