Trends to Watch in Emergency Management in 2020

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Preparation is considered the best defense for an emergency.Emergency management professionals play a vital role in planning and preparing for a response when disaster strikes.

“The best defense for an emergency is being properly prepared,” Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in a 2019 press release.

With new threats emerging each day, emergency management professionals in the public and private sectors look for new, innovative methods; draw on lessons from past events; and identify emergency management trends to help prepare for future disasters, according to Homeland Security Today.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), emergency management workers have five main goals in developing a risk-based approach for disasters and crisis:

  • Preventing threats
  • Protecting citizens
  • Mitigating losses
  • Responding quickly
  • Encouraging a timely recovery

“We need to change the way we think about disasters and emergencies, making preparedness actions part of our daily routine, and learning critical response skills,” Regional Administrator of FEMA Region II Thomas Von Essen said in a 2019 press release. “We do not know when disasters will strike, but we can prepare for them.”

Online emergency management degree programs such as Eastern Kentucky University’s online Master’s of Safety, Security, and Emergency Management include courses about safety management that focus on the emergency planning process, program development, and training methods for natural and human-made disasters.

Emergency Management Trends to Look for in 2020

In 2019, FEMA reported 101 disaster declarations from states, with 61 of those declarations labeled major disasters. These declarations include severe weather events such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. Also in 2019, insured losses from natural catastrophes cost $71 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

As emergency management professionals deal with these frequent situations, they lean on lessons from the past, according to Homeland Security Today, while also looking ahead to emergency management trends including:

  • More risk-based planning. Fires, tornados, and hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events cause damage in the U.S. each year. Protecting citizens from hazards has to be top-of-mind mind for emergency preparedness planning, Peter Jutro, PhD, an environmental policy and national security professional, wrote in a 2019 article about emergency management trends. Improving emergency communications systems, gaining access to better resources, and strengthening weak infrastructure are trends that are crucial to risk-based planning initiatives, Jutro noted.
  • Development of public and private partnerships. Creating partnerships between first responders, businesses, community stakeholders, and others can ensure that the right people respond to a crisis. A collaboration between the public and private sectors also helps supply these responders with the tools they need to manage a disaster, according to Jutro.
  • Increased usage of social media. Social media provides a quick way to distribute information to a large number of people, which is why the U.S. government and local government agencies have relied on it during recent disasters, according to Jutro. But social media sites can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks and outages. “Reliable, secure communication systems are critical for emergency management,” he wrote.
  • Wider integration of machine-learning tools. Craig Fugate, chief emergency management officer at One Concern in Gainesville, FL, wrote in a 2019 article for The Hill that machine learning tools can help predict damage from future events much faster than other technologies.
  • Escalating frequency of disasters.

The next disaster won’t not be the same as the last. Nevertheless, Louise Comfort, former director of the Center for Disaster Management at the University of Pittsburgh, told an Arizona State University student reporting initiative that “it’s important to go through those events and learn them, but the hard part is anticipating what the next disaster is going to be.”

“While I think it’s very useful to do after-action plans and identify what the failures were in that particular instance, those lessons need to be projected forward.”

Other Emergency Management Trends

In disasters, community members and residents are often the first to respond, Patrick Roberts, author of “Disasters and the American State,” told The Guardian in a 2019 article. That is why FEMA recommends a whole-community approach that includes:

  • Involving people in the development of national preparedness documents
  • Ensuring that their roles and responsibilities are reflected in the content of the materials

With an all-encompassing community involvement effort, citizens can help keep the nation safe and contribute to resiliency during emergencies.

“Resiliency is more than just strengthening our buildings and other infrastructure,” former FEMA Administrator Brock Long wrote in “A New Vision for Emergency Management.”

“It’s making sure that our citizens have the proper tools and skillsets to reduce the impact of future disasters.”

About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management Program

Students enrolled in EKU’s online emergency management degree program can learn the essential components of safety, security, and emergency management. The program allows students to customize their experience through a Multidisciplinary Track or with concentrations in Corporate Security Operations, Occupational Safety, or Emergency Management and Disaster Resilience.

The concentrations are also available as stand-alone graduate certificates, independent of a master’s degree. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission accredits EKU. For more information, contact Eastern Kentucky University now.

Recommended Reading

Social Media in Emergency Management: Tools and Applications for Disaster Response

Push-to-Talk App Emergency Communication Apps

Preparing for and Responding to Energy Emergencies


Residents Encouraged to Prepare During Emergency Preparedness Month: Massachusetts Government

2018 National Preparedness Report: FEMA

NYC Emergency Management Kicks Off National Preparedness Month With Senior Readyfest: NYC Emergency Management

Graduate Course Descriptions: Eastern Kentucky University

Disaster Declarations by Year: FEMA

Spotlight on: Catastrophes – Insurance issues: Insurance Information Institute

2019 Emergency Management Trends: Peter Jutro

Why we need a technology revolution in emergency management: The Hill

‘Everybody is a first responder’ in disasters, police and firefighters say: Carnegie-Knight News21

The US won’t be prepared for the next natural disaster: The Guardian

Whole Community: FEMA

A New Vision for Emergency Management: FEMA