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DCE Magazine

Certified Success in Emergency Management

UCI program recognized by IAEM, the world’s most prestigious association of Emergency Managers.

Fall 2021

Never has the urgency of effective emergency management (EM) been more apparent than in the past five years. First it was a string of extreme weather events and increasingly destructive wildfires that were obliterating entire communities, putting preparation and recovery efforts into overdrive. Then along came 2020 and COVID-19.

Suddenly the world was met with unprecedented life-and-death challenges, in the moment and on the fly. Government and private sector efforts had to deal with a new, deadly, fast-spreading virus while transitioning a national workforce into remote mode virtually overnight — an especially challenging mission for those tasked with saving lives.

“The biggest change to emergency management has been adapting to the remote environment. The UCI Emergency Operations Center was fully active and operating for a month over Zoom,” said Randy Styner, Director of UCI Emergency Management. UCI still conducts all logistical and planning coordination over Zoom and, of course, classes have been fully online and are accessible to all students.

All the tumult of the past year has sparked a growing awareness and interest in emergency management as a career, he added. “I get a lot of questions and interest from younger people when I tell them what I do.”

The EM role has gained a higher profile — and so has the Emergency Management and Disaster Response Specialized Studies program, which was recently approved by the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). The affiliation puts the UCI program squarely among the most prestigious in the nation and offers graduates a myriad of benefits, Styner said.

“Being approved by IAEM is a huge step for the program. This shows that the curriculum is in line with the requirements for the IAEM Certified Emergency Manager (CEM®) designation, the gold standard in the EM field that is highly sought-after by potential employers.”

It can be the first step to an exceptionally rewarding career, one that directly impacts lives and families. This hit home especially hard for Styner shortly after he joined the Cal Office of Emergency Services as State Division Supervisor, assigned to Mendocino County just a few weeks after the horrific California firestorms of 2017 decimated Redwood Valley and the surrounding region.

Styner surveyed the devastation, walking along a small, winding road that was littered with charred husks of cars, scattered and askew, left there by panicked residents trying to flee. Nine of them didn’t make it. Thousands of structures had been reduced to ash throughout the area.

“I’m a veteran of Desert Storm and I had never seen that level of devastation,” he said. “I stood there looking up that road, knowing the story of those burnt-out cars and the people who rode in them. I personally met survivors of that fire, hundreds of them. It put a human face on the tragedy. It made me understand why I did this job. It wasn’t as sexy as physically going in and rescuing people, but it saves lives. This is what emergency managers do.”

Certified success

Becoming IAEM-approved is an achievement that signifies UCI’s course content is in line with the highest standards required by the world’s leading emergency managers and offers an opportunity to achieve the prestigious CEM® designation.

The program provides IAEM-approved coursework required to apply for the CEM® and take the exam, including classes that prepare students to pass the open-book test. Graduates of the program also gain access to a wide range of valuable career resources, including one of the largest and most well-respected networks of EM professionals in the world.

“IAEM membership allows individuals to gain access to representation on government working groups addressing vital issues such as terrorism preparedness, emergency management standards, communications, disaster assistance delivery and others,” Styner said. “The association also provides extensive job boards and resources for the up-and-coming EM including professional development and access to the IAEM annual conference, the largest emergency management conference in the world.”

Whether seeking employment or currently working in emergency management, the CEM® designation is a major career-enhancing credential — and IAEM is the world’s only organization that offers this internationally recognized professional certification.

Laying the foundation

The Emergency Management and Disaster Recovery program provides the insight and training required to protect communities and facilitate continuity of essential services in event of natural, human, or technology-related emergencies. The program is offered fully online and can be completed in about 12 months. Course are taught by experienced instructors and titles include Principles of Emergency Management, Response & Recovery Management and Disaster Mitigation.

Qualified emergency managers are increasingly in demand in virtually every sector and industry, from large corporations to government agencies, medical facilities to universities and more. Nearly 8% job growth is projected through 2029 with median annual salary of around $74,000 — up to $141,000 for highly experienced EMs.

“Emergency management is an incredibly fascinating career,” Styner said. “There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ day when you are an EM professional. One day you may be in your office writing a plan and the next you may be working with leadership to develop a response to a wildfire or smoke event. There are many, many great career opportunities and I encourage up-and-coming EMs to take advantage of them.”

Learn more about the Emergency Management and Disaster Recovery Specialized Studies Program.

CEM® is a registered trademark of the International Association of Emergency Managers.