So you want to be an Emergency Management Consultant

What do emergency management consultants do? 

Emergency management is a complex process of community preparedness for disasters through a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and making improvements based on evaluations. These activities should involve the whole community and include all phases of emergency management (mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.) 

Emergency Managers and other officials lead these efforts in government and the private sector. They often rely on emergency management consultants for support. As emergency management consultants, we help Emergency Managers in government, business, and community organizations prepare for, respond to, and recovery from, disasters. Typically, we support a local Emergency Manager through a combination of planning, training, exercises and assessments. We help organizations achieve the desired level of preparedness through a series of strategic and tactical program initiatives.  

In addition to work before an emergency occurs, emergency management consultants often serve an important role in the response to, and recovery from, disasters and other emergencies. As recent events have proven, this might also include support in response to public health emergencies such as COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic and with humanitarian work related to natural disasters, acts of violence, and migrant sheltering.  As a result, emergency management consultants may be called upon to serve in various support roles, often as part of the Incident Command System (ICS) in support of emergency managers and others. Consultants may help with planning, training, and exercise activities but also help in staff augmentation roles serving as part of an Incident Management Team (IMT) or Emergency Operations Center (EOC) organization in command and general staff assignments and other support roles including those in the community such as in Points of Distribution (PODs) or at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). 

How to get a job in emergency management consulting. 

There are many opportunities in emergency management, both public and private. The problem is how to get put to work on one of these assignments. 


Qualifications matter most. Emergency management consultants are often asked to work independently to conduct planning, training, and exercise projects to help an organization achieve a specific preparedness objective. While entry level positions might learn on the job, consultants are expected to know what they are doing at the start. You need to have “been there and one that” to be successful as a consultant. 

Minimum qualifications can vary significantly from firm to firm, and from assignment to assignment. Most consultants, even junior ones often need a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent experience.  Many firms will be working to address client requirements for staff. These requirements may require specific education and experience and may require bachelor’s degrees in related fields or specifically in emergency management but this is rate. 


While education is important and often a requirement, it may be experience that is valued most. A successful candidate should be familiar with the incident command system and other disaster management processes and functions. To be successful in consulting, you should have a strong background in public safety of some sort, emergency management in particular. However, work in related field like public health, risk management, law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical service, safety, or other related fields can be useful in documenting a capability and facility with emergency operations.  

Skills and Knowledge 

Skills that the Emergency Management Consultant must possess, or have ready access to, are many and varied.  The successful consultant must have project management skills and know how to coordinate a team of varied stakeholders who will be involved in any project. The ability to paint clear pictures of realistic objectives and the route to attain those management goals is imperative to a successful consulting project. 

To do an effective job, the Emergency Management Consultant must be a: 

  1. Resource Coordinator 
  1. Advisor to the executives 
  1. Communications specialist 
  1. Warning Specialist 
  1. Planner 
  1. Public relations specialist 
  1. Emergency information specialist 
  1. Public speaker and writer 
  1. Teacher 
  1. Improvisation specialist 
  1. Arbitrator, evaluator 
  1. Leader 
  1. Disaster analyst 
  1. Vulnerability analyst 
  1. Record and data keeping specialist 
  1. Media specialist 
  1. Accountant 

In addition to those skills mentioned above, the Emergency Management Consultant must also possess a storehouse of in-depth knowledge. This knowledge is invaluable to the local emergency management program. He or she must have a working knowledge of: 

  • Disasters and their affects.  (Both natural and man-caused) 
  • All phases of disaster response and the functions of government specific to those phases. 
  • The whereabouts of resources, their capabilities, limitations, and special considerations. 
  • A working vocabulary of terminologies and acronyms from a variety of professions. 
  • Responsibilities and functions of all government agencies. 
  • Current research in disaster and emergency response by individuals, agencies, organizations. 
  • Legal considerations and constraints for local government during disaster operations. 
  • Media organization and priorities according to media type. 
  • Record keeping, statistics, and data collection. 
  • Stress management and its affects on emergency operations. 

Some of the responsibilities of the Emergency Management Consultant include: 

  • Develop or improve an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) facility and competent staffing. 
  • Develop and/or improve emergency plans in conjunction with all stakeholders. 
  • Arrange for and plan practical and table-top exercises. 
  • Support the establishment of mutual aid agreements and assist in their update to insure needed services, equipment and other resources are available during emergency situations. 
  • Establish a working relationship with all of the resource groups, volunteers, churches, hospital and welfare organizations which are essential for effective emergency response. 
  • Provide specialized training for all emergency response agency personnel in comprehensive emergency management. 
  • Coordinate and conduct training programs for the general public, the schools, business and industry and other government agencies on effective emergency preparedness. 
  • Identify, prepare, and evaluate public information programs. 
  • Develop both emergency operations plans and operational procedures. 


Certification is increasingly important. The Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) credential as well as Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) are increasingly called out in minimum requirements. Project Management certification can also be useful.  

While there is plenty of work for consultants, the field is very competitive due to an influx of new consultants and those wanting to be a consultant.  This has resulted in too few jobs with too many people wanting to enter the field.  

Historically, both public and private sector jobs were often filled by older workers, moving into a second career after serving in a public safety or military capacity.  More recently, due to the huge increase in colleges and universities offering emergency management and homeland security degree programs, there is a flood of new graduates seeking jobs. 

To be competitive, a person needs to demonstrate certain strengths and experience factors in addition to training and education. Experience is often a high hurdle for someone just entering the field and those first jobs are often hard to come by. 

We often recommend that you might want to volunteer with your local emergency management agency or volunteer organizations that are active in disaster work. Volunteering to work for local county/city emergency management agencies helps build a resume and could lead to full time job. While volunteering is not a job, it is a way to start to develop your resume with solid experience, something that is typically highly valued in the business. It is also an important step in building your network of fellow emergency management practitioners. 


In order to get that first job, you will need a good resume. Floating a resume to the local county/city emergency management agencies in your area and also to the state office may be a good start to finding an entry level position.  Doing the same for the large consulting companies (those who get the large FEMA projects) could also be a start.  

People aiming to hire an emergency management coordinator are often looking for certain general skills sets along with specific expertise as indicated in the job title (i.e., planning officer, operations officer, logistics officer, exercise/training officer, etc.) Resumes could be concise but need to show your strengths. Try to keep it to two pages but be sure to demonstrate any/all of the following: 

  1. Education – list all degrees beyond high school, any professional education that applies.  
  1. Training – summarize training to include highest level of Incident Command System Training, relevant FEMA sources, etc.  
  1. Project management experience – any PM experience may be applicable. 
  1. Supervisory experience – any experience as a team leader is useful. 
  1. Strategic planning experience – goal setting; management by objectives; work plan management, etc. 
  1. Budgeting and related admin experience – demonstrating the ability to manage budgets; documentation/report writing. 
  1. Coordination with community stakeholders – experience with any stakeholder groups (whole community) is important to include experience with volunteer groups, community organizations etc. 
  1. Writing skills – Expertise with software, plan development; SOP/SOG development; knowledge of current planning processes. 
  1. Public speaking – demonstrated ability to put together and deliver effective presentations and briefings. 
  1. Emergency Operations Center Experience – any experience with EOC operations and technologies. 
  1. Recovery experience – any exposure to post-disaster recovery efforts, cost recovery, rebuilding, etc. 
  1. Mitigation experience – any relevant exposure to mitigation planning and implementation.  
  1. Team player – demonstrated ability to work well with others as part of a team. 
  1. Regulatory – any knowledge of current federal guidance and mandates; and plans (NIMS; CPG’s; Homeland Security Directives; National Preparedness Goal, strategy; NRF, NDRF, etc.) 
  1. Hours – willingness and availability to work outside of normal work period, particularly during EOC activations and other emergency responses 
  1. Professional Development – willingness to expand knowledge base; learn new methods 
  1. Research skills – any experience conducting research, developing papers, etc.  
  1. Technology – any expertise in the use of work place technologies to include the MS Office Suite and similar products, CRM and other workplace software platforms, etc.  
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