Emergency and disaster management has progressed in the past few decades. As the professionalization of the workforce in the United States increases due to the elimination of manual labor jobs through technology advances, we have noted an increase in the number of EDM professionals seeking higher education.
This is a positive addition to our profession, but as I continue to teach at the collegiate level, I increasingly encounter questions of why we need research if we only want a degree to become an executive in the profession.
If we continue to only utilize what other practitioners write down in trade magazines or publish on websites, how will we prevent further failures? While it is very important to have after-action reports or opinion writings that discuss issues related to EDM, these types of reports are often little more than one person’s opinion at a given event. Will the opinion translate to your instance or event? What influences this opinion?
Lack of structured research on our activities only allows us to understand what a particular person believes was successful or a failure at an event. Likely, this will not prevent the same from occurring in our area.
Basis for Structured Research
The basis for structured research involves proven research methods and known limitations of the research.
From a fire department perspective, we could research the effects of different types of extinguishing methods, such as allowing the fire to run out of fuel, in real life events, but politically, letting someone’s house burn to the ground would not leave the fire department in a positive light.
Therefore, we must erect simulated structures and conduct controlled tests. We must ensure that the controlled tests capture the many variables that actual events can create. Finally, we must create reports that capture what the test environment involves and limitations to the test.
This will allow a full understanding of research rather than a one-time event that has an opinion attached to it.
Leading in an Evidence-Based Environment
As the education levels of both elected officials and public administrators rise, EDM professionals must recognize that their boss likely has an advanced degree that introduced research and fact-based practices. And their boss will now be held to that standard.
While many of the traditional quantitative methods do not directly correlate, the EDM executive must understand the benefits and limitations of various types of research to allow their presentation of the proper types of research so that they may overcome opposition to enhancements of their organization.
Be prepared with the facts and the research. This is why it is so important to have a research base to any EDM graduate program.