Home Opinion Education in EDM: Why We Need Academic Research

Education in EDM: Why We Need Academic Research


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.

Repeated Failures

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.

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.