Emergency Management Director Career Description


Emergency management directors prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters or other emergencies. They also help lead the response during and after emergencies.

What they do

Emergency management Directors also help lead the response during and after emergencies, often in coordination with public safety officials, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Emergency management directors typically do the following:

  • Assess hazards and prepare plans to respond to emergencies and disasters in order to minimize risk to people and property
  • Meet with public safety officials, private companies, and the public regarding emergency response plans
  • Organize emergency response training for staff, volunteers, and other responders
  • Coordinate the sharing of resources and equipment within and across communities to assist in responding to an emergency
  • Analyze and prepare damage assessments following disasters or emergencies
  • Review emergency plans of individual organizations, such as medical facilities, to ensure their adequacy
  • Apply for federal funding for emergency management planning, responses, and recovery, and report on the use of funds allocated
  • Review local emergency operations plans and revise them if necessary
  • Maintain facilities used during emergency operations

Emergency management directors are responsible for planning and leading the responses to natural disasters and other emergencies. Directors work with government agencies, nonprofits, private companies, and the public to develop effective plans that minimize damage and disruptions during an emergency.

To develop emergency response plans, directors typically research “best practices” from around the country and from other emergency management agencies. Directors also must prepare plans and procedures that meet local, state, and federal regulations.

Directors must analyze the resources, equipment, and staff available to respond to emergencies. If resources are limited or equipment is lacking, directors must either revise their plans or get what they need from another community or state. Many directors coordinate with fire, emergency medical service, police departments, and public works agencies in other communities to locate and share equipment during an emergency. Directors must be in contact with other agencies to collect and share information regarding the scope of the emergency, the potential costs, and the resources or staff needed.

After they develop plans, emergency management directors typically ensure that individuals and groups become familiar with the emergency procedures. Directors often use social media to disseminate plans and warnings to the public.

Emergency management directors oversee training courses and disaster exercises for staff, volunteers, and local agencies to help ensure an effective and coordinated response to an emergency. Directors also may visit schools, hospitals, or other community groups to provide updates on plans for emergencies.

During an emergency, directors typically maintain a command center at which staff monitor and manage the emergency operations. Directors help lead the response, prioritizing certain actions if necessary. These actions may include ordering evacuations, conducting rescue missions, or opening public shelters for those displaced by the emergency. Emergency management directors also may need to conduct press conferences or other outreach activities to keep the public informed about the emergency.

Following an emergency, directors must assess the damage to their community and coordinate getting any needed assistance and supplies into the community. Directors may need to request state or federal assistance to help execute their emergency response plan and provide support to affected citizens, organizations, and communities. Directors may also revise their plans and procedures to prepare for future emergencies or disasters.

Emergency management directors working for hospitals, universities, or private companies may be called business continuity managers. Similar to their counterparts in local and state government, business continuity managers prepare plans and procedures to help businesses maintain operations and minimize losses during and after an emergency.

Work Environment

Although most emergency management directors work in an office, they also typically travel to meet with various government agencies, community groups, and private companies.  During disasters and emergencies, directors often work in stressful situations.

How to become an Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors typically need a bachelor’s degree and many years of work experience in emergency response, disaster planning, or public administration.

Emergency management directors typically need a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field, emergency management, or public health. Some directors working in the private sector in business continuity management may need a degree in computer science, information systems administration, or another information technology (IT) field.

Small municipalities or local governments may hire applicants whose highest level of educational attainment is a high school diploma. However, these applicants usually must have extensive work experience in emergency management if they are to be hired.


The median annual wage for emergency management directors was $74,590 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,430, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $141,230.

Job Outlook

Employment of emergency management directors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The importance of preparing for and minimizing the risks from emergencies will help sustain demand and employment opportunities for emergency management directors. These workers will be needed to help businesses and organizations continue to provide essential services during and after emergencies.

Similar Job Titles

Emergency Management Consultant, Emergency Management Coordinator, Emergency Management Specialist, Emergency Management System Director (EMS Director), Emergency Planner, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Emergency Preparedness Program Specialist, Emergency Services Director, Hazard Mitigation Officer, Public Safety Director, Disaster Response Director

Related Occupations

Industrial Safety and Health Engineer, Soil and Water Conservationist, Career/Technical Education Teacher-Secondary School, Occupational Health and Safety Specialist, First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detective

More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

Magazines and Publications

Video embed source code:

Video Transcript

Natural disasters can cause a lot of mayhem, but with careful planning, emergency management directors can make them a little less, well… disastrous. Along with their partners in public safety and other agencies, they respond quickly to emergencies, from hurricanes and floods to hazardous spills or hostage situations, working to restore safety and order. Emergency management directors minimize risk throughout the year by assessing hazards and making necessary preparations. They know that after a natural disaster, resources may be scarce, so they develop plans in advance to share resources, expertise, and equipment with the broader community to ensure that everyone has the tools to survive and recover. These directors design programs to help staff, first responders, and volunteers get ready to face whatever challenges may crop up in an emergency, and to minimize risk to people and property. After a disaster, they coordinate damage assessments. They also obtain funding to maintain and upgrade shelter spaces and pay for preparations. The work is full time, with considerable overtime during emergencies. Entry level requirements range from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree in public administration or a related field, but the most important thing is extensive experience. Certifications are also available.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org