Curry Mayer is the state training chief for California’s Office of Emergency Services (OES). Mayer responded to questions about emergency management training, the pros and cons of online training courses and what makes for effective training for the profession. The Cal OES Training Branch is responsible for emergency management and homeland security training for state and local government personnel and the private sector. We also develop customized courses based on an agency’s specific role and responsibilities in emergency management. Our target audience is anyone involved in emergency management or homeland security activities, which actually includes most public and private organizations.
Many of the key principles of ICS came directly from the California Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS). I have had many organizations come to me after their personnel have completed some type of online training and say that they now want training of the same type with a live instructor, because they feel the concepts did not stick with participants. Emergency management courses are best accomplished with a live instructor and the ability for participants to interact with one another during class. Training with practical exercises and activities is the most effective in conveying complex concepts while providing opportunities for practicing new roles and responsibilities in a safe environment. Twenty-five years ago the focus on training in emergency management was on the Professional Development Series (PDS). Most emergency managers would agree that the acquisition of those skills is best gained through a variety of sources: formal education (including classroom, activity focused courses) online, exercises and real-world experience.
The best way to get some practical experience is to do volunteer work, not only for the traditional organizations that we usually think of, such as the American Red Cross, but also by talking with local emergency managers and offering your services.
Branching out into a segment of emergency management that is new for them provides an opportunity to add new skills, make new contacts and expand their perspective of emergency management. For senior emergency managers who provide direction to programs, the most important thing to remember is to surround yourself with subject-matter experts and then use them to your advantage. As a senior emergency manager, remember that you don’t have to know all the answers, you just need to know where to go to get them. The most useful training I have ever received was as a new instructor at our California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI).

It begins with basic emergency management concepts and progresses to emergency operations center functions. Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management. A mere 19 percent reported that their workplace has asked employees to be part of an emergency response team. So be realistic about the possibilities for emergencies in your workplace by training employees on what to do should specific emergencies occur. Include drills in your training on a regular basis so employees can use kinetic learning to know where to go in an emergency, whether to get emergency equipment or to evacuate the building or to go to a designated shelter in place area. With the advent of the Internet, distance learning has come to dominate many aspects of emergency management training, especially the delivery of Incident Command System (ICS) basic courses. She has 20 years of experience in emergency management and all aspects of training, from program management to curriculum design. For example, we developed specialized activities within the ICS framework for the Department of Water Resources, Department of Food and Agriculture, and utility companies. While we recommend online training for basic concepts, we have found that for those whose main job is not emergency management, in-person training coupled with workshop activities is the most meaningful and is better absorbed by participants.
If your main job is not emergency management, in-person training with workshop activities to reinforce concepts and roles is most effective. Online training is also a good vehicle for refresher training following an in-person classroom experience. In-person, interactive training that includes a tabletop exercise that reinforces concepts learned in training is highly successful with excellent retention rates. It is important for new emergency managers to blend academic work with hands-on experience. If yours is like other companies in a recent survey reported on in today’s Advisor, it probably needs to improve its approach. Technical capabilities, asset quality and scale, and financial strength set us apart - we are unmatched among independent exploration and production companies. We are approved by the Louisiana Incumbent Worker Program to provide state-funded training to qualified companies.

Practicing emergency management concepts in person during classroom training and exercises fosters and supports those all-important relationships. It is definitely still relevant, yet I think the more important consideration for emergency managers is what their goals are for becoming accomplished in their field.
Engaging the private sector is mutually beneficial for both the emergency manager and the private-sector personnel, and most often brings a very different perspective to the emergency management professional about what the field means to our private-sector partners.
By the time you are a senior emergency manager, you will have lots of contacts and relationships. It is not only a great way to learn about emergency operations centers, it also provides participants with a number of contacts in other disciplines that they will most likely use throughout their career.
After training managers and other employees on your company’s emergency response plan, conduct drills to help ensure that they will know what to do if a natural disaster strikes or other emergency occurs.
Mayer is the author of state- and federal-level emergency management curriculum, including scenario development and exercise design. She also co-chairs the California Emergency Management and Homeland Security Education Consortium’s Bachelor Degree task force.
In some areas our internal preparedness requirements and programs exceed local compliance requirements. These drills often included participation by third-party experts, oil spill response organizations and government emergency response agencies. To complement the 3 major exercises, the GMAT also participated in specialized training during the year. In addition to general response topics, this training dedicated several days to oil spill response strategies and tactics.

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