Health Sciences & Social Work


What is Emergency Management? The Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

The Who . . . . Persons dedicated to public safety  

Men & women who dedicate their careers to preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating against disasters.  Emergency managers work at all-levels of government, they can be employed by private sector firms, or their efforts can work in support of non-governmental voluntary organizations.

The What . . . Emergency management is a profession 

A scholar whose work focuses on the management of emergencies defined emergency management as . . . 

“The discipline and profession of applying science, technology, planning, and management to deal with extreme events that can injure or kill large numbers of people, do extensive damage to property, and disrupt community life.” (1)

The Where . . . All disasters are local  

What this statement means is that all disasters are local, ranging from very small community incidents to very large national emergencies.  No matter what type of crisis is being dealt with - the management of the disaster both begins and ends at the local level.  

The When . . . Not a question of if, but when 

The question that emergency managers ask is not if the disaster will occur, but when the disaster will occur.

The Why . . . An ethic of humanitarianism 

A primary value driving those persons who are involved in the field of emergency management is one of humanitarian assistance or . . .

"The provision of aid that seeks to save lives and alleviate suffering of a crisis affected population." (2)

Therefore, the goals for the work of an emergency manager can include actions that work towards preserving life, avoiding injuries, preventing damage to property, reducing  disaster risk, and lessening the cost of disasters.

Works Cited on This Web page 

(1) Definition of Emergency Management

Drabek, T.E. (1991). Introduction. In T.E. Drabek & G.J. Hoetmer (eds.) Emergency management: Principles and practice for local government (pp. xvii-xxxiv). Washington DC: International City Management Association.

(2) Definition of Humanitarian Assistance

Humanitarian Assistance. (2008, August). In ReliefWeb's Glossary of Humanitarian Terms.  Retrieved from