Passing the Torch: Three Tips from a Millennial on Engaging Millennials in Emergency Management
As a Millennial working in emergency management, I’ve often wondered how my generational identity influences the skill set I bring to the workplace and how these same skills affect my contributions to the field. Reports indicate that Millennials are generally considered educated, proficient in technology, accepting of change, idealistic, and motivated to make the world a better place. These traits suggest that Millennials are well-suited to the fast-paced and nuanced environment of emergency management, and my experience over the past two years as a professional in the industry confirms that hypothesis.
More likely than previous generations to be personally affected by a disaster, emergency managers should also consider how best to engage Millennials either as professionals or as potential disaster survivors to ensure that the Whole Community is prepared for the future. The following recommendations represent guidance from a Millennial for including Millennials in emergency management:
Leverage social media savviness.
During emergencies, social media is often the first place the public looks for information; corporations and agencies send mass notifications, response partners communicate with civilians, and witnesses and survivors upload their experiences. Social media is a critical tool to disseminate information to those affected while providing interactive forums for individuals and communities to process the event. Emergency managers must therefore master social media to effectively navigate emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.
- As Emergency Managers: Because Millennials possess an intuitive understanding of social media platforms, we can be relied upon to assist an agency, company, or organization during an emergency. As a consultant on emergency preparedness projects, I have been utilized for my social media savviness in training and exercise development to test clients’ social media platforms and capabilities while also incorporating those platforms and capabilities into planning for the purposes of public notification and warning, intelligence gathering, and information sharing.
- As Citizens Served by Emergency Managers: To engage Millennials during preparedness, response, or recovery, emergency managers should not underestimate the value and accessibility of social media but rather strive to include outreach on these platforms into their organizations’ protocols. During this past hurricane season, I used the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) twitter account to maintain situational awareness beyond the workplace on the overlapping response efforts and resources deployed to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
Incorporate fresh perspectives into planning, training, and after-action reporting.
I attribute my acceptance of change to being a Millennial. Although my generation is generally considered adept at adapting to change as it relates to the evolving nature of technology, in my experience, this characteristic also applies to the way Millennials solve problems. Emergency managers should take advantage of Millennials’ affinity for change by engaging them in processes that leverage change to drive improvement.
- As Emergency Managers: Millennials offer a different perspective towards life and work, which influences our approach to emergency operations and how an incident could be handled. A key component of emergency management is identifying best practices through lessons learned from previous incidents, exercises, or trainings. In conducting after-action reporting and improvement planning with more seasoned colleagues and clients, I’ve found the reconciliation of my novice insights with their expertise helps shape and diversify recommendations for improvement.
- As Citizens Served by Emergency Managers: Millennials can also provide insight into the generation’s needs based on their experience. Input and buy-in from young people can help an agency, organization, or company inform their approach to mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities. Effective engagement will also drive the community one step closer to achieving the “whole-community” approach. In working on projects with colleges and universities, I’ve included interactive mediums like surveys and meetings with student government to inform planning efforts in a way that will resonate with my peers while also capturing their insight.
Capitalize on passion for learning.
Regardless of how rigorous a system or plan is, curveballs are unavoidable, making critical thinking perhaps the most valuable skill an emergency manager can possess. Whether an emergency manager is working to prevent an incident, determine immediate response actions, or guide recovery operations, the ability to approach an incident critically can maximize the value of resources when they are scarce, limited, or inadequate.
This skill does not develop overnight but is rather nurtured by real-world experience.
Emergency managers should leverage Millennials’ passion for education, learning, and purpose by granting access to this economy of experience through encouraging them to gain exposure in emergency management.
- As Emergency Managers: Most formal emergency management educational opportunities do not teach critical thinking, so young people must be intentional about gaining experience by accepting internships, volunteering, or observing emergency operations. Any opportunity—even as just an observer—to participate in response, trainings, or planning is a valuable learning experience for a young person just entering the industry. Shortly after entering the industry, I became involved with my local community emergency response team (CERT) to supplement the planning I do at work with a more personal understanding of emergency response activities.
- As Citizens Served by Emergency Managers: With the advent of “side hustles” and the gig economy—part-time and secondary jobs to bring in extra money—many young people are interested in taking on work outside of their day job for the sake of improving their professional skill set or performing meaningful work. By engaging civilians more deliberately, emergency managers may help Millennials achieve their goals while improving whole-community engagement and obtaining a fresh perspective on emergency management concepts. Publicizing opportunities for professional development or learning opportunities may increase the level of interaction between civilians and emergency management professionals—increasing the community’s overall level of preparedness. The volunteer work I did with AmeriCorps right out of college was what inspired my passion for emergency management, which led me to pursue a job in this field.
Whether in an emergency operations center (EOC) or as Samaritans throughout the duration of an incident, Millennials have a lot to offer when paired with an emergency manager’s expert guidance. After all, at some point Millennials must champion emergency management to confront the threats of the future—why not start that process now?
Hayden Dinges works out of Hagerty’s Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois as a Preparedness Associate. He is a 2015 graduate of Vassar College, where he studied Urban Studies and English. Since joining Hagerty, he has supported projects across the nation for clients in the private sector and at all levels of government as an exercise analyst, coordinator, and planner. Most recently, Hayden has contributed to thought leadership within the Preparedness Division by applying his passion for law and urban studies to emergency management. A leader in the development and implementation of Hagerty’s Cyber Nexus Approach, Hayden continues to support the development of Hagerty’s cybersecurity and resilience portfolios. Hayden is an active member of his local CERT in Chicago.