Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Emergency Management 101: Training and Volunteer Opportunities

An avid volunteer, Nicole Morales is frequently asked by her friends and colleagues how they can get involved in emergency management. In response, she developed a list of resources for those interested in learning more about emergency management. She asked the Disaster Discourse Team to share her recommendations on the Hagerty blog for anyone considering emergency management as a profession, anyone who may be considering a position with Hagerty, and/or anyone who is seeking opportunities for professional development.  

For those with limited knowledge or experience, “stepping into the arena” of emergency management can feel overwhelming. Included below are training and volunteer opportunities that can provide you with critical information and field experience to begin (or continue) your path of public service. 

Training Opportunities 

Online and classroom training courses can provide valuable information to individuals who are interested in entering the emergency management field and/or those who want to continue to build their knowledge and expertise. 

  • FEMA Independent Study Courses: FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute offers free online emergency management courses  here. The course catalog is extensive, but FEMA has grouped the fundamental courses into a series titled, “Professional Development Series,” which includes topics such as planning, exercises, leadership and decision-making, communications, and volunteer management. 
  • Emergency Management Agency Trainings: Check your local, county, and state emergency management agencies’ websites for free training opportunities. With rare exception (e.g., law enforcement sensitive trainings), their courses are all open to the public. 
  • Team Rubicon: The veteran-led NGO  Team Rubicon  provides online and classroom training courses to its volunteers. Many of the courses are geared towards Team Rubicon’s core functions, such as damage assessments, incident management, chainsaw operations, or operational planning. 
  • American Red Cross: The  American Red Cross  also offers online and classroom trainings to its volunteers. Courses are primarily focused on mass care services (e.g., shelter operations, disaster casework), disaster mental health (e.g., psychological first aid), CPR/first aid, and bleeding control. 
  • Community Emergency Response Team (CERT): The  CERT program, administered by FEMA and led by local/state emergency managers, is designed to empower citizens to contribute to disaster response efforts. The CERT Basic Course provides instruction on disaster preparedness, fire suppression, medical operations, search and rescue, and psychological first aid. [Note: The frequency of CERT activities and trainings varies significantly by jurisdiction.]

Volunteer Opportunities 

While training and education opportunities are incredibly valuable, field experience — such as exposure to real-world disasters and emergencies — is equally as critical for an emergency manager. 

  • American Red Cross: Disaster services volunteers provide shelter, food, and comfort to individuals impacted by disasters, and are trained to perform specific functions (e.g., feeding, casework, logistics, mental health services). Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers respond to local single-family fires to provide immediate support. DAT volunteers help displaced households find lodging, distribute emergency supplies (e.g., blankets, toiletries), and navigate long-term recovery services. 
  • Team Rubicon: The veteran-led NGO Team Rubicon sends volunteers — comprised largely of military veterans and first responders — to disasters around the nation to support recovery efforts. For disasters outside of your area, Team Rubicon will cover mileage/airfare, lodging (usually cots in a church/gym), meals, and supplies (e.g., tools, personal protective equipment). Volunteer deployments provide valuable field experience, including exposure to disaster operations and insight into how the non-governmental sector helps to bridge the gap between response and recovery. 
  • Medical Reserve Corps (MRC): The MRC  includes “medical and public health professionals, as well as other community members without healthcare backgrounds.” MRC volunteers prepare for and response to natural disasters, man-made incidents, and public health emergencies (e.g., disease outbreak). 

For the last decade, Nicole Morales has served as an advisor to local, state, and federal government agencies, including FEMA and the U.S. Department of State, on emergency preparedness and national security. As part of Hagerty’s Preparedness Division, Nicole supports local and state governments with initiatives related to active threat/terrorism response, evacuations and mass care services, sheltering and temporary housing, incident management, and disaster recovery and resilience. In her personal capacity, Nicole participates in disaster response and recovery operations with the veteran-led non-governmental organization Team Rubicon, and serves as a volunteer with New Orleans-based Evacuteer, which helps to evacuate individuals during a mandatory evacuation order.