Emergency Managers as Curators

The training and development industry, championed by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), suggested a couple of years ago that trainer are curators of information. This suggestion caught like wildfire in the training and development community. The ASTD compares a trainer to the curator of a museum who organizes and selects specific items or collections for an exhibit; similar to how trainers draw upon knowledge and information, organizing and selecting certain pieces for training purposes. As a trainer myself, I appreciate the meaning of the analogy and considered that the same analogy could certainly be applied to other professions, particularly Emergency Management.

Do we curate in Emergency Management? Emergency Management is certainly a unique profession. It is highly dependent on a broad set of knowledge, much of which is applied to nearly all activities but some applied very specifically. A county emergency manager could be participating in a nuclear power plant exercise one day and giving a presentation on flood preparedness to local communities the next. Both have to do with preparedness, but each require separate and specific applications of technical knowledge. Emergency managers are often jacks of many trades, perhaps specializing in one or two areas, but typically being reasonably well versed in many other topics. In the event that more knowledge is needed, emergency managers know who to reach out to.

Emergency managers coordinate to a higher degree than most other professions – So much so that the profession is actually dependent upon it. No emergency manager in any community can be successful without coordinating with and having cooperation from other community stakeholders. This premise is applied not only to response, but to all phases of emergency management. At present I’m working on a plan for a community that requires some very specific public health expertise. I can write a plan, but the plan won’t have maximum effectiveness without the input of certain subject matter experts.

Similar to trainers, most emergency managers I know have collections of books and reference materials. Many are from courses or seminars they have attended, text books, trade periodicals, and an extensive collection of electronic files. Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) is an excellent living library of reference materials from contributors all over the nation which I go to often to review best practices.

So what do you think about emergency managers being curators?