On average, the Atlantic coast prepares for and experiences six hurricanes a year.

On the West coast, an epic 3-year drought brings a historic risk of forest fires. Severe weather plagues the Midwest with heavy rain, hail, and flooding. And in the south, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to haunt the Gulf.

Disasters can be either man-made or natural and can affect individual communities or entire regions. Each disaster needs an individual response, but all disasters require responders with nerves of steel and the ability to be calm under tremendous pressure.

Through their studies in Capella University’s Master’s in Emergency Management program, students gain the following knowledge needed to effectively manage disasters:


1. How to Work with the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Overseen by Federal Emergency Management Agency, NIMS helps communities prepare for and deal with emergencies. The NIMS coordinates the activities of weather services, emergency responders, alert systems, intelligence organizations, and health care services so that communities can recover from disasters efficiently, with the lowest casualties and damage possible.

What you learn: Emergency Management degree students review NIMS and learn how to manage critical situations with its help.


2. How to Lead in Times of Crisis.

The importance of emergency management is often overlooked–until it’s desperately needed. That’s when emergency managers really shine. An effective leader can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse, help a community recover, and even prevent a disaster from happening again.

What you learn: Students gain knowledge in how to structure an emergency response, coordinate with teams, communicate next steps, and execute the plan all in short time frames and under immense pressure.


3. How to Handle At-Risk Populations During a Crisis.

No emergency situation is ever the same. Different populations react very differently to disastrous events, and certain groups are more at risk when something bad happens.

Emergency managers need to be prepared to adapt their practices based on the needs of all the people affected by the emergency. Age, cultural barriers, and even limited English proficient populations can all complicate even the best laid plans. For that reason, emergency managers need to know about the cultural and community factors they’ll face when they prepare for and handle disasters.

What you learn: Students take classes in cultural change to understand the specific needs of at-risk populations and how to best fulfill those needs in times of crisis.


4. How to Assess Risk.

Emergency management isn’t just about responding to disasters; it’s about preparing for them as well. If a community knows what potential risks it faces, it’s possible to plan ways to avoid, divert, lessen, and eliminate threats.

Emergency managers can proactively create plans for emergency operations, forge mutual aid agreements, and create strategies to mitigate hazards.

What you learn: The program teaches students how to use data to evaluate risks, and gives them an opportunity to test their strategies in simulations.


5. How to Respond to and Recover from Disasters.

Responding to a natural or man-made disaster isn’t just putting out a fire or mopping up oil. Emergency managers need to bring together first responders, engineers, communication and environmental specialists, businesses, and state and local governments for an immediate response and plan to rebuild.

They also need to consider the needs of a community and know how to navigate the social, environmental, and policy factors that will affect the recovery process.

What you learn: Students will be prepared to think beyond the immediate aftermath of a disaster to what it takes to get a community back on its feet.


An effective Emergency Management degree program contains coursework that prepares you with essential skills needed to protect communities before, during, and after tragic events, whether your career is in crisis management, homeland security, logistics coordination, law enforcement, or security consulting.