The international outreach and partnership programs in emergency management are dramatically increasing in number and bringing mutual support, understanding, and strength to the profession as well as general good will around the world. In fact, at least some visionaries say that International Search and Rescue Teams may be future candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. Firefighters and fire chiefs, as well as police and law enforcement agencies, have long been active and organized along international lines. Now, so is emergency management.
The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), which has over 5,000 members in 58 countries, is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting the twin goals of saving lives and protecting property during emergencies and disasters. Translations of IAEM publications are available in Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese as well as English. Membership flyers are provided in Croatian, English, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Persian, Slovakian, and Turkish. Presentations are offered in Arabic, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Slovakian, and Turkish.
The International Affairs Program of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been a leader in international outreach efforts for many years. In the early 1990s, there were 400 distinguished international emergency-management visitors to the FEMA each year. By 2001, there were 1,000 or more. The nature of these visits is one of sharing lessons learned and best practices, with special emphasis on publications, joint meetings, and multilateral organizational activities – sponsored by NATO and the European Union, for example, as well as the Organization of American States and the United Nations. These meetings are often held jointly with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development/U.S. Department of State.
Educational Programs, International Conferences, and More One of the more notable partnership projects that has been hugely successful is the Master's degree program launched by FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (in Emmitsburg, Maryland) in partnership with the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Center for Excellence in Disaster Management. The ITU founders were Dr. Gulsun Saglamer, ITU’s Rector when the program started, and Dr. Derin Ural, then the Director of the Center for Excellence.
This year will be the tenth anniversary of the ITU program, and Dr. Saglamer is now a Distinguished Professor and Dr. Ural is Vice Rector. One of the principal reasons for the program's initial and continuing success is the strong leadership it continues to provide from the top. Another reason is the positive responses from and career records of the graduate students, many of whom have quickly become leaders in various aspects of emergency management throughout Turkey. Also, the Turkish government has supported a broader role for emergency management, as the ITU Program has grown.
Another important factor for improvement in this area is that the global emergency-management community has become increasingly knowledgeable in numerous technological fields that also have upgraded the profession. The steadily increasing use of social media, moreover, has made it possible to become, and remain, intimately informed about the impacts, challenges, responses, and recovery needs of every emerging disaster across the world in a mere matter of minutes – if not seconds. A European emergency manager reports on a daily basis to the members of the IAEM list serve on disasters around the world.
One particularly relevant example: Like tens of millions of others throughout the world, the scientists and inventors at Lightstep Technologies in Belfast, Northern Ireland, watched the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States as they were actually happening and decided to design and develop an intelligent evacuation system that would reduce the deaths and destruction caused not only by the attacks themselves but also during the evacuation efforts at the World Trade Center Towers. Today, many of those same scientists are testing an oil-spill cleanup system in the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, emergency needs and solutions are no longer restricted to national boundaries, or existing technologies.
Additional hope is evident by the fact that more international conferences in emergency management are being offered each year, in addition to the hugely successful conferences of the IAEM, scheduled to meet this year in San Antonio, in October. Other conferences planned for this year include: (a) Business Resilience in the Supply Chain, 15 September 2010 in Reading, England (supported by IAEM-Europa); and (b) Security & Defense Learning 2010, 1 December 2010 in Berlin, Germany (also supported by IAEM-Europa).
The International Emergency Management Group (IEMG) offers the possibility of mutual assistance in managing an emergency or disaster among participating international jurisdictions. Moreover, through a Memorandum of Understanding – referred to as "The Compact" – and in support of Resolution 23-5 of the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, the IEMG supports the process of planning, mutual cooperation, and emergency-related exercises, testing, and other training activities of mutual benefit to jurisdictions of both nations along the U.S./Canadian border. The organization's Spring Conference this year was held in Saint John’s, Newfoundland, and hosted by the Newfoundland Labrador Fire & Emergency Services.