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Marketing Emergency Management Before It Is Too Late




The September 11 attacks had a profound and lasting effect on military recruiting in the United States. Before the attacks, the military was struggling to meet its recruitment goals, facing a decline in interest and low levels of enlistment. However, in the aftermath of September 11, there was a significant surge in recruitment, with many individuals feeling a sense of duty and patriotism to serve their country.The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were a wake-up call for the nation, highlighting the importance of a strong and capable military in defending against such threats. This led to a wave of young people, particularly from working-class and rural areas, wanting to join the military and serve their country and thus make sure that their family was never endangered on this soil again, at least, that was the goal of these young recruits.


The attacks also had a significant impact on the type of individuals who were enlisting in the military. Before 9/11, the military primarily attracted recruits from lower-income backgrounds, but after the attacks, there was a rise in recruits from middle and upper-class families. This was due to a shift in perception of military service as a noble and honorable duty, rather than just a path for those without other opportunities. Additionally, the military's response to the attacks, such as the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq, also appealed to those seeking a sense of purpose, the opportunity to make a difference in the world, and to be honest, for a piece of revenge after September 11.


The emotions that followed the attacks ran strong in this country for quite some time and a 26% increase in military recruiting proves that those emotions ran deep.However, the increased demand for military personnel also meant that the standards for enlistment became more relaxed, allowing individuals with lower test scores and medical issues to join. This shift in recruiting standards was necessary to meet the sudden surge in demand, but it also raised concerns about the quality and preparedness of the new recruits.Unfortunately, as time passed and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued, public support for the military and the government's handling of these conflicts began to decline. This dissatisfaction, combined with the physical and mental toll of multiple tours of duty, led to a decrease in recruitment and retention rates. The military also faced challenges in recruiting individuals with specialized skills, as many were hesitant to join an organization that was continuously deployed in dangerous and uncertain situations.


Emergency management and homeland security are vital fields with a critical role in protecting communities and responding to disasters and crises. The problem is that these fields often struggle to attract young people, who may be unaware of the opportunities and benefits of these careers. Unlike the surge experienced by the military after September 11, there is no surge after a major hurricane or tornado outbreak. There was no surge after the Palestine, Ohio train derailment and there was certainly not a surge after COVID (is it AFTER Covid?).


Emergency management has not seen its 9-11, although I saw the September 11 attacks as an emergency management and homeland security event, the country did not and our leadership at the time shifted to the military very quickly. It is difficult to imagine what this country would consider an emergency management 9-11 and how large and catastrophic that event would have to be, but I present the idea that we are experiencing that very event right now.


As the war rages on in Israel and Gaza and as Israel continues to violently take it to Hamas for the attacks on their countrymen and women in October, the repercussions of having any attachment to Israel are becoming evident. Nowhere in the world are those repercussions more blatantly seen and felt as in the United States. From violent protests to threats to the discovered plots by pro-Hamas and Pro-Palestinian activists, each new day brings with it more risk, more challenges a greater need for vigilance.


Unlike the September 11 attacks, there is no single day of loss for us to rally around but rather we are suffering a death by a thousand cuts. While Pro-Palestinian protests are shutting down freeways and commerce and Anti-Semitism is higher than it has ever been in this country, we also have large groups opposed to our alliance with Israel and battles are being waged daily in the House and Senate.


Tempers are short and anger is filling the streets as we enter an election year where everyone has apparently decided to walk as timidly as possible into the new year while waiting to see which side is the safest for their careers.


All of this has only just now surfaced (since the attacks on Israel in October) but there have been other issues inciting national unrest for the last several years and those issues have brought with them increased threats to our homeland security and challenges for emergency management.


We have now compounded those problems and challenges by ignoring yet another issue as America’s borders have become the focus of elected armchair quarterbacks and campaign public relation specialists but we have yet to see a leader rise and take steps to protect the American public from a lasting destruction of what we now call the American way of life.


Immigration and border control have long been hot button topics in the United States but with the current political climate, the issue has become even more contentious, with heated debates on both sides of the aisle. One major issue, the one that I am most concerned about has been at the forefront of discussions with border agents and that is the problem of “got-a-ways” at the border.Got-a-ways, also known as 'border jumpers' or 'border runners,' refer to individuals who attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally and successfully evade detection by law enforcement. This has been a persistent problem for decades, but never have we seen the numbers currently being recorded since the threats from China, Hamas and Iran have increased. Got-a-ways have always presented a daunting task for undermanned border stations, but the problem has evolved to much more and has accelerated with  increased laxity at the border (which seems counter-productive in light of the threats).


Just 6 days ago, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) issued the following statement after the Committee released more selections from transcribed interviews conducted with Border Patrol chief patrol agents responsible for the sectors along the Southwest border.


These interviews confirm the historic crisis at the Southwest border has affected the operations of Border Patrol agents in the field and limited their ability to conduct their homeland security mission, leading to more got-a-ways and the increased risk these individuals represent, as well as more drugs being smuggled by the criminal cartels across the border.  



Chairman Mark E. Green, MD

“I fear the extent of the threat posed by the record-number of got-a-ways won’t be clear until it is too late. The number of individuals apprehended illegally crossing the Southwest border and found to be on the terrorist watch list has increased 2,500 percent from Fiscal Years 2017-2020 to Fiscal Year 2023. And those are only who we’ve caught,” Chairman Green said“How many others have slipped by as Border Patrol agents have increasingly been pulled off the line to process illegal aliens crossing the border? How many violent criminals and gang members are now at large in our communities? Border security is national security, and right now, the border is not secure.”


We have now set ourselves up as a massive 3,809,525 square mile target and while America’s first responders are the finest in the world, what we need now is an influx of young, energetic, patriotic and passionate emergency managers to step into a world that for too long has been seen as “secondary” to actual response and has been run by retired fire chiefs and law enforcement officials. I believe this country is very close to seeing firsthand the true definition of emergency management by witnessing its own fall that more than rivals 9/11 which, while tragic, took place in one day and was not compounded by the everyday challenges already facing emergency managers such as natural disasters.


I strongly believe we are presently one decade behind in recruiting young emergency management personnel in a manner that reflects the need this country could be facing very soon. Our college graduates today were not alive on September 11, 2001 and the men and women that created a military recruitment surge in the early 2000’s are retiring. We made no plan to replace the patriotic sense of duty that was created that fateful day over two decades ago. Perhaps we thought we would never need it again? If that is the case, we were wrong.


In order to entice young people to consider careers in emergency management and homeland security, there are several key strategies that need to be employed.First and foremost, education and awareness are key to engaging young people in these fields. Many students are not exposed to emergency management and homeland security as potential career paths, and therefore may not even consider them as options. By promoting these fields in schools and universities, through career fairs, guest speakers, and internship opportunities, young people can gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities within emergency management and homeland security, and the impact they can have on their communities.


This strategy needs to include the element of prediction and forecasting that encompasses what we are presently experiencing. If only one hundred terrorists were among the 1.7 million got-a-ways we have experienced in the last two years or Hamas managed to move forty of their warriors into the United States with the over 250,000 got-a-ways that came across in just September of 2023, what outcome could we expect based on the small group one of 19 that committed the September 11 attacks?


Are we to hope that the solution will be small volunteer groups and 72-hour disaster kits? Will mutual aid even be a reality if these actors are organized? Part of our recruiting needs to include the real “what-ifs” that are presented in such a manner that they resurrect that Spirit of America that woke up on September 12, 2001.



Another important factor in attracting young people to these fields will be showcasing the dynamic and diverse range of job opportunities available. Emergency management and homeland security encompass a wide range of roles, from first responders and disaster relief workers to policy analysts and cybersecurity experts. Almost none of these roles are ever portrayed on television or in movies and are certainly not introduced in Junior High when I strongly believe that they should be presented. The flash of fire, the uniforms of law enforcement, the toys of SWAT and even the adventure of the military all overshadow emergency management roles when it comes to present day marketing of the arena.


It is crucial to highlight the different aspects of these fields, including the various sectors that emergency management and homeland security professionals can work in, such as government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private companies, perhaps the most lucrative and creative of them all. In addition to education and job variety, mentorship and networking opportunities are crucial in engaging young people and sparking their interest in these fields. By connecting students and young professionals with experienced and successful emergency management and homeland security professionals, they can gain valuable insights into the industry and receive guidance on how to build a successful career. For years as I toured the nation speaking at high schools it was exciting to watch young people discover possibilities they had never dreamed of in jobs they never knew existed. We need to overcome the ignorance of the American public as to what emergency management is al about and perhaps consider re-defining homeland security as a genre and not a department.


Furthermore, networking events and mentorship programs can help young people establish connections and build relationships that can lead to job opportunities and growth in the field. I saw this first-hand with a young man I mentored for years who is now at the equivalent of a “C” Class Executive in emergency management. Those first contacts catapulted him forward and proved to be invaluable. As experienced, older emergency management professionals, we need to not be afraid of bringing these young people to the table. They are sharper than us, younger, more energetic and unafraid; we can only benefit by surrounding ourselves with those seeking mentorship. It is important to emphasize here the sense of purpose and fulfillment that comes with working in emergency management and homeland security. In the tumultuous times we live in, these young people are seeking not only stability but a sense of belonging.  As I encounter these younger souls, I find that despite the influences that have bombarded them with ridiculous ideas and philosophies, they quickly grab hold of the concept of having a career they can be proud of and one that allows for them to be as creative and constructively cynical.


We need to market these careers by explaining and presenting that they involve making a meaningful impact on people's lives and protecting communities in times of crisis. By highlighting the sense of responsibility and contribution these jobs offer, young people may be more inclined to pursue them as a fulfilling career path.Lastly, technology and innovation can also play a significant role in attracting young people to these fields. If we believe for one moment that we will sustain our present-day emergency management progress without these young gamers, we are suffering great delusions.


With the advancements in technology, emergency management and homeland security have become more sophisticated and diverse, offering opportunities for young people to utilize their skills and creativity. By showcasing the use of cutting-edge technology in these fields, young people can see the potential for innovation and growth thus revealing their future. In conclusion, attracting young people to emergency management and homeland security jobs requires a multifaceted approach.


By educating, showcasing job opportunities, providing mentorship and networking opportunities, emphasizing purpose and fulfillment, and highlighting advancements in technology, we can inspire and engage the next generation of emergency management and homeland security professionals. It is crucial to invest in and promote these careers to ensure a strong and capable workforce for the future of emergency management and homeland security because as far as I can see, we will need them very soon.


Authors Note: More than 50% of the emergency management programs offered by today’ universities and colleges have only been offered between 5 and 15 years. During the time frame between 2005 and 2020, approximately 61,000 students have graduated from those programs.

Compare this with the 556,813 students that graduated last year with liberal arts degrees.

Don't blame the money! The average salary for both was almost identical at $79,000.

 

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