Proposed Curriculum Guidelines for Masters Programs in EM With an IS Focus

Proposed Curriculum Guidelines for Masters Programs in EM With an IS Focus

Linda Plotnick, S. Roxanne Hiltz, Murray Turoff, Julie Dugdale
DOI: 10.4018/IJISCRAM.2019010101
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Information systems (IS) in emergency management (EM) support situational awareness and agility during a disaster so that professionals do not only need to follow rigid pre-defined plans that might be unsuitable in the unfolding situation. To use IS effectively, managers need an understanding of the capabilities of these systems; this can be achieved through an appropriate set of educational courses. This article presents the results of the analysis of a survey that proposed EM and IS courses for master level programs. The survey was completed by 373 practitioners, academics and/or researchers with EM experience. All proposed courses were rated above a 4 on a 7-point scale for how essential they are to a curriculum. A qualitative analysis indicates that some low ratings were due to disagreement over the described course content. An unexpected finding was that a substantial number of respondents spontaneously expressed opposition to the use of IS for EM in general. Findings are discussed and a preliminary curriculum is proposed.
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Emergency management (EM) is a crucial and growing profession, thus it is important that higher education institutions provide degree programs that will prepare students to take responsible positions in the field. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the USA and in other places such as London and Paris, and the increasing number of natural disasters related to climate change, have led governments worldwide to invest considerable resources in the writing of emergency response plans and the training of emergency responders. Particularly in the United States, the federal government has created new homeland security organizations and urged state and local governments to appoint official emergency response agencies and draw up plans for a variety of disaster scenarios (Perry & Lindell, 2003). In Europe, the DITAC (Disaster Training Curriculum) project has identified deficiencies in current responder training approaches and analyzed the characteristics and content required for a new, standardized European course in disaster management and emergencies (Manesh-Khorram et al., 2015).

The growth in the EM profession is reflected in the large and increasing number of higher education programs offering degrees or certificates in emergency management (see for example, There are more undergraduate programs listed in Emergency Management (50) than master’s programs (42 as of December 2016) in the USA. In addition to the EM master’s degrees, there were 44 masters’ programs listed in the related field of Homeland Security. However, when one looks at the curricula for the degrees, there are generally few, if any, courses in Information Systems, even in the Homeland Security programs, which one would think would include cyber-security. Given that technology is becoming more ubiquitously used in emergency management, this is a gap that needs to be addressed.

There have been calls for standard curricula guidelines for EM for some time. For instance, Alexander (2003) discussed the possible future role of standards in assuring the quality and content of programs for educating and training people in the fields of emergency planning and management. Due to the complex and multi- disciplinary nature of EM, it has been a challenge for higher education institutions to incorporate all the necessary knowledge within the curriculum (Perdikou et al., 2014). A second identified challenge is a lack of flexibility of formal education institutions to provide rapid responses to the dynamic requirements of practitioners and EM organizations, and to their need for continued lifelong learning (Thayaparan et al., 2015).

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