The Civil Defense Staff College opened April 1, 1951 with the intention of teaching civil defense courses during the Cold War. Concerns about a potential attack led the college to relocate the campus from Olney, Maryland to St. Joseph’s campus in Battle Creek, Michigan.
When FEMA was created in 1979, the Civil Defense Staff College joined with several other federal agencies focused on disaster response, including the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. In the same year, the Civil Defense Staff College closed and merged its programs and students with the National Emergency Training Center.
President Jimmy Carter dedicated the former Mount Saint Mary’s University, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, as the FEMA National Emergency Training Center. The training center was later changed to the Emergency Management Institute, a broader name that included the National Fire Academy and reflected the nation’s readiness posture. The Emergency Management Institute moved from Battle Creek, Michigan to Emmitsburg, Maryland a year later, and in 1981, the Institute held its first class.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew highlighted the need to address the training implications for emergency managers at all levels of government when it devastated portions of South Florida, Louisiana, and the Caribbean. After careful consideration, it became apparent that the Institute could no longer serve as both a training and an educational institution.
To address this, FEMA develop a plan to transition the institute’s educational mission to colleges and universities to foster a higher level of commitment to emergency management. A year later, FEMA launched the Emergency Management Higher Education Project. The name of was changed in 2008 to Emergency Management Higher Education Program.
At that time, only three higher education institutions offered emergency management programs. This repositioning encouraged and supported the teaching of emergency management in colleges and universities across the country to help ensure that the next generation of emergency managers come to the job with a degree in emergency management.
In 2017, the Higher Education Program was reassigned from the Emergency Management Institute to the National Training and Education Division at FEMA headquarters to raise its profile and expand the reach of the program. The move also helped build closer relationships with FEMA’s training and education programs.
There are currently more than 721 emergency management programs throughout the United States and offered across the globe. Of the almost 8,000 graduates who earned an emergency management degree in 2020, nearly half of those graduates move on to public sector emergency management positions. The remaining graduates chose jobs as part-time faculty.
Emergency managers are integral to FEMA’s efforts to protect the nation and help families and communities feel cared for and more resilient when a disaster strikes.
Having the tools, resources and space available to train emergency management professionals is critical. The ability of the Emergency Management Institute and the Higher Education Project to provide these is vital to the country’s future.
The Emergency Management Institute will host its 70th anniversary celebration on its website in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for upcoming notices and events.