By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications
On June 12th, Dr. Jennifer Carlson, Social Work and Emergency Management professor at Anna Maria College, testified in front of the Joint Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Management at the State House in Boston. Carlson outlined her support for the Emergency Management Professionalization bill, currently known as Resolve H.740, which she drafted and wrote. Massachusetts State Representative David Vieira of Barnstable is backing the bill and supporting Carlson’s work.
Resolve H. 740 seeks to take the field of Emergency Management and solidify it as a formalized profession complete with licensure.
Currently, in the state of Massachusetts there are certification programs to become an Emergency Management Director, but no state-backed licenses that ensure that all professionals in the field are learning that same material and have professional accountability and credibility.
“We really need to formalize the profession. We need full and part-time local emergency management directors depending on the size of the community. We can’t continue to hand over the responsibilities of local emergency management directors to our respected fire and police chiefs, or EMS professionals, as their plates are already full,” Carlson said during her testimony.
Ultimately, having an emergency management director for each of Massachusetts’ 351 towns and cities would streamline coordination with other agencies like Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency, particularly during huge, multi-town emergencies such as natural disasters. However, with the increased need for more emergency management directors comes the need to verify that they have the knowledge-base and experience to effectively and safely do the job.
The bill presented to the Committee outlined the “Pathway to Professionalization” of emergency management which included four steps: developing a code of ethics and professional standards, formalizing higher education accreditation standards and an accrediting body, establishment of a non-profit gatekeeper organization tasked with national licensure, and having an accredited institution degree requirement fully integrated by 2040.
Carlson takes her professionalism and passion for emergency management into the Anna Maria College classroom with her. She develops unique courses that holistically incorporate other departments to simulate the real-world environment of working with other agencies. For example, Carlson is teaching a Disaster Social Work pilot course this Summer which focuses on the vicarious trauma social workers face when aiding disaster victims.
“I believe it is important for Anna Maria students to get a taste of the real-world which is why I focus on skills that they can use in their careers after graduation,” Carlson said, “The field of emergency management is undergoing great change and growth. Our students are prepared to fill this need and help others.”
Carlson is fully committed to the success of this bill and believes it is her “purpose” to take emergency management to the next level of professionalization. She has over 20 years of experience in emergency management including working with the American Red Cross and MEMA. Carlson also serves as Co-Chair of the Higher Education Academician Caucus for the International Association of Emergency Management.
In addition to her respected emergency management career and real-world, disaster experiences, Carlson has a personal passion for serving and protecting others. Before Carlson was born, her parents lost everything in a devastating fire followed by another fire which broke out in the building her mother was at during prom. After hearing these stories growing up, Carlson knew she wanted to make a difference and help others during their most trying times.
Resolve H. 740 is currently under review by the Joint Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Management, but ultimately, Carlson would like to see this bill become a law that encourages other states to also professionalize the field of emergency management. Whether training the next generation of emergency management professionals at Anna Maria College or writing a bill that advocates for the field’s future, Carlson is dedicated to saving lives.
Carlson’s testimony can be viewed at and starts at 11:45: https://prodarchivevideo.blob.core.windows.net/video/2023/Hearings/Joint/June/12_2.mp4
Dr. Jennifer Carlson, Social Work and Emergency Management professor at Anna Maria College