Connor Woods

Staff Writer

Edited by Morgan Huber

Earlier this month, several Millersville University students attended the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference in Savannah, GA. An international organization dedicated to emergency managers worldwide, IAEM holds an annual conference for them to network and learn about the latest challenges and achievements in the field. Millersville University’s own IAEM chapter was able to send several students to the conference in Savannah this month. Alanna Bezas, a senior majoring in emergency management and vice president of the Millersville University chapter, explains IAEM’s role for aspiring emergency managers.

“The IAEM Conference is a professional development conference for those in the field of emergency management,” says Bezas. “It occurs annually, and consists of speakers on an array of topics, networking events, and certification awarding.”

This year, IAEM offered college students and young professionals a mini-series, EMbark, for professional development. EMbark brought various speakers to talk about the job application process, making a name for a young and aspiring emergency manager, and a fast-paced networking session for attendees to introduce themselves to peers and fellow professionals. Some advice given to attendees was to tailor resumes for a particular job, find mentors to help guide them through the start of their careers, and communicate as much as possible to form connections in-person and on LinkedIn. 

In addition to Millersville University students, some faculty members attended the IAEM conference. Dr. Duane Hagelgans, professor of Emergency Management and the 2022 Conference Committee Chair, reiterated the importance of attending conferences for college students, especially those interested in emergency management.

“College students get introduced to the ‘real world’ of emergency management. They have the opportunity to learn about the profession from those in the profession,” Hagelgans explains. “They get to network and potentially meet future collaborators or employers. They also have the opportunity to grow their personal knowledge through educational presentations.”

Besides the EMbark series, various presentations offered to emergency managers include communication techniques during disasters, creating and maintaining relationships between governments and the public and private sectors, and adapting to the post-disaster climate. An example was the post-Hurricane Michael environment in Mexico Beach, Fl. After the storm hit, residents and the local government encountered multiple challenges, especially the recovery process. Fortunately, with assistance from the general public, public and private sectors, and state and federal governments, Mexico Beach became more resilient due to the whole community approach.

Outside the conference, Millersville University students explored Savannah. From walking along the riverfront to visiting local shops and restaurants, they thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city, especially its Southern charm and landscape. It is a city that they would like to visit again in the future.

At the end of the conference, the students grasped the importance of emergency management and its role in modern society. Since disasters are visible and invisible, they vary in frequency, scale, and scope. Nonetheless, they enjoyed the overall experience and received critical advice from more seasoned professionals.

“The conference offers many topics to learn from; it is important to take advantage of this,” Bezas explains. “In addition, do not stick around the people you came with or whom you already know. Use this opportunity to connect with other students, professionals, different organizations, etc.”

Dr. Hagelgans adds, “meet new people, have an open mind and take advantage of every opportunity the conference provides to you.”

Whether an emergency management or government major, attending a conference sponsored by Millersville University, another college, or a professional organization is essential. That way, students can learn more about their field, network with students and professionals, and improve their communication and related skills.