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Guidance for Local Officials to Use When Developing an Emergency Manager Position Description and the Hiring Process

One of the objectives for the IPEM program is to provide local elected officials with accurate and up-to-date guidance that they can use to create a realistic description for the position of Emergency Manager. For many years, the responsibilities of the emergency manager position were assigned to a current staff member who already had a full time job. For many of these people, they not only had little or no background or experience, they also had to juggle their full-time responsibilities with these new ones as well. Real life events over the past few years have convinced many jurisdictions that this approach needs to be changed. The emergency management program should be an essential piece of the overall public safety program and the emergency manager needs to be a full time position. For many jurisdictions, the process to establish an accurate description for this position has not always been easy. Some jurisdictions that do have a position description, don't know how accurate it is. While this document will not tell you what you have to include, it will give you options on what you could include. Always remember that there is not a boiler-plate position description for every jurisdiction. Pick out the parts that fit your jurisdiction and start from there.

In each of the following sections, guidance will be given as to what a jurisdiction could look for.


    When determining the required level of training/education, you must first determine what training/education options are available.

    The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has an emergency management-based curriculum located on its website The training calendar contains course descriptions along with future dates and locations. This website also contains information on the Illinois Professional Development Series and the Illinois Professional Emergency Manager Program.

    The International Association of Emergency Managers has established the Certified Emergency Manager program. Information is located on their website

    Many colleges and universities are developing emergency management degree programs that are available locally.


    Depending on the current level of the program and size of the jurisdiction, the type and level of experience required could vary greatly. Applicants with 3-4 years experience in emergency management and 1 year with management responsibilities or equivalent is a good place to start. One important thing to remember-look for an applicant that can effectively manage people and projects without getting to close to either.

Essential Functions

Develop process to improve the capability of the emergency management program to interact with other jurisdictional departments

  • Conduct an annual individual/family disaster preparedness day
  • Conduct annual review of emergency management ordinance
  • Present quarterly updates at council meeting concerning emergency management issues
  • Conduct annual updates at the December council meeting concerning what emergency powers are available following a local disaster declaration.
  • Conduct an emergency management orientation for all newly elected officials
  • Maintain process to ensure the jurisdiction has meet all state certification requirements
  • Develop long-term plan to improve the jurisdiction's capability to prepare for, respond to and recover from a large-scale disaster
  • Update/Revise the jurisdictions emergency operations plan
  • Develop long-range program to improve the jurisdiction's perception of emergency management
  • Establish/maintain good working relationships, with private industry and volunteer organizations
  • Develop multi-year training and disaster exercise schedules

Interview Questions

Possible interview questions could include:

  • Can you describe the process a local emergency management program would follow to meet state certification requirements?
  • Describe the state resources that are available to a jurisdiction following a state disaster declaration and the process to request them.
  • Describe the damage assessment process currently used in Illinois.
  • Can you describe the benefits available by using the incident command system?
  • Describe the benefits of using an emergency operation center when coordinating the response to a local disaster.
  • Do you know what a Preliminary Damage Assessment is and what place it plays in requesting a Federal disaster declaration?
  • What process would you use to advertise for volunteers in the event that you needed to fill 10,000 sand bags?
  • Explain the different types of Federal disaster declarations and the associated benefits.
  • Describe your experience with developing program budgets.
  • What experience have you had in working with state personnel following a State disaster declaration?
  • What is your level of computer software working knowledge?
  • What experience have you had in working with federal personnel following a Federal disaster declaration?
  • Describe the process Illinois has in place to offer disaster-related benefits to local volunteers.
  • How do you try to calm down a person who is very angry with you?