New book born out of professor’s experience

First Posted: 9/25/2013

Is scholarship important to teaching at the university level? The answer is a resounding yes.

Robert Schneider, a veteran professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is inspired by his continuing research. He takes his enthusiasm — for a very important and timely subject — into the classrooms of the Master of Public Administration program. The following article looks at his new book.

For all the public attention emergency management receives after every disaster, the profession remains undefined, according to Schneider, a professor of public administration and an emergency planning expert.

In his book, “Emergency Management and Sustainability: Defining a Profession,” Schneider calls for planning practices that build resilient and sustainable communities.

Before considering Schneider’s thesis, readers should understand the underlying premises: Emergency management is not only about responding to disasters, it’s about pre and post-disaster decision making as well; emergency managers should help society to stop designing disasters; natural disasters are acts of God, but the damage is usually manmade.

Schneider has devoted 20 years to the study and teaching of emergency management, and he admits it took many years of research and many peer-reviewed articles to arrive at the inevitability of this book.

“‘Emergency Management and Sustainability’ is the product of a line of my research going back many years,” he said in an interview shortly before the book was released. “My own perspective, my take, stems from all the work I had done and was doing that ultimately came together in this book.”

Schneider wrote the book in just nine months, and in just 15 months, it is ready to be published. His ideas are idealistic and practical at the same time, he says, because sustainable management saves money and makes communities more resilient. Redefining emergency management as a profession is a step in the right direction.

“The time has come to define emergency management as a sustainability profession,” Schneider said. “As a profession — a sustainability profession — emergency management has a valuable perspective to offer with respect to the identification of risks, the assessment of vulnerabilities, and the recommendation of steps that may contribute to sustainable and hazard-resilient communities.”

There were 11 natural disasters in the United States in 2012 with damages topping $1 billion for each. The damages from Hurricane Sandy alone reached $65 billion. These disaster incidents will only increase and their costs will escalate. As a result, Schneider sees the need for hazard resilience and sustainability in the greater public dialogue as it affects public policy decision-making.

“The end product of emergency management must be understood as fundamentally connected to all facets of community life in a coordinated effort with all relevant actors, public and private, to promote sustainability,” Schneider said. “This means that, in addition to the technical skills that are related to each disaster phase in the emergency management cycle, emergency managers must bring knowledge and a perspective to the table that is relevant to the broader task of sustainable community development.”

As climate change increases the risk and severity of natural disasters, Schneider’s call to redefine emergency management may find sympathetic ears.

“There is a growing awareness that emergency managers face new challenges imposed by environmental and economic issues that, while outside their traditional and normal range of activities, they must increasingly take into account and be knowledgeable about,” he said.

Schneider said his book would prove useful for graduate and upper level students, policymakers, and practitioners in the field.

“I’d like to think that anybody could benefit from reading it,” he said. “I hope it expands the public dialogue about emergency management beyond the response stage. I believe this book will advance the field.”

Scott Bigelow is a Public Relations director for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.