FEMA offers free training through your state’s emergency management office. Anyone from the first responder community can take one of these courses for credit with FEMA, and some are necessary for development and carrier advancement in your place of employment. Even the U.S. military requires some of these courses for its members, and in some cases will provide the training in house.
Some of the more familiar courses most have taken are ICS 100, 200, 700, and 800. All of these courses can be taken online in a few hours and have tests at the end. After completing the course, you are given a PDF certificate for your place of employment and personal records. Beyond these general classes are more specific training blocks offered through instructor-lead traditional classroom presentations. Some of the classes I have taken in the past include:
ICS 300, which is the intermediate incident command system framework.
ICS 400, which is an advanced class for more complex incidents.
AWR 218 Site Protection Through Observational Techniques, which is a crash course in security assessments.
You can also earn certifications for completing a series of courses, such as the Professional Development Series, Advanced Professional, HAZMAT Credentialing and Instructor Development. Some of the above are necessary if you would like to lead and teach FEMA courses.
I would say that anyone wanting to understand how the national response framework truly operates and to assume a leadership position with that system (in a time of crisis) should take these classes very seriously. Most students tend to go through the motions and don’t really take the training seriously, simply because they are mandated to go. They also feel like the chance of them personally assuming a leadership position is not realistic for them. Understanding the framework and all of its intricacies requires a lot of study and immersion into the system. It has a lot of moving parts and there are several points of contact when managing such incidents. This work can be extremely rewarding when you do actually get deployed to an incident such as a natural or manmade disaster.
Some of the courses are sponsored by universities such as LSU and New Mexico Tech, and some are hosted by police and fire rescue stations. Your instructor for the particular course could be a full time instructor or a local person in an Emergency Management position. Either way, it will be the experience of the instructor in actual disaster management operations that will come across and make or break the class. These are very PowerPoint heavy and require self-discipline to stay focused without group interactions. I would highly recommend the New Mexico Tech IRTB (Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings) course for anyone eligible to attend, as it is also free from FEMA/DHS for our community.