Question: What Is the difference between risk management and emergency management? Risk Management vs. Emergency, Crisis, and Disaster Management
Updated: November 30, 2022
Answer: Risk management refers to proactive assessments and actions taken by businesses, government agencies, investment firms, and other organizations to identify potential threats, measure their likelihood, and formulate response plans to mitigate losses. Emergency management refers to the real-time response of government agencies, public health and safety organizations, and businesses to imminent threats, such natural and man-made disasters, mass shootings, and large-scale civil disorder.
Risk managers create models that inform response and recovery plans. Those plans are commonly used by emergency management professionals to prepare in advance for crises. Emergency management, which may also be referred to as emergency response, crisis management, or disaster management, is primarily focused on mustering resources and coordinating public sector efforts to respond to and remediate adverse events.
There are some distinctions between emergency and crisis and disaster management. Emergencies are classified by many professionals as adverse events that can be managed locally, while disasters are defined as crises the require the intervention of state, federal, and/or international authorities. In this more nuanced formulation, crisis management and recovery are strategic goals that include immediate responses as well as long-term, post-disaster planning.
Finally, emergency and disaster management actions are typically directed by authorities in the public sector, such as government officials and law enforcement, with support from hospitals, healthcare workers, and other private sector entities. In contrast, risk and crisis management have applications in both the public and the private sectors.
Government agencies typically employ risk and crisis management professionals, as do insurance and financial service companies, investment firms, and large private businesses in areas such as healthcare and manufacturing. Emergency management professionals more commonly work in the public sector.
Risk Management vs. Emergency Management
Risk management requires a different skill set than emergency management, and emergency management relies on knowledge in areas not typically associated with risk management. For example, risk managers typically use sophisticated statistical models and analytics tools to define the probability of adverse outcomes and quantify potential losses. In contrast, emergency management professionals study potential threats, devise response plans, and draw on their knowledge of available resources to coordinate responses. As part of the planning process, emergency managers may rely on forecasts, projections, and models, but statistics and analytics are not a core proficiency in emergency management.
Similarly, risk managers must be familiar with regulatory compliance issues in order to assess an enterprise’s potential exposure to financial loses but are not generally called upon to coordinate real-time responses to emergencies and disasters. Emergency managers are generally not concerned with financial matters beyond budgeting for emergency response measures.
One useful way of illustrating the differences between risk management and emergency management is through the lens of academic degree and certificate programs. Risk management is commonly framed as a business and or/finance discipline and taught through schools and departments of business. Emergency management is typically framed as a public safety concern and taught through schools of public administration, public affairs, public policy, government, or professional studies.
The table below provides a comparison between the core courses in emergency management vs. risk management degree programs.
|Emergency Management||Risk Management|
|Principles of Public Administration||Financial Concepts|
|Critical Infrastructure Security||Business Continuity|
|Public Sector Budgeting||Investment Risk Management|
|Public Health Planning and Response||Cyber Risk|
|Crisis Communication||Risk Analytics and Modeling|
It is important to note that there is some overlap between emergency management and risk management both in academic programs and in professional practice. For example, emergency and risk management professionals may study and prepare for cyber threats and natural disasters. However, risk management is primarily focused on planning in advance for adverse events and their impacts on business, while emergency management involves preparing for events that threaten public safety and mounting real-time responses.
For more information on emergency management, check out our Graduate Certificate Programs in Emergency Management page.