Bridging the Divide from Theory to Practice

November 2005 (VOL. 23, NO. 3)

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Increasing exposure to hazards and their associated risks coupled with escalating political, economic, social and cultural dynamics has led to a growing demand on emergency planners across the world. Historically Emergency Planning in the United Kingdom (UK) was a second or third career option, characterized by individuals with a background based in the emergency services, military or logistics (Coles, 1998), with similar attributes seen in Emergency Planners in the New Zealand (NZ) context. The UK and NZ have similar emergency planning roles however they address training and professional development needs from differing perspectives. In light of this new environment, practitioners and academics alike are faced with the challenge of ensuring today’s emergency planners are suitably educated, skilled and equipped to face the challenges of the new working environment. Since 1995 when the first United Kingdom undergraduate degree in Disaster Management came on stream at Coventry University, a number of academic undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Disaster and Emergency Management have become ever increasingly popular to both mature students and school leavers in the UK. Similarly, in New Zealand the historical approach to ‘training’ has in recent years been adapted into a suite of professional development activities including access to tertiary level qualifications and diplomas. \r\nIs it still acceptable to consider professional development simply in terms of short course attendance or should we be focusing on more contemporary academic programs as delivered by a number of tertiary organizations? Is there a gap between the theoretical (academic) approach and that of the traditional practitioner and if there is, can we bridge the divide? The historical relationship between the researcher and the practitioner in the UK and NZ appears to have been ‘never the twain shall meet’ but is that still the case? The context for developing the emergency management profession is changing. The focus of job descriptions and person specifications has changed dramatically within the last five years begging the question, what cultural change has taken place between the practitioner and the researcher and what value is placed on evidence based practice?\r\nIn answering these questions, this paper will examine the legislative frameworks in the United Kingdom and New Zealand before identifying the respective approaches to training and professional development.\r\n