Coast Guard officer earns international emergency management credential

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Walter is one of only 2,738 to have earned the international emergency management credential. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Walter is one of only 2,738 to have earned the international emergency management credential. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Walter Ham.

Story and Photo by Walter Ham

WASHINGTON — A Coast Guard officer who helped coordinate the response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria has earned an international emergency management credential.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew J. Walter received the Certified Emergency Manager credential from the International Association of Emergency Managers in June 2018.

One of only 2,738 people to have been approved for the credential since it was established 25 years ago, Walter said earning the certification followed a rigorous process that required training, education, references, experience and an examination.

A native of Mansfield, Ohio, Walter is the program manager for navigation equipment carriage requirements in the Navigation Standards Division at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He previously served in command centers and on the Coast Guard Cutters Valient and Neah Bay. He also commanded the St. Ignace, Michigan, based Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, a 140-foot-long Bay Class icebreaking tug.

For nearly three months during the 2017 hurricane season, Walter served in Washington, D.C., and Miami where he worked with 45 other government agencies to coordinate the response to the massive storms that caused more than $180 billion of damage and displaced more than 6.5 million residents.

Following Hurricane Harvey, Walter volunteered to serve at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C.

“We shepherded millions of dollars of support money to response agencies that funded emergency and support operations to help those affected by the hurricanes,” said Walter. “Working with emergency managers from so many different levels of government, it became apparent that holding a certification provided credence to the work that the Coast Guard does every day.”

Since Walter had previously served in the Sector Houston-Galveston command center, Hurricane Harvey especially hit home.

“I reached out to all my shipmates who were still serving in Houston,” said Walter. “I let them know that they had a friend in D.C., that we were praying for them and that we were doing everything we could from the national level to support their efforts.”

“I had a greater understanding of the Houston operation area, the players who needed to be involved and the solution sets they had planned,” continued Walter. “This understanding enhanced my performance as a FEMA watch stander.”

Walter then deployed to Florida to serve as the branch Miami director, responsible for the mitigation the environmental threat posed by hundreds of vessels displaced by Hurricane Irma across a 250-mile stretch of coastline. Protecting sensitive coastal eco-systems in south Florida, the Miami branch carefully removed 107 derelict vessels and recovered 5,259 gallons of hazardous substances.

During his service in other command centers, Walter also directed the response to a wide variety of emergency scenarios, from a sudden storm that caught boaters off guard along the Gulf Coast to a group of Ohio ice fishermen who got stranded on Lake Erie when their ice slab broke away from the shore.

After 15 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, Walter said his emergency manager credential has expanded his professional horizons and demonstrated how the multi-mission maritime service fits into the larger emergency management community.

“Adding a professional certification gives me a greater depth of understanding of the civilian field. Putting myself through this process broadened my aperture, lexicon and professional network,” said Walter, a Coast Guard Academy graduate.

Walter said getting a professional certification like an Emergency Manager Certificate or a Vessel Master’s License provides Coast Guard personnel with credentials for the life-saving work they do every day.

“The United States Coast Guard is a highly respected emergency management agency,” said Walter. “Obtaining this professional certification just codifies that.”

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