The Benton County Emergency Management Agency (BCEMA) oversees training and disaster preparedness for the county. Among the many programs that the BCEMA administers is the Auxiliary Communications Services program, which utilizes volunteers and trained professionals to utilize alternative communications systems like amateur radio service frequencies. These under-utilized alternative communications provide a low-tech highly reliable system that can be employed if a major catastrophe should knock out conventional systems.
Another critical component of BCEMA is the Citizen Corps. This chapter of the Citizen Corps national network provides a variety of services through volunteers who assist in disaster readiness. These volunteers also inform homeland security organizations about potential threats evidenced by suspicious behavior. Citizen Corps members are often critical to disaster relief efforts and provide essential services through units like the Community Emergency Response Team, which offers training to community volunteers.
Disasters in Benton County, Arkansas
In May of 2013, Benton County was declared a disaster area due to heavy rains. During a 24 hour period, almost six inches of rains contributed to flash flooding throughout the county. The rising waters shut down more than 50 roads and caused widespread flooding of homes and other structures.
In 1997, Benton County was the site for a major tornado outbreak. A major storm front created 39 tornadoes across three states. The most fatalities resulted in Benton with 25 killed and almost 400 injured.
How to Become an Emergency Management Professional in Benton County, Arkansas
A key profession in any emergency management department is the dispatcher. First responders require dispatchers to keep them apprised of current conditions and areas which require assistance. The city of Fayetteville, posted a vacancy for a Police Dispatcher position with the following requirements:
- High school diploma or GED
- At least one year of experience in public safety dispatch
- Certification in Arkansas Crime Information Center Level I or II
- Ability to complete all National Incident Management System training within six months of hiring
- U.S. citizen
- No felony convictions
- Possess a valid Arkansas driver’s license
- Ability to pass dispatch skills testing
- Ability to work in a high stress environment
- Proficiency in computer, multi-line telephone and related software applications
- Proficiency in the use of radio systems, mapping computes, weather radio, 911 computer and recording systems
- Ability to effectively communicate with others
- Ability to courteously respond to customer inquiries and complaints
- Pass a drug test
Emergency management professionals may be required to obtain certification or licensing prior to employment, depending on their profession. EMS personnel must often complete a licensing program which can be found through local schools or public agencies. Fire and law enforcement personnel must usually complete a training program through a fire or police academy; these programs may last several weeks or months. For emergency management coordinators, there are a number of certification programs offered by the Emergency Management Institute which designate graduates as masters of EM planning or response.