The Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency (HMCEMA) supervises the emergency management services for Madison County, Alabama. This organization was formed in a collaborative effort between the government of the county’s largest city and the county government itself. The HMCEMA operates the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a command center for EM operations throughout the region, with the assistance of representatives from fire, police, Department of Transportation, government offices, and school safety. In order to monitor any developing emergencies, HMCEMA personnel are on call 24 hours a day. On average, agency personnel utilize the EOC once every five days to coordinate emergency operations.
Tornadoes in Madison County
Madison County has a long history of tornado incidents. Dr. Greg Forbes of the Weather Channel compiled a list of areas in the country with tornado events and Huntsville/Madison County was ranked number one on the list. As an expert in tornado events, Dr. Forbes explained that the county rested in Dixie Alley, which was strongly susceptible to severe weather events due to geographical and topological features. Since 1962, tornadoes have torn across almost 1,520 miles across Madison County. In 2011, nine tornadoes killed nine people in the county, while in 1989 a tornado killed 21 residents.
How to Become an Emergency Management Specialist in Madison County, Alabama
Due to the long history of disasters in the Huntsville/Madison County area, most of the more prominent organizations in the area have emergency management specialists on staff. Among these is the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which is operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In a job posting for a Program Manager, the minimum qualifications for this position included:
- A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering or business administration
- At least 15 years of professional experience in facilities operations of a NASA center, military installation, research facility or industrial site
- At least ten years of experience in project management
- Superior written and verbal communication skills
- Strong organizational skills
- Demonstrated leadership skills
- Proficiency in systems engineering, emergency management, building and structure repair, mechanical systems and electrical distribution
Emergency management specialists are expected to possess extensive experience preparing for and responding to disasters. This expertise may be evidenced by many years of professional experience or superlative academic credentials like master’s or doctor’s degrees.
Training for EM professionals may be obtained through a variety of public and private agencies. One of the most comprehensive and reputable programs is offered by the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), an agency of the federal government. The EMI offers a diverse selection of independent courses including the prestigious Professional Development Series that includes instruction on:
- Introduction to exercises
- Emergency planning
- Fundamentals of emergency management
- Leadership and influence
- Effective communication
- Decision making and problem solving
- Developing and managing volunteers
There are a number of highly reputed industry associations including the International Association of Emergency Managers that train and certify graduates.