Locals brag that San Diego has the best weather in the nation; however, its location and climate make San Diego vulnerable to certain natural disasters, especially wildfires, earthquakes and floods. Between 1950 and 2010, San Diego had 144 floods, 103 serious wildfires and 34 historic (over a magnitude of 3.5) earthquakes. The threat of earthquakes in San Diego is lower than in the rest of California but frequent droughts and dry, Santa Ana winds greatly increase the wildfire danger.
The Cedar Fire of October, 2003 scorched 280,278 acres, resulting in 15 fatalities and the destruction of 2,820 buildings, 2,232 of them private homes. The wildfires of October 2007 killed one person, injured dozens and destroyed 655 homes. At these times San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium becomes a shelter for evacuees and the Del Mar fairgrounds/race track a temporary home for rescued pets and horses.
Requirements for an Emergency Management Career in San Diego
In 2009 there were 890 emergency management specialists employed in California. The position requires a bachelor’s degree in emergency management OR a degree in a related field and an emergency management certificate. A certificate offered by the California Emergency Management Agency requires completion of seven courses in subjects like:
- Disaster Planning
- Disaster Mitigation
- Disaster Recovery
- Crisis Communications
- Emergency Operations
- Terrorism Intelligence Analysis
- WMD Responses
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary of emergency management specialists in San Diego as $69,760.
For further information regarding employment call: San Diego Emergency Management Services, 619/533-4313; San Diego Office of Homeland Security, 619/533-6760; or UCSD Continuity and Emergency Services Office, 858/246-0695
Management of Emergencies and Disasters in San Diego
City Emergency Management Services (EMS) is part of the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department. EMS functions include:
- Develops plans for dealing with all kinds of natural or manmade disasters
- Coordinates multi-agency responses to emergencies/disasters
- Cooperates with city government and business leaders to return things to normal after a disaster/emergency
- Conducts training and disaster simulation exercises
- Coordinates urban search and rescue teams
EMS oversees a Swiftwater Rescue Team that consists of two 14-person platoons of highly trained firefighters and lifeguards. Sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, they were deployed to Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. There is also a bilateral liaison program with Mexico that deals with disaster-related border issues.
Other Emergency Management Groups in San Diego
The San Diego Office of Homeland Security (OHS) focuses on disseminating information to ensure that residents are prepared for any natural disaster, manmade threat or act of terrorism. OHS is responsible for implementing the Alert San Diego notification system that utilizes the 9-1-1 database to call all listed/unlisted telephone numbers and deliver a message about a threat or an evacuation order. The OHS also distributes info about:
- How to prepare family disaster kits
- How to develop family/business disaster plans
- How to care for pets during an emergency/disaster
The University of California-San Diego (UCSD) Continuity and Emergency Services Office provides classes on preparedness for an earthquake, wildfire, tsunami, bomb threat, mass shooting or other act of violence. They also organize and train CERT (Campus Emergency Response Team) which consists of student, faculty and staff volunteers trained in emergency-response skills. CERT also takes part in actions that improve campus safety.