In El Paso County, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) within the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is the primary agency responsible for preparing other local agencies, personnel and the general public for environmental or manmade calamities. The OEM, including the Hazardous Materials Team, supervises a number of units and programs designed to optimize safety throughout a natural disaster or terrorist event. The HazMat Team consists of 34 members, including 28 sheriff’s deputies and six volunteers. This unit trains for a variety of scenarios on a monthly basis.
Another key component of the OEM is the El Paso County Search and Rescue Team, which is highly trained in the area’s mountainous terrain. This unit is composed entirely of volunteers. The Search and Rescue team uses a variety of tracking and electronic techniques to find and rescue survivors from lost aircraft, hiking mishaps and skiing accidents.
Training and Requirements to Become an Emergency Management Professional in
El Paso County, Colorado
The emergency management field in El Paso County encompasses a wide variety of professions including transportation specialists, public health, civil engineers, utility experts, architects and seismologists. The exact academic and professional requirements for these careers is dependent upon the employer, but the majority of emergency management jobs in El Paso County, Colorado have requirements similar to these:
- Bachelor’s degree in
- Emergency management
- Homeland security
- Public policy
- Disaster response
- At least three years of experience in emergency management or homeland security
- At least one year of experience coordinating disaster preparedness or relief operations
- Accreditation as a Certified Emergency Manager is typically preferred
- Familiarity with the National Response Framework and National Incident Management System
Training for emergency management professionals may be obtained through a variety of agencies including the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. These emergency management classes in El Paso County include:
- Hydrogen Sulfide Hazard Awareness for First Responders
- Intermediate Command System
- WMD Radiological and Nuclear Awareness
- State Volunteer and Donations Management
- Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program
Certification for emergency management specialists may be obtained through the federal Emergency Management Institute or the International Association of Emergency Managers.
Major Disasters in El Paso County
In 2013, El Paso County suffered from a major wildfire designated the Black Forest fire. This fire struck the county in June and destroyed 498 homes, with 25 to 78 homeowners without insurance. This fire prompted Governor John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Congressional delegation to request federal assistance for the more than $22 million in damages.
In June of 2013, the fires that decimated local forests also made local communities vulnerable to flash floods and mudslides. Heavy rains in the Waldo Canyon burn area contributed to homes that were inundated with rising water or mud, and, in some cases, had been washed off their foundations. Nearby roads were also impassable due to mud and debris.