Harrison County is situated along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. The adjacent port cities of Gulfport and Biloxi are the county seats. The Big Black, Pearl, Pascagoula, Yazoo and Tombigbee Rivers, combined with low elevations, have made flooding an important part of the county’s history. Most recently, heavy rains and high winds caused serious flooding throughout the county in April of 2013.
Between 1950 and 2010, Harrison County experienced 645 floods, 3,357 severe thunderstorms, 58 tornadoes, nine tropical storms and five hurricanes, emphasizing the need for emergency management.
How to Become an Emergency Management Specialist in Harrison County, MS
A career in emergency management requires a bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a degree in a related field like public administration with a certificate in emergency management. A number of Mississippi schools offer degrees in emergency management, as do a number of online universities/colleges.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, headquartered in Pearl, MS, has training opportunities for persons involved in emergency management in Mississippi, including all courses required for grant funding. These courses include:
- National Incident Management Command System
- Principles of Emergency Management
- Emergency Planning: an All-Hazard Approach
- Disaster 101
- Developing/Managing Volunteers
- Exercise Design/Evaluation
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for emergency management directors is $46,660 (Mississippi) and $43,490 (Gulfport)
Notable Disasters in Harrison County, Mississippi
Hurricane Camille. Camille was a Category 5 hurricane when it hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the night of August 18, 1969. Its maximum winds are unknown because the wind-recording instruments were destroyed; however, they were estimated at over 200 mph. Approximately 143 people were killed in Harrison County and the $950 million damage in Mississippi was mostly on the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Katrina. On August 28-29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, devastating Harrison County, Mississippi. The small towns of Pass Christian and D’Iberville were obliterated while Gulfport and Biloxi sustained horrific damage. Biloxi’s famous “floating barge” casinos ended up in the middle of what was once a residential neighborhood. Over 123 Harrison County residents were killed and property damage in the state exceeded $125 billion.
BP Oil Spill. April of 2010 will always be remembered for the devastating explosion of a BP oil rig that caused over 210 million U.S. gallons of oil to gush into the Gulf of Mexico before it was capped months later. The economy of Harrison County depends on the fishing, shrimping, gaming and tourist industries which were decimated by the spill. Harrison County has joined the law suit against BP claiming that the company’s failure to plan for and properly respond to the disaster caused enormous economic damage as well as massive destruction of natural resources.
Emergency Management in Harrison County, Mississippi
The Harrison County Office of Emergency Management is led by Director Rupert Lacey who, in conjunction with local agencies and municipalities, is responsible for preparing for, mitigating and responding to any natural, technological or manmade disasters/emergencies that impact Harrison County. Activities include:
- Developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP} that details standard operating procedures for all affected county agencies and organizations.
- Supporting the CEMP through training and practice exercises.
- Providing the general public with flood and hurricane information, shelter lists and evacuation zone maps.
A Mississippi preparedness summit, “Partners in Preparedness,” was held in Biloxi on April 17-19, 2013. It was jointly sponsored by an array of pertinent state, county and local agencies/organizations.