The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (OHSEM) supervises the emergency management planning and response operations in this most populous Texas county. This agency is responsible for a wide variety of emergency management programs including mass evacuations and shelter, hazardous material and oil spills, search and rescue, and health and medical services. OHSEM collaborates closely with the 34 cities in its jurisdiction, which includes 125 law enforcement organizations and 54 fire departments.
OHSEM also works closely with private companies that maintain or operate much of the county’s critical infrastructure. This includes utilities, transportation systems, energy production, chemical facilities, water and communications. In partnership with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, OHSEM developed the Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources blueprint. This plan details the most important private sector partnerships and allocates resources to protecting these key organizations.
How to Become an Emergency Management Professional in Harris County, Texas
Due to Harris County’s importance to the Texas economy as well as its long history of natural disasters, many organizations sponsor emergency management jobs here. Professionals with backgrounds in meteorology, business continuity planning, public health, engineering and public information should be able to easily find employment if they have qualifications similar to the following:
- Bachelor’s degree in
- Homeland security
- Information technology
- Public health
- Business administration
- Public policy
- At least one year of experience managing EM personnel or programs
- Knowledge of the National Incident Management System, National Response Framework or Incident Command System
- Superior verbal and written communication skills
Local Emergency Management Training
The Texas Division of Emergency Management offers a wide variety of training programs including the following emergency management courses in Harris County, Texas:
- Introduction to Incident Command System
- ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
- An Introduction to the National Response Framework
- NIMS Multiagency Coordination System
- National Incident Management System Public Information Systems
The International Association of Emergency Managers is also a highly regarded industry organization that offers accreditation as Certified Emergency Managers or Associate Emergency Managers.
Major Disasters in Harris County
In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison struck Houston and Harris County, causing up to 40 inches of rain. This enormous rainfall created floods that inundated most of Houston. Almost 70,000 homes were damaged and 2,744 were completely destroyed. Almost 30,000 residents were left homeless following the disasters. Twenty-three people were killed in the state and almost $5.5 billion in property damage resulted.
Harris County was also struck by Hurricane Alicia in 1983. This storm dumped almost 11 inches of rain in the county and produced a number of Category F2 tornadoes around the Houston area. Almost 3,000 homes were severely damaged by the storm, while 2, 297 were totally destroyed. Alicia killed 21 people and produced almost $2.6 billion in property damage.