Berkeley County has a history of being ravaged by severe natural disasters and has critical assets that would be vulnerable to manmade disasters such as chemical spills and acts of terrorism. Emergency management specialists are very active in the county in planning how to mitigate the impact of such disasters.
The need for such specialists is expected to grow by 16% in the state according to the College Foundation of West Virginia. The Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is one of the key employers of emergency management specialists in the county.
Requirements for an Emergency Management Career in Berkeley County
Certification by the West Virginia Emergency Management Accreditation Program is generally required for those seeking emergency management jobs in Berkeley County. Its requirements include having 120 hours of college credit towards a bachelor’s degree or 60 hours towards as associate’s degree. The program stresses that applicants have a high level of training to deal with emergency situations that may arise.
Students in West Virginia seeking emergency management courses can find them through state schools that offer an Associate’s degree in the field or through one of the online schools that offers such coursework. Typical coursework includes the following topics:
- Consequence Management
- Emergency and Disaster Incident Command
- Emergency Planning
- Introduction to Homeland Security and Defense
- Introduction to Meteorology
- Natural Disaster Management
- Psychology of Disaster
Emergencies Deemed a Threat to Berkeley County
Emergency management careers in Berkeley County involve working in tandem with colleagues in other counties of eastern West Virginia to try and mitigate the effects of both naturally occurring disasters that periodically strike the county and less probable, but potentially devastating manmade disasters.
Hurricanes – While hurricanes are only an occasional event in Berkeley County, they have the potential to be catastrophic. Hurricane Sandy struck the area in October 2012. The county was fortunate in that the Potomac River did not overflow its banks, but Berkeley County sustained enough damage in the storm to be declared a federal disaster area by FEMA.
Derechos – There were severe thunderstorm warnings for West Virginia in June 2012, but no one expected the ferocity of the derecho that struck Berkeley County. By definition, wind gusts have to reach at least 58 mph for a storm to be considered a derecho. This storm knocked out electricity in much of Berkeley County, leaving nearly 5,800 people without power. The damage to the county was severe enough that it qualified for federal disaster aid.
Flooding – Flooding has been a persistent problem in Berkeley County, since it borders the Potomac River. It is a frequent critical event with the possibility of being catastrophic. Potential structural losses are estimated to be almost $5.5 million.
Floods come both from flash flooding and having the river overflow its banks. Opequon and Tuscarora Creeks are particularly prone to flooding. Subdivisions have been built in the floodplain, including the Horner, Little Georgetown, and Trees Bottom subdivisions. Sixty-eight sites flood regularly, primarily in the 25401 and 25419 zip codes.
Chemical Spills – Berkeley County has been undergoing a great deal of population growth and has a number of key transportation routes running through it. Of particular prominence is the I-81 corridor, along with the numerous railways that transect the county. The county has an active HAZMAT team to plan for this contingency.
Terrorism – Washington, D.C. is approximately 79 miles from Berkeley County. This is close enough that the county is likely to be affected in the event of a terrorist attack on this high profile target. The possibility is considered remote, but it has the potential to be catastrophic to Berkeley County were it to occur.
Emergency specialists in Berkeley and Morgan County have created the Eastern Panhandle All-Hazards Mitigation Plan to prepare for such disasters and try to mitigate their severity. Efforts range from having key personal highly trained to deal with these types of emergencies to more closely regulating building in flood-prone areas.