The need to plan for emergencies in Kanawha County is such that twenty emergency management specialists are employed in this county alone. The field is growing rapidly, and U.S. News and World Report placed emergency management specialists among its top 50 careers in 2011. According to the College Foundation of West Virginia, the number of emergency management jobs in Kanawha County is projected to grow by 15%.
The median annual salary for emergency management specialists in West Virginia is $49,750, while those with experience in the field can earn as much as $86,230 a year. One major employer of emergency management specialists in Kanawha County is the Kanawha County Commission Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Requirements for an Emergency Management Career in Kanawha County
To be hired as an emergency management specialist in Kanawha County, applicants typically need certification through the West Virginia Emergency Management Accreditation Program. The requirements include having at least 60 hours towards an associate degree or 120 hours towards a bachelor’s degree. The program will certify that applicants have adequate training for emergency management careers in Kanawha County.
Coursework for this certification can be met through schools in West Virginia that offer an Associate of Applied Arts in Emergency Management or through one of the online schools that offers degrees in this field. Typical courses include:
- Emergency Planning
- Natural Disaster Management
- Emergency and Disaster Incident Command
- Consequence Management
- Introduction to Homeland Security and Defense
- Psychology of Disaster
- Introduction to Meteorology
Emergencies Declared in Kanawha County
Kanawha County is at risk from both natural disasters and from potential manmade ones, such as chemical spills. During an eight-year period, the county was affected by over ten State or Presidential declared disaster events.
Hurricanes – Hurricane Sandy blew through Kanawha County in October 2012, leaving over 42,000 people without power in the county. In addition to days of rain, the storm produced several feet of snow, isolating thousands of people without heat or power. This resulted in an emergency declaration being declared for the county.
Derechos – Despite warnings for severe thunderstorms, the magnitude of the storm system that struck West Virginia in June 2012 was not expected. Kanawha County was one of the most affected counties in the state with wind speeds reaching 78 mph. Parts of the county were left without electricity for up to a week. Kanawha County received over $460,000 in federal Housing Assistance Funds to help residents recover from this disaster. The 2012 derecho knocked out the Emergency Alert System and trapped many of the people who would staff the Emergency Operations Center in their homes.
Flooding and Tornados – With the Kanawha River flowing through the county, it is highly susceptible to flooding, both from the river and from flash floods. The county received $1.6 million dollars in federal aid in 1997 as a response to the devastating flood of March of that year. Kanawha County is located in the tornado belt, meaning the risk of tornados is always present
These natural disasters have made emergency management an important part of the Kanawha County government. Even with the stringent efforts made by the county, these disasters have overwhelmed emergency management efforts.