As the fourth largest city in the U.S. and home to numerous industry-leading companies, Houston has one of the most robust homeland security systems in the country. The Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security (OPSHS) oversees initiatives for preventing and responding to civil or technological threats including Weapons of Mass Destruction, disease outbreaks, cyber terrorism and civil unrest.
In an effort to include the public, Houston has instituted the iWatch Houston program. This local chapter is part of a national network of community organizations that utilize tips about suspicious behavior to help keep their community free from criminal or terrorist activity. Citizens enrolled in the program may alert a variety of agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, Harris County Homeland Security & Emergency Management or the OPSHS.
Standard Qualifications for Homeland Security Jobs in Houston, Texas
Professionals with career or academic experience in criminal justice, business continuity planning, public health, information technology, or intelligence operations hold many of the homeland security jobs in Houston, Texas. Some of these jobs may require additional qualifications, but the majority demand that applicants meet criteria similar to the following:
- Two to five years in homeland security, disaster preparedness or emergency management
- A baccalaureate degree with substantial coursework in
- Homeland security
- Terrorism studies
- Emergency management
- Public policy
- Information technology
- Experience developing and implementing training and exercises for homeland security personnel
- U.S. citizenship
- Security clearance or the ability to obtain it
- Familiarity with national, state and local homeland security laws, regulations and ordinances
Homeland security personnel in a variety of professions may obtain training through the Texas Department of Public Safety which regularly conducts training exercises modeled on potential terrorist incidents and offers training courses including:
- Tank Car Specialist
- Highway Emergency Response Specialist
- Leadership and Management in Surface Transportation Incidents
- Resilient Accord—Exercising Continuity Plans for Cyber Incidents
Many local colleges and universities also provide certification programs which offer specialized instruction in a range of homeland security fields. National organizations like the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security also offer highly respected certifications.
Homeland Security Threats in Houston
According to a study by the University of Maryland, Houston is one of the top cities to be potentially targeted by terrorists. Between 1970 and 2008, Houston has been the site of terrorist attacks. Eight of these attacks were instigated by individuals or groups with extreme dedication to a particular cause like anti-abortion.
Houston has also cracked down on potential terrorists or individuals with radicalized sentiments. In 2009, Kobie Diallo Williams was sentenced to four and a half years in prison following his conviction on conspiracy charges to military training with the Taliban and donating money to the terrorist organization. Williams attended military training camps in Afghanistan and provided more thatn $350 dollars to the group.