There’s a tranquility in the Berkeley County Emergency Preparedness office. Located slightly underground, beneath the Sheriff’s Office, the workstation is adorned with dry erase boards, a dozen desktop computers, and televisions tuned to The Weather Channel.
It’s the calm before the storm for Berkeley County’s newest Director of Emergency Preparedness Benjamin Almquist. During a hurricane, the quiet workspace changes from office to command center, with Almquist at the helm.
“At that point I will probably not leave the office until we have returned to normal operations, unless the situation requires me to be elsewhere,” he said.
Of course, this is only in the case of an emergency. Almquist’s usual day-to-day agenda varies between meetings with state, county, and municipal officials, monitoring for potential emergency situations, or creating new county emergency operations plans.
“In the extremely rare event that I have time for other pursuits, I actively research what other emergency management departments across the country are doing to improve their operation, to see if any of those initiatives might be beneficial to Berkeley County,” he added.
Fittingly, Almquist was very well prepared for the position when he acquired it in January 2018. “Prior to working with Berkeley County, I worked for South Carolina Emergency Management Division,” said Almquist. “My role there was as a regional emergency coordinator, essentially as a liaison, and Berkeley County fell into my region. I worked with Berkeley County, specifically, so when the position came open, it just seemed like a natural transition for me.”
Almquist was born in Berkeley County in 1982 and has lived there his whole life. His first experience with disaster management came from his time in the Marine Corps.
“Towards the end of my time with the Marines, I got into camp security, which involves a lot of homeland security aspects,” said Almquist.
Upon returning home, he attended the Citadel to obtain his master’s degree with emphasis on homeland security and emergency management. He began his position at SCEMD in 2015.
In the six months that he’s been director of emergency preparedness, Almquist has focused his job on updating and strengthening the current emergency preparation plans.