LEXINGTON, S.C. – A longtime member of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department has become Lexington County’s first Certified Emergency Manager. Lt. Billy Aiken used his free time to pursue something he’s seriously considered since nine people died in the Graniteville train derailment more than a dozen years ago.
“The incident in Graniteville exposed the vulnerabilities and vast needs of a community, and revealed how all disasters are local,” Aiken said. “I took on the viewpoint that our home, our community and our lives here were equally at risk and that wasn’t acceptable at any level.”
To become certified by the South Carolina Emergency Management Association, Aiken went through a lengthy application process including dozens of online courses, participating in actual emergencies and simulated exercises, and logging at least 100 training hours.
“Real-life experiences motivated me to grow professionally in emergency management,” Aiken said. “Real life emergencies in Lexington County, such as the winter ice storm in 2014 and historic flooding in 2015, consistently reveal the need for competent and comprehensive preparedness.”
Aiken is certified as an emergency manager for five years. At the conclusion of the term, he will be able to maintain his certification by confirming continued training and readiness. The SCEMA ensures those it certifies have a well-rounded and standardized base of professional emergency management knowledge.
Now that Aiken has the certification, Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said it’s a valuable asset to the Sheriff’s Department.
“We put a strong emphasis on training. While we hope we don’t have to use all the training we receive, being prepared could mean the difference between life and death,” Koon said. “Knowing Lt. Aiken meets the state’s emergency manager standards gives us an even stronger foundation to respond to a wide array of hazards and emergencies.”
In 2016, SCEMA certified only 12 people as emergency managers. Aiken was the only one to represent a law enforcement agency. He was also the first in South Carolina to become a Certified Homeland Protection Professional from the National Sheriffs’ Association and National Domestic Preparedness Coalition.
Despite his many accomplishments, Aiken’s ambition continues. He plans to continue hosting training sessions and learning, which he called a life-long philosophy.