Director of Emergency Management
As CCU’s director of emergency management, Carissa Medeiros is responsible for activating and managing the University’s Emergency Operations Center when severe weather and other natural disasters impact the campus.
Why emergency management?
“My career in emergency management started by chance. I was looking for a job and there was an opening for an assistant with Horry County Emergency Management. I didn’t even know what emergency management was 19 years ago. The longer I was there, the more evident it became that this was my calling. Every day I come to work and know that what I do makes a difference in the lives of others. I may not see the results of my work immediately, but I know the effort I put in while we are at a steady-state lessens the impact on the community when a disaster strikes. I am grateful for a profession that allows me to lead by serving others. Not everyone can say they love their job, but I can.”
What brought you to CCU?
“Greg Weisner [CCU’s director of transportation services] reached out to see if I would be interested in working at CCU. He believed a formal emergency management program was necessary due to the rapid growth of the University. My first response was, ‘No, thank you.’ I loved working for Horry County Emergency Management. However, the challenge of building a program from scratch was extremely attractive. It was only after much prayer I decided to come to CCU. Eight years, six federal disaster declarations, and three additional severe weather Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activations later, it is evident that joining CCU was all a part of God’s plan and purpose for my life.”
In recent years, campus operations have been disrupted by hurricanes, major local flooding, and winter storms. How has the University benefitted from having such strong collaboration with various local and state emergency management agencies?
“State and local emergency management professionals have realized over the years that Coastal Carolina University is an active partner when preparing for and responding to a disaster. Hurricane Florence is a great example of how the relationships have been reciprocal. During the flood fight, we were notified the food supply trucks would not make the delivery due to the hazardous conditions. I reached out to Randy Webster with Horry County, and after he made a few phone calls, the trucks showed up on campus the next day. S.C. Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) contacted me looking for a site to host the Swift Water Rescue Team of the Texas Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue. The University quickly agreed to provide sleeping accommodations along with meals, access to laundry facilities, and movies in the theater. SCEMD knows they can count on CCU to help our community. Any time our area is in the news due to a hurricane, flood, or other severe weather, I receive a message from the Texas Task Force 1 team leader checking in to see how we are doing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the University. How satisfying is it to see so many members of the campus community work together to address these ongoing challenges?
“September marked 18 months of the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff and faculty members who don’t normally serve in the EOC have stepped into expanded emergency response roles for COVID-19. These individuals are not only performing their regular duties but also meeting frequently and completing COVID-19 specific projects as part of the University’s continued response to the COVID-19
pandemic. The care, dedication, and teamwork demonstrated by these individuals reflects the resiliency of the institution. I am proud to work alongside such professionals. One team, one fight.”
What do you enjoy most about working at CCU?
“The people that make up Teal Nation. I have countless stories of amazing student interns who have made positive impacts to the emergency management program, staff offering to help and go the extra mile, and faculty who are willing to jump in and assist with a project outside of their program. Working with great people who are all in and genuinely care is what creates the environment that our students refer to as ‘feeling like home.’”
Medeiros at a recent on-campus COVID-19 testing clinic.
Medeiros earned a bachelor’s degree in English from West Virginia State University and is a National Emergency Management Advanced Academy graduate from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Md. She began her career in public service with an internship in West Virginia’s Second Congressional District Office and later worked for West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise. Prior to joining the University in November 2013, she worked for 11 years with Horry County Emergency Management, where she moved up the chain of command to become deputy director. Medeiros and her husband, Michael, have been married for 22 years and have two children: Emily, 17, and Ethan, 15.