Homeland Security training sessions prepare students for disaster response

By Kesha Williams

Dr. Lloyd Mitchell and student researcher Joel Davies

It’s been 12 years since Dr. Lloyd Mitchell, an associate professor in ECSU’s Department of Physical Education & Health, began overseeing ECSU students in disaster planning and response.

Unfortunately, he’s observed an increase of natural disasters and terrorist attacks in that time frame. As a result, he remains committed to preparing the next generation of homeland security professionals. Thanks to a Department of Homeland Security funded grant, he, like numerous of professors across the nation, guides students through a series of projects that prepare them for relevant federal government careers. Most of those career options are related to disaster planning and response. Mitchell takes pride in the eight students who completed the rigorous training while completing courses for their prospective degree programs. They credit ECSU with offering them an opportunity of a lifetime when it offered disaster planning and response sessions.

When disaster strikes, Mitchell says healing begins the moment a good recovery plan is implemented. Mitchell said participating ECSU students learn to review and analyze a variety of risks across the country. Of particular interest are those risks relevant to aerospace and environmental health. Three current ECSU students are working on related projects. One student is exploring aerospace risks. Another student is exploring risks related to outdoor activities. Another student will explore projects related to environmental health and safety this summer.

Joel Davies, an ECSU aviation science major with family ties to England, Australia, New Zealand, and California, recently completed a series of disaster and terror risk assessments that took him to Canada, San Diego, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Detroit.  He said the Homeland Security program caught his attention because he likes traveling and has varied interests. His assignments required him to make observations at airports, collect relevant data, photograph relevant sites and to prepare related reports.

Mitchell said the program qualifies students who complete the training for assorted jobs with Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Both he and Davies agree the training may not suit everyone. The best prospective participants adjust to changing circumstances, changing weather forecasts, and dealing with sites where citizens are displaced due to disaster or terror events.

 “I tell the students responding to a disaster will not guarantee you a cozy hotel room, it’s just the opposite. It could mean long hours of working with teams of disaster response people, eating whatever food is available, even sleeping in your car.”

Mitchell recalled several times when disaster teams arrived at sites only to find residents displaced by powerful tornadoes, who had filled the small number of remaining hotels. Students may find themselves responding to washed out roads, fallen trees, and flood sites after a hurricane or tsunami. No two disaster sites are the same.

“We are proud of the alumni who have graduated from the university and gone on to serve our nation as part of the next generation of Homeland Security professionals. Some were former ROTC cadets who are now serving in the military. This training has definitely allowed them to move forward as well-trained professionals.”