Adams hosts emergency training

Published 7:54 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

Police cars filled the parking lot of Southland High School Wednesday, as area law enforcement officials gathered for the Awareness 148 crisis management course.

The program, developed by Findlay University, focuses on training law enforcement, emergency service and school officials on methods for preventing and responding to school-related emergencies.

While the program does focus a great deal of attention on responding to school shootings, other emergencies, such as tornadoes and fires, are also covered.

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“This is no only about school shootings,” said Mike Webber, instructor of the course. “We concentrate on violent acts, but we do also talk about natural occurring events.”

Adams Police Chief Mike Gehrke said the program will allow school and law enforcement officials to work together to create a school-related emergency response plan.

“This will open up the dialogues between the schools, the officers and the departments to come together to formulate and refine the plans they have now,” said Gehrke. “A lot of the plans are years old and they have never been updated. What I’m hoping is this will open up a dialogue between all the departments and the schools to come together to create a modern, updated and safe school learning environment.”

The course program is part of the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, a partnership of several universities, including Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Findlay, Iowa Central Community College NorthWest Arkansas Community College, East Tennessee State University and North Carolina Central University.

The Consortium was created to develop and deliver training for unique emergencies in rural communities, and it is certified by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

At the end of the seminar, Jim Hayes, who is currently working on developing a two-day follow-up course to Awareness 148, administers a test to all the officers and emergency workers who participated. The tests are scored and results are sent to the Department of Homeland Security. The scores are evaluated to determine if the course is yielding satisfactory results.

One of the most important functions the course performs includes the education of police, schools officials and emergency responders on emotional recovery from disasters, according to Hayes.

“When we leave a site, it’s amazing the gratitude we receive,” said Hayes. “Three weeks ago, we were out at Washington D.C. There was a school where a young boy shot himself in the boys’ restroom the last week of school. The superintendent said that this program was needed and that the recovery phase was really important.”

Gehrke said he hopes this course will be the start of a series of seminars.

“I keep seeing very low cost training programs that I can bring to Mower County, host in Adams and offer for free or very low cost to the surrounding agencies. If I can help alleviate budget cuts and bring quality training into town here, it will not only help me, it will also help the community of Adams and Mower County as a whole,” said Gehrke.

All costs of the Awareness 148 crisis management course were covered by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.