Bill Klein has a system. Each time he arrives in a new city:
First, he looks for a Starbucks.
Then he looks for trouble.
As an instructor for Homeland Security Programs at West Virginia University, it’s Klein’s obligation to seek out the trouble. The Starbucks is just to keep him well-caffeinated while he’s at it.
HSP@WVU uses grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency to design and develop free training for first responders. Courses are offered online or through direct delivery – one-or two-day classes taught by experts in the field.
Klein is one of the experts. He spent nearly four decades as a police officer and firefighter in New York. Now he travels around the country teaching the finer points of emergency management to those who need to brush up on their skills – university officials, public safety officers, transportation experts, local government leaders, utility managers and first responders.
That’s where the trouble comes in.
Each city Klein visits has a unique set of challenges. Some are overwhelmingly occupied by the elderly. Some are littered with industrial plants. Some have only one way out. Some flood.
Klein drives until he’s familiar with the landscape and the potential pitfalls in the case of a disaster.
“I put myself in my students’ position,” Klein says. “I want to know what they’re thinking about.”
Then he gathers the appropriate first responders and community officials. His goal is to teach them how to work together to provide the best prevention, protection and recovery in the face of danger. Basically, he wants them to play nice. “Sandbox 101,” he calls it.
Homeland Security Programs – a division of the WVU Research Corp. – currently offers two direct-delivery courses: “Homeland Security Planning for Campus Executives” and “Emergency Planning for Special Needs Communities.” Klein teaches both. HSP also offers five online courses.
The country first saw the need for such training after Sept. 11, when hundreds of independent agencies cobbled their resources together to respond to the terrorist attacks. The need for first responders to work in unison was reinforced four years later when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
WVU began offering such training in 2007 and has since expanded its course offerings and tripled its enrollment to 1,200 online and direct-delivery students. Director LaRue Williams expects the program to continue growing, partly because its online component makes it convenient, and partly because the courses are fully funded through FEMA.
Those were two huge benefits for Helena Chapman, a medical student studying in the Dominican Republic who enrolled in HSP’s online Forensic Epidemiology course to brush up on public health.
“It was a really unique course,” Chapman says. “And it was free – it’s free knowledge for health professionals and students.”
She completed the course in two days and found that it offered perspectives from first responders that she hadn’t considered as a medical professional.
Gaining new perspectives, says Klein, is the beauty – and the point – of the program.
One of his students compared it to a picnic: If everyone brought hot dogs, it wouldn’t be much of a party. But when some people bring hot dogs, others bring soda and a few spring for peach cobbler, the result is fantastic.
“When we bring all the different players together, we can make things happen,” Klein says.
For more information, visit www.hsp.wvu.edu
By April Johnston
WVU News and Information Services
CONTACT: News and Information Services