Florida State students simulate disaster response

Florida State University students participated in a four hour training Dec. 3 that simulated real-life local emergency responses to a Category 2 hurricane.

The students are candidates in the school's Emergency Management and Homeland Security certificate program. They partnered with Waukilla County officials and EMHS director Audrey Heffron-Casserleigh to carry out a simulation designed to test the strength of the local emergency response system.

“Rather than assessing how well a response team is doing, these exercises are designed to identify weaknesses in a system,” Heffron-Casserleigh said. “We field-test performances hoping to find failures. If communities can identify things they are not ready for in an exercise, they will be better prepared for a real-world event."

The exercises were developed as part of the curriculum for a course called Exercise Design taught by EMHS Senior Fellow Rob McDaniel. The course teaches students not only how to work alongside emergency management professionals, but also gives them the responsibility of crafting the situations themselves, offering students an opportunity to better understand the mechanics of how emergencies come together and how to address them.

“Each student contributes ideas and ‘injects,’ the term for situations presented to the players in an exercise that drive the exercise and drive the players to action,” senior J. Chase Rushlow said. “After the exercise is complete, we all take part in the analysis of the results. We’ll be looking into the participants’ responses, focusing on core capabilities and comparing them to each other on a scale of one to five. The self-evaluations they do as part of TEST will show us how they believe their organizations and their county can handle a disaster of this type.”

The program has placed 26 interns in emergency management roles over the past two semesters, several of whom went on to take full time jobs in the field.

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