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Sept. 28, 2014
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Students and professionals involved in a range of disciplines from throughout the region as well as the nation practiced their emergency management skills Sept. 26-28 during Northwest Missouri State University’s second annual Missouri Hope disaster response field training exercise.
Missouri Hope 2014, which took place at Northwest’s Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area (MOERA) and the Mozingo Youth Camp, is an intensive three-day domestic disaster relief field training exercise required for students studying majors or minors in emergency disaster management (EDM).
Missouri Hope consists of simulation exercises in mass casualty response, overwater rescue, the incident command system, water treatment, high-angle rescue and disaster medical operations. Participants also earned American Red Cross certifications in incident command structure and shelter operation certification.
The exercise challenges students to overcome their fears and hone their skills as emergency responders, said Dr. Mark Corson, who directs Missouri Hope and is a professor in Northwest’s EDM program.
“We talk about the task lessons, which are things like first aid and disaster medial operations, triage, light search and rescue, small fire suppression, but I think the really big lessons for the students involve what we call the process piece,” Corson said. “All of the students rotate through leadership positions in very challenging circumstances, so their big lessons are about leadership, followership teamwork and confidence building.”
Within the disaster scenario, an EF3 tornado had hit Nodaway County. Homes were destroyed, people injured and flooding at the 102 River wiped out bridges, causing transportation issues. Victims in need of medical attention were stranded on the other side of the river, necessitating an over-water rescue.
“It’s hands-on in a stressful environment,” said Jessica Sigman, a senior emergency disaster management major from Maryville. “You make the mistakes here so you don’t make them in the real world. We can control them. We can keep people safe.”
Having experience in an environment like Missouri Hope is extremely important and beneficial to students, Sigman said.
“People come out of these experiences learning they can do things they never thought they could,” she said. “They build leadership and confidence and teamwork and things that, even if they don’t choose our field, they still get to apply.”
More than 40 students participated in the exercise from Northwest, St Luke’s College of Health Sciences and Northern Oklahoma College. Additional support was provided by the Consortium for Humanitarian Education and Service, which consisted of faculty, staff and students representing Northwest, Georgetown University, Elmira College, State University of New York-Buffalo, Northern Oklahoma, St Luke’s College, University of Missouri-Columbia and University of North Carolina-Ashville.
While EDM students navigated the search and rescue aspects of the exercise, students in other disciplines practiced their skills, too. Northwest students in Dr. Joy Daggs’ crisis communication course were responsible for collecting information they could communicate to media. Members of Northwest’s student media also participated in a mock news conference on the final day of the exercise, providing them with experience related to reporting a disaster.
“It’s pretty cool to see firsthand how people are responding to this and then how we can report it,” said Dani Allen, a junior public relations major from Kansas City. “If a future employer were to ask us how we might handle a situation, we can tell them about Missouri Hope and how we interacted with others.”
Numerous regional emergency agencies also partnered with Northwest to provide support and participate in the exercise, including University Police, Maryville Public Safety, St. Francis Hospital, Nodaway County Ambulance District, the American Red Cross, Saint Luke’s College, the 129th Field Artillery Battalion of the National Guard, LifeNet Air Ambulance, Region H Water Response Team, Region H Field Hospital and Buchanan County Emergency Management.
In a mobile medical unit – complete with air conditioning, electricity and lighting systems – stretchers, cots and backboards provided responders a capacity to deal with up to 25 victims at a time. Nurses and emergency medical technicians received patients and began treatment protocols. Some were transported by ground to St. Francis Hospital while others were transported by air via LifeNet Air.
“In a real world scenario, this is what we’d be doing, integrating with civilian agencies and this is so beneficial to everyone involved to get some hands-on training,” said Sgt. Alan Schulte of the 129th Field Artillery Battalion, while working as a physician’s assistant during the exercise.
Additionally, 40 students and five instructors from the fire and emergency medical technician programs at Hillyard Technical School in St. Joseph participated in the training and acted as role players. Polk Township Fire Department and Nodaway County Ambulance District provided 40-foot metal containers that were used as buildings within the exercise. Nucor LMP provided materials and expert labor to install doors, windows and movable interior walls in the containers for search and rescue training.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity this has provided our partner agencies,” Corson said. “This is a great benefit to our students, but our partners are getting great training and learning a lot of lessons. Missouri Hope has really become a great training exercise for those professional responders, and we look forward to continuing that partnership.
Due to an increased need for trained professionals in the crisis response field, Northwest launched its unique EDM program in January 2009 as an interdisciplinary minor. The program expanded to be offered as an academic major in 2012. Course instruction is provided by Northwest faculty and staff who have regional and national roles in emergency management.
MOERA is a 320-acre parcel of land at the Mozingo Lake Recreation Area, located east of Maryville on Highway 46. MOERA is operated by Northwest’s Department of Health and Human Services and provides a variety of outdoor education and recreation opportunities, including a challenge course, trap shooting and archery, canoes and kayaks, and outdoor research areas.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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