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Nine Northwest students were among 50 students from throughout the country who convened last month in Whitestown, New York for New York Hope, an annual disaster response exercise. (Submitted photos)

Nine Northwest students were among 50 students from throughout the country who convened last month in Whitestown, New York for New York Hope, an annual disaster response exercise. (Submitted photos)

Sept. 20, 2018

Students practice disaster response skills at New York Hope training

By Kelsey Johnson, communication assistant


Students trained in a variety of situations and physical environments at New York Hope, including damage assessment, a wilderness search and rescue, and cybersecurity.

Students trained in a variety of situations and physical environments at New York Hope, including damage assessment, a wilderness search and rescue, and cybersecurity.

Nine Northwest Missouri State University students traveled to Whitestown, New York, last month to participate in the New York Hope disaster response exercise and gained hands-on training for future careers in emergency services.

Fifty college students from across the country took part in the program. They trained in emergency medical treatment, damage assessment, wilderness search and rescue, and cybersecurity. 

“I wanted to use this disaster response training to improve and build on skills I learned in my emergency management classes at Northwest,” Marisa Alvares, an emergency disaster management major from Lexington, Missouri, said. “These types of training opportunities help me prepare for any possible career I may have in the future, whether that may be working in government or even humanitarian relief.”

Students also trained in water rescue at the new Swift Water Rescue area and climbed through a simulation of an apartment collapse to rescue survivors. Students played the roles of both volunteer actors and rescue personnel. Alvares said her favorite part of New York Hope was the Urban Mass Casualty Incident module, where buildings such as shoe stores, a city hall and a school were made to simulate an entire city block.

“My team had the responsibility of clearing out the school and evacuating patients,” Alvares said. “While doing so, we experienced loud noises, flashing lights and other distractions, which are crucial details as they prepare you for what may really happen during a disaster.”

Mackenzie Baker, an emergency and disaster management major from Olathe, Kansas, said although the program is a simulation, it feels realistic.

“Experiences like these allow students to become more confident in both their leadership and followership skills,” Baker said. “They teach participants how to respond to real life disasters in a simulated environment that is designed to keep us safe while still feeling like a response to a real disaster.”

Northwest staff members Lindsey Stapley and Chris Scroggins, who studied emergency and disaster management at the University, along with Dr. Kathleen Spears, assistant professor of biology, drove the Northwest students to attend the Hope Program. Savannah Baker, an emergency and disaster management major and GIS minor from Gretna, Nebraska, said the long drive also provided an opportunity for bonding among the students.

“Spending 40-plus hours with 13 other people in a 15-passenger van across seven states builds a strong team and creates family,” Baker said. “The drive was completely worth it, and I would jump at the chance to do it again.”

Although the Northwest students are pursuing careers in emergency and disaster management, they encourage students of all majors to take part in disaster training programs. Christopher Fowler, an emergency disaster management major from Queen City, Missouri, recommends the training, especially to students interested in the medical field or education.

“Medical students with this training will have a leg up on their competitors because many hospitals today are sending employees to training to handle mass casualty-type situations,” Fowler said. “Future teachers will be in charge of watching over dozens of students, and this training can teach them how they can stabilize as many students as possible before proper medical personal arrives.”

Alvares added, “The Hope Program exercises are not just for EDM majors, many other entities play important roles during disaster response. I worked with three homeland security and defense majors, two cybersecurity majors, one emergency preparedness major, one psychology major and two nurses.”

The Northwest students agreed the exercises within the program proved the importance of teamwork and staying on task when responding to a disaster.

“Before you enter an incident, remember your objective and what you are responsible for,” Alvares said. “It is easy to become overwhelmed when responding to a disaster, but everyone has a job.”

Northwest students of any major or minor interested in disaster training are invited to sign up for the sixth annual Missouri Hope Disaster Response Field Training Exercise Oct. 4-7, located in Maryville. Missouri Hope participants have practiced fire suppression, search and rescue, triage, medical treatment, and transport, overwater rescues, high-angle rescues, and the management of an emergency operations center. For more information, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/socialsciences/.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468