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Preparing for the worst

09/12/2013

Each year, September 11th is a day that Americans mark well: memorial services are held to honor the victims of the terrorist attack that took place 12 years ago yesterday.

Jacksonville State’s Emergency Management Department used the fateful anniversary this year to encourage disaster volunteerism in the Jacksonville community with Ready JSU Day.

Dr. Jane Kushma, associate professor of Emergency Management, said in an interview that the purpose of Ready JSU Day was to “build the human aspect” of any community’s response to disaster, which is volunteers.

“We want to provide educational programs to students, so they can learn what to do in disaster situations,” she said.

“JSU has very close ties to this community. Collaboration with that community provides networking opportunities for students, but most importantly, it teaches them to be of service to others,” she continued.

The event began in the Houston Cole Library with a four-part symposium of talks designed to “reflect on recent disaster experience in the area,” like the tornadoes that swept through the state in 2011.

It also focused on the need to “build community capacity,” which refers to the assets a community can bring to bear in times of disaster, specifically the human aspect mentioned above.

Guest speakers included Libby Turner, who is a member of the Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) cadre of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Turner represents the President and Department of Homeland Security during major disasters and emergency declarations, and coordinates the federal response to those events.

Other guests Julie Schoening, Jonathan Gaddy and Cesily Means also spoke at the symposium.

After the symposium, the American Red Cross provided disaster volunteer training, and service learning workshops were available to JSU faculty.

Dr. Kushma says service learning “marries educational objectives with service and community.”

The workshops were held with the intention that faculty members could “incorporate what they learn into their courses,” as well as emphasize the importance of disaster preparedness.

An open house also showcased the area agencies that provide services in disaster relief. “Think of it as a browse session for those agencies,” said Dr. Kushma. “They’ll be given the chance to talk to the JSU community about what they do, and what kinds of volunteer opportunities are available” with them.

The American Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corps, 2-1-1 (Information and referral) and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) were some of the agencies participating in the open house.

Dr. Kushma said the Emergency Management Department hosted Ready JSU Day in support of the University’s Volunteer Generation Fund project.

The project began last year after JSU applied for and was awarded a grant by the Corporation for National Community Service, “which is targeting funds to colleges to promote volunteerism,” she said.

The project’s purpose is to “create a JSU-based organizational structure and shared strategy to educate, train, and coordinate volunteers” to serve the Jacksonville area after natural and man-made disasters, as well as work in concert with federal disaster relief efforts.

Serve Alabama is the state’s counterpart to the federal Corporation for National Community Service.

Last year, JSU’s Emergency Management Department hosted Ready Alabama Day on behalf of Serve Alabama.

Dr. Kushma encourages students who were not able to attend Ready JSU Day to come to an interest meeting for the Campus-Community Emergency Response Team’s (Campus-CERT), scheduled for September 17th at 6:30 PM on the 11th floor of Houston Cole Library.

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