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7 March 2008
Dr. William A. Meehan:
Preparing for Success in Disaster Relief

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - The Jacksonville News

While buckling their seat belts after boarding an airplane, passengers heard the following from an attendant during the in-flight safety presentation: “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation. In the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments.” This classic aviation humor provides a comical tone to emergency preparedness.

“Emergency management has come into its own over the past decade or more,” said International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Marketing and Communications Director Dawn Shiley-Danzeisen in an Emergency Medical Services article last February.

“The whole field has grown from the local fire chief being emergency manager for the county to having an emergency manager who coordinates all the fire chiefs, rescue squads and government agencies.

"You want to have people who are educated and have the right resources at their fingertips to coordinate your response plans and be there if a disaster happens.

"You have to know how to manage the disaster as it’s occurring and know how to clean up after it’s over.”

Jacksonville State University is on the front edge of education and research in this rapidly developing field.

JSU maintains one of the highest enrollment numbers of any emergency management academic program in the nation.

Students currently studying in the Institute for Emergency Preparedness (IEP) at JSU reside in 49 states as well as several foreign countries.

What makes JSU’s Emergency Management Program unique is that it is delivered through distance education, primarily via the internet, making the degree program accessible to students around the world.

Once JSU successfully implemented the Bachelor of Science degree program in emergency management, a graduate program was developed, approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and implemented.

Dr. Rebecca Turner, vice president of Academic and Student Affairs, credits the broad accessibility through the Web, as well as the extensive backgrounds and credentials of the IEP faculty and staff, with the success and growth of the program.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Clemson University, Adam Crowe began looking around on the Internet for schools offering masters programs in emergency management in 2003. “I selected JSU because it offered a full online degree program, was reasonably close to my home in Atlanta, and was extraordinarily affordable,” says Crowe. Initially unsure as to whether distance learning or even emergency management was right for him, Crowe decided to try one semester.

“Fortunately, the administrative staff for the distance learning program was extraordinarily helpful in explaining the application process including financial aid, acceptance, and general program requirements,” says Crowe.

“The courses I took through IEP provided an excellent foundation for a public administration career. The discipline-focused courses were general enough for broad application, but still provided both historical and contemporary perspective on the critical curriculum topics.”

After graduating from JSU with a master’s in public administration with a concentration in emergency management in 2005, Crowe accepted a job as an emergency response planner for a local health department in Kansas City, Missouri. “During that time, I developed plans and protocols for how this community would respond to public health threats including disease outbreaks, bioterrorism and pandemic flu,” says Crowe.

As Crowe presented on these topics throughout the community, the knowledge he had gained at JSU was acknowledged by Jeff Hartle, the coordinator of the Public Administration/Emergency Management masters program at Park University. Crowe has recently accepted the opportunity to develop and teach a course on public health threats in the field of emergency management at Park University in Parkville, MO through distance education.

The exceptional IEP faculty at JSU are looking to develop new curriculum as well. With the growing numbers of students interested and needed in the field of emergency management, and successful graduates such as Crowe, JSU is seeking approval for a doctorate in emergency management.

Dr. Turner is confident in the dexterity of the existing IEP faculty at JSU. She says, “These faculty are capable of developing a curriculum worthy of doctoral level designation and are already engaged in that process.”

JSU is currently seeking permission from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) to offer a new academic program and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges to make this new program the first doctorate offered at the university. The acceptance and application of the program would raise the level of accreditation of JSU from a Level IV institution to a Level V.

“While we recognize that this role change and the corresponding development and implementation of a new doctoral program requires a commitment of time and resources, we believe the time is right for us to expand our educational offerings in this manner,” says Dr. Turner. “We are optimistic about our capacity to deliver a high quality doctoral program in emergency management that is relevant in today’s global environment.”

Emergency preparedness for academics in the IEP at JSU means an urgent need to equip all students interested in this field with the opportunity to reach the highest level of achievement for the success of their career and future jobs.

For further information on the emergency management program at JSU, visit

Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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