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Immaculata’s Emergency Planning and Management Students Gain Experience Managing Disasters

Three men standing in front of building and sign "State Preparedness Training Center"

The field of emergency management emphasizes that planning and preparation is required before a disaster occurs, so for Immaculata University students majoring in emergency management, participating in a simulated disaster response exercise where they can learn, ask questions and obtain invaluable experience is the perfect learning environment.

Immaculata Emergency Planning and Management (EPM) majors Adam Bockius ’24 and Daniel Schmid ’25 gained hands-on experience by participating in NY Hope 2023 during their Immaculata Disaster Response Field Experience course. The four-day training exercise held in August recreated the challenges and conditions faced when a humanitarian organization responds to a disaster. The exercise taught students the basics of triage, first aid and use of the Incident Command System (ICS) and allowed participants to learn leadership and team building in a stressful and harsh environment.

Bockius, an adult student who is an advanced fire service EMT with the Philadelphia Fire Department, was a little worried about being older than most of the participants and wondered how his prior professional experience would affect the training experience. Upon reflection, he noted that the exercise was an eye-opening experience and called the training facility the best he’s attended.

“One of the NY Hope staff called it the Disneyland of Disaster, and this could not be more appropriate,” Bockius stated. “They have state-of-the-art training facilities that encompass an all-hazards approach to disaster response.” Beyond the training, he found networking with real-world professionals was one of the biggest takeaways from the four-day training.

Van with Immaculata University logo on its side, in front of an emergency room.

Photo by George Schwartz

Bockius also leaned on lessons learned in his EPM classes at Immaculata, since some classes were FEMA- and Incident Command System-focused.

For Schmid, a recent transfer from another institution, the Disaster Response Field Experience was his first Immaculata class. One of his highlights was seeing an emergency operations center (EOC). “I have read so much about an EOC and their functions, but being able to see one in action and be a part of it really clarified how they work and what they are supposed to do,” Schmid stated.

Schmid, who is an Eagle Scout, broadened his team leadership skills and gained helpful emergency response tips, like calming himself and surveying situations before acting.

“I’m very excited to learn more about what it means to be an emergency manager. I also really like that Immaculata’s program takes a larger focus on leadership than other schools,” Schmid added.

This was Immaculata’s first year as a member of the Consortium for Humanitarian Service and Education (CHSE), which runs the annual NY Hope Field Training Exercise for member universities across the nation. When the participants arrive, they are assigned to a team and then complete relevant training and execute missions within their team. Some of the exercises included mass casualty situations, swift water rescue operations, secondary triage and treatment, damage assessment, wilderness search and rescue and emergency response during a cyber-attack.

George Schwartz, Ed.D., associate professor of Emergency Planning and Management at Immaculata, notes that NY Hope Field Training Exercise is realistic, challenging and provides the participants with a great learning experience. “Our students were tired at the end, but they gained a good understanding of what it is like on the ground after a disaster,” he stated.

As a testament to their dedication, Bockius and Schmid have been invited to serve as volunteer controller-evaluators at the 2024 training program. The EPM Disaster Response Field Experience is open to any student who is interested helping people and communities affected by disaster. Schwartz is looking forward to having more Mighty Macs participate next summer.

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