Students learn disaster preparation, management and response in new course

As extreme weather becomes more common, populations must be able to prepare for hazards caused by the weather or other natural disasters.

Students from the Social Work Department's Disaster Preparedness class discuss a topic in Peck Hall on Feb. 12. (Photo by Joe Lacdan)

Social Work professor Jayme Swanke created a disaster preparedness course so that students will not only be ready in times of distress caused by extreme cold or heat, but other disasters such as tornados, tropical storms or floods. Students will also learn how natural disasters impact the local community.

“I want them to understand the social impact that disasters have, especially on vulnerable populations,” Swanke said. “Disasters impact everybody differently.”

Extreme weather is one many topics the disaster preparedness course will address that can affect residents in varying ways. The class will help students learn how to respond to weather related emergencies. According to the EPA, record setting temperatures have dramatically increased in the last 15 years. The 10 hottest temperatures on record have occurred since 1998 and 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded according to NASA.

Swanke notes with the higher frequency of natural disasters such as storms and tornadoes, residents can often become desensitized during evacuations. The class is centered on the four phases of disaster management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery to keep students aware when help is needed in the event a natural disaster takes place.

Students will earn a wide range of topics including codes of conduct when working with human service organizations, disaster and communication planning. Students will also learn to work with vulnerable populations including the elderly, persons with disabilities and persons experiencing homelessness.

Understanding how to manage and secure community resources and support services can be crucial for a family’s survival or recovery, Swanke said.

“(It) can be very difficult, very stressful in a time of crisis,” Swanke said. “What is our role as human service professionals, in dealing not just with the trauma and the hysteria and the anxiety but also connecting and linking people to the resources they need and then helping communities to manage those resources.”

Currently 10 undergraduate students are enrolled in the course — mostly from the Social Work Department — although the class is open to all disciplines. Swanke began considering a disaster preparedness course during her first year at SIUE in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy swept through the east coast. Swanke also earned her community emergency response certification in Madison County.

“As human service professionals we need to approach disasters with a lot of sensitivity; allowing people their self determination to make decisions try to reduce barriers to supports and services the best we can and get as many resources to people as possible,” Swanke said.

For their final project, students will build a digital scrapbook detailing the story of a natural disaster of their choice and will incorporate key points of emphasis from the class curriculum.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: Social WorkSociology & Criminal Justice

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site