Collaboration is the name of the game

School of Communication students use the EOC
School of Communication students go through a crisis simulation in the EOC.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) located in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences is changing how Radford University students learn.

The School of Communication and the Departments of Criminal Justice and Political Science use the advanced learning space to conduct crisis and emergency simulations that teach students how to react in difficult and complex situations.

Acting Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research John Brummette said that “the environment is more realistic” and that the attached media room allows for an increased realism of crisis simulations.

Department of Criminal Justice Chair Steve Owen and Department of Political Science Associate Professor Tanya Corbin co-developed a crisis simulation involving two departments.

Criminal Justice students played the role of organizations responsible for responding to a crisis, including the public information officer and responsible government organizations. Political science students played the role of the media, elected officials and community members.

“Being able to bring those two sides together allows students to play a wider variety of roles and it has enhanced the realism of the exercise,” Owen said.

The emergency response simulation that the students responded to involved an extended power outage for the community, which, as more information was uncovered, engulfed the region and eventually the eastern portion of the United States.

School of Communication students use the EOC

School of Communication practice giving a press conference during the crisis simulation in the EOC.

The technology in the EOC allows students to view real-time maps, goals and objectives, as well as other pertinent information, as a simulation evolves.

“This keeps everyone on the same page and when you’re doing a debriefing. Everyone’s been given different tasks or objectives to complete, if there’s a new development that comes up or if they are out of the loop, this way there’s a baseline for the group to use to keep everyone on the same page,” said Chris Carbone, a senior in Owen’s course who played the role of an incident commander.

Brittany Harlow, a graduate student who participated in Brummette’s simulation which dealt with a meningitis outbreak on campus, said that “everyone is able to get a better idea of what is happening” and better able to organize and collaborate.

That ease of collaboration among students and the technological presence increases the effectiveness of the simulations, according to Brummette.

“What makes these simulations effective is that they make these mistakes in a no-risk environment. It’s a harmless environment here – I think that’s good,” he said. “For me, when I participated in simulations, you really don’t realize how much it helps you until you are in a real situation. Every time you do this, you get better and better.”

Owen agreed with Brummette’s assessment of the learning space. “We have the actual facilities that emergency managers and emergency planners would utilize, including the response vests, the signage and the multimedia boards,” he said.

The collaboration between the departments results in a better experience for professors and students alike.

“I think the facilities are amazing,” Corbin said. “I think it makes a big difference to be able to have our classes under the same roof and in one spot.”

Senior Ariana Willis, a student in Brummette’s class, values the collaboration that the learning space fosters.

“It’s helpful to see both sides. I think that hands-on work is much better. I know people that go to other universities that don’t get this hands-on work,” she said. “They’re lost when they graduate, but Radford prepares us for what actually happens on the job. I’m very thankful for these opportunities.”

May 23, 2017
Max Esterhuizen