Process informs communication: Simulated emergency response provides students applied experience
The students combined their areas of expertise to craft an effective response to – and recovery from – a major flooding event.
Jared Hutchens, of Roanoke, Virginia, was the public information officer during the event. He participated in a mock press conference, something he practiced in mid-February during another learning simulation – an experience he said that helped him during the emergency response simulation.
“I came a little bit more prepared and stayed calm,” Hutchens said. “I made sure my statement was clear and concise. I did not give any more information than was needed and addressed the questions to the best of my ability. I let the public know what they needed to know in order to stay safe.”
One of the challenges that the students faced, including Hutchens, was the communication between the two groups of students.
“We anticipated [that] being the challenge because it always is out in the world,” said Dr. Tanya Corbin, department chair and professor of political science. “They are law enforcement and worried about maintaining law and order. My students are government officials and nonprofits. They are worried about working together. The way you think about the process informs your communication.”
“As the session progressed, communication improved. People had a goal in mind and knew how to accomplish it,” said Dr. Steve Owen, department chair and professor of criminal justice.
“I think what was really beneficial was for my students, who will be first responders, to see things from another perspective and to understand what the community would be thinking, what the government would be thinking and how that would impact their response,” Owen said. “Participants got to the point where they were communicating effectively and collaborating with one another while dealing with a complex situation.”
On the second day of the exercise, participants simulated the post-disaster response and recovery efforts, which fully encompassed how first responders and government entities handle a crisis.
“It’s easy to look at a situation from a response perspective and say ‘this is what needs to be done,’” Owen said. “It’s a lot more complicated when you bring politics and people into it. I think the value of learning that is what they’ve been able to take away from this exercise.”