After seeing the devastating images of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, a professor from The University of Texas-Pan American has transformed her and other citizen's desire to help into a program to serve as emergency response training for natural or man-made disasters.
Dr. Sharon Pittman, professor in social work, has worked closely with the Office of Continuing Education to design and implement the Emergency Response Training program. This program is focused on preparing individuals who are interested in becoming emergency response volunteers.
The training will concentrate on the emotional and physical side of disaster assistance. Participants in the program will receive the USAID Field Operation Guide, a training manual used to give information and resources needed in order to be an active volunteer after a disaster.
There will be two training sessions, Feb. 27 and March 27. Participants will be instructed on how to set up shelters, distribute food and commodities, arrange and conduct child care and help disaster victims with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Other topics to be covered are general situation assessment, safety and security, disaster administration, communications, light search and rescue operations, disaster psychology and team organization and course review and disaster simulation.
"These courses will develop participants into team leaders during a disaster so to touch lives with professional skills during a difficult and emotional time," Pittman said. "I will be teaching the physical and emotional angle to disaster relief, the people to people side."
In addition, those registered for the course will have the opportunity to become certified emergency response volunteers through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). While UTPA will not be awarding certifications for the training, FEMA will provide training modules online in order for participants to receive a certificate of completion. According to Pittman, the certifications can only be completed online.
"I urge those involved in our training to complete this certification because it is the basis of how the National Response System works," Pittman said. "It is the core component to the training."
Pittman said this program is open to students, faculty, staff and community members who are interested in helping during emergencies. Some college education is preferred, but not required.
"This program is beneficial for everyone, but especially for students in the Master's of Science in Social Work (MSSW) program," Pittman said. "They will gain the experience needed in order to train others and become leaders in community development and assistance during a disaster."
Iliana Peña, a graduate student in the MSSW program, says there are benefits to be gained by attending in the training session.
"I believe that this training is not only important to students, but to the entire community," Peña said. "A disaster can happen anywhere at anytime, so it's important that people gain the knowledge needed in order to respond to any emergency incident."
Peña is one of the students helping Pittman with the development of the Emergency Response Training program.
Registration for the training is already in progress. Those interested have until the first training session to register. There is a $120 continuing education fee. The training will be held at the UTPA McAllen Teaching Site located on 1800 S. Main St., Suite 1100.
"This training is really about preparing volunteers to have technical skills in understanding disaster response and who wish to play a role," Pittman said. "We hope people are interested in learning how to make viable contributions during a disaster."
To register or learn more visit www.utpa.edu/ce or call 956/381-2071.