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Center for Disaster Preparedness Takes First Step toward Disaster Training Facility


JONESBORO – Working with city officials in Walnut Ridge, the Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness at Arkansas State University today completed the first step toward establishing a training center for professional disaster response personnel.

Representatives from the university met with the Walnut Ridge Airport Commission to explain the proposed concept for a disaster training facility at Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.  Following discussion, the commission unanimously voted its support for Chairman Don Cavenaugh to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), giving its support to proceed with negotiations for a lease agreement on 80 acres on airport property.

"The entire concept is consistent with the Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education’s mission to bridge the gap between practice and academia," said Dr. Deborah Persell, director of the regional center.

Preliminary plans call for an 80-acre training facility on airport property.  Built for pilot training during World War II, the airport was turned over to the City of Walnut Ridge after the war.  The city Airport Commission now oversees its daily operations.

The airport property is one facet of the disaster training facility, which also will include a training zone at Imboden.  Persell said the center also will be working with City of Imboden officials to secure their support for the MOU.

"We have always approached the education and training for disaster preparedness from a multi-disciplinary perspective," Persell added, ''The type of facility being proposed elevates what is possible in education and training to parallel real-world events and provide an immersion-type environment of collaboration among multiple planning and response agencies."

The College of Nursing and Health Professions, of which the disaster preparedness and emergency management (DPEM) program is a part, prepares students for careers in a variety of health-related fields.

Dr. Susan Hanrahan, dean of the college, expressed her enthusiasm for the new dimensions of education that would be offered through the disaster training facility.

"What a fabulous opportunity for our Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education and for our entire region," she added. "This first step will set the stage for our ability to 'dream big' in this environment."

From the Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education website:

The Regional Center for Disaster Preparedness Education at Arkansas State University is an official regional training center recognized by the American Medical Association and National Disaster Life Support Foundation.

The Center was created in 2005 in response to an unmet need for disaster education within the health professions. It offers courses in basic and advanced disaster life support, homeland security, and emergency management.

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