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Idaho State University

ISU Boise Center Will Provide Homeland Security Training

August, 6, 2003

Boise -- A $1.3 million grant has been awarded to the Idaho State University Boise Center to help Idaho's first responders -- firefighters, police officers, public health officials, and medical personnel

-- acquire the specialized training necessary to safely respond to and manage terrorist incidents.

Federal dollars for the Homeland Security Grant came through the Idaho Bureau of Hazardous Materials and will establish the ISU Institute of Emergency Management, which will train responders for events involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive weapons.

The institute will be up and running before the end of the year, said Robin Dodson, chief academic officer at the ISU Boise Center. Training programs are expected to begin this fall. According to Jeff Rylee, operations officer at the Idaho Bureau of Hazardous Materials, "Every state is getting these grants -- it's a method of getting the country prepared for possible terrorist response. We are doing everything we can to make sure administrative costs are low. The majority [of the funds] will be used for training and equipment. The Department of Justice had several requirements who could be chosen and ISU fit those requirements."

Along with the ability to deliver the necessary infrastructure to make it happen, ISU had "the sources to get the training out to the locals," said Rylee. Recent reports indicate the U.S. remains unprepared to prevent terrorism. The two deficiencies most noted are the lack of inspection for the thousands of containers that are unloaded in U.S. ports each day from ships arriving from all over the world, and the failure to effectively train and coordinate local first responders.

The search for a program coordinator has begun. The first task for the coordinator will be to create a Statewide Homeland Security Training Advisory Committee to oversee policy development and training programs.

"We have a few challenges - namely, delivering the programs to first responders who live in rural areas, and many of these folks are volunteers so we need to schedule evening and weekend training," Dodson said.

The training will include curriculum from federal organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Domestic Preparedness, and other state curriculum models. "Once the participants are finished with the training, they will have rigorous role-playing and testing before they will be able to move to the next level of the program," said Dodson. Because of Idaho's rural population, several delivery methods will be used, including videoconferencing, Internet, workshop seminars, correspondence, and evening and weekend opportunities. ISU has an extensive statewide distance learning network already in place. The State of Idaho Communication Command Center (State Police and EMS) will play a role as well. "The SICC has great resources and communication lines to all 44 counties," Dodson said.

Through the Southeast Idaho Rural Vocational Distance Learning Network ISU provides courses and training to seven southeastern Idaho sites. ISU also has a statewide network of 29 compressed video classrooms with access to more than 90 other classrooms. Dialup video capabilities enable ISU to connect to classrooms worldwide, providing full two way video and audio interaction. The Instructional Technology Resource Center provides training and assistance to ISU faculty designing courses using multi-media methods. All of these resources will be used in the program. Where possible, the university will use local sites, adjunct faculty at those sites, and regional partners to deliver the essential course and program needs. "Our future goal is to offer academic credit for the workshops and training - credit that will ultimately lead to an associate degree," said Dodson.