Preparing for disaster

Preparing for Disaster

ABOVE: Students take on various disaster-management roles for a classroom exercise in which a fictitious hurricane strikes Delaware.

Students design, carry out classroom emergency exercise

A good classroom activity is one that helps students focus what they’ve learned, sharpen their thinking and bring imaginative approaches to problem-solving.

Recently, two groups of students—graduate and undergraduate—at the University of Delaware pulled together their knowledge of hazards and disasters for just such an activity. The result was a unique “cross-over event,” a disaster management exercise centered on the scenario of a major hurricane striking the UD campus.

Tricia Wachtendorf, professor of sociology and criminal justice, and James Kendra, professor of public policy and administration, teamed up to offer this opportunity for their students. The professors are also co-directors of UD’s Disaster Research Center.

Undergraduates in Wachtendorf’s “Disaster and Society” course spent this spring semester discussing such topics as the social foundations of disasters, warnings and evacuations, and the social capital and influx of volunteers and donations in the post-disaster environment.

Meanwhile, graduate students in Kendra’s “Issues in Disaster Response” course focused in-depth on typical challenges that arise in disaster. In an innovative variation, the graduate students designed a table-top exercise and guided the undergraduates as they tackled fast-paced disaster challenges.

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