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ASU emergency management program to establish international presence

Authorities remove dead fish collected from the Tisa River in 2000
April 23, 2014

How do you dispose of 100 tons of toxic dead fish? Serbian authorities had to come up with their own solution for one of the worst environmental disasters to hit Eastern Europe in recent memory. In 2000, cyanide from a Romanian gold mine polluted the Tisa River, affecting millions of people who lived downstream. A similar incident happened years later when more toxins were found in one of the country’s largest rivers.

ASU could play a role in how the country handles future natural and human-caused disasters. The university's Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security (CEMHS) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Serbia’s International Security Institute. The independent non-profit research and policy organization is the main agency responsible for development and implementation of national emergency management and homeland security policy and strategy. The center is a unit of the College of Public Programs on the downtown Phoenix campus.

“It’s exciting because we’re directly engaged in one of the design aspirations of ASU as a New American University – which is to be engaged globally, to create partnerships and exchange ideas, experiences and solutions with professionals in other parts of the world,” says Kiril Hristovski, a member of the CEMHS leadership team.

Hristovski is an assistant professor at the Polytechnic campus in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He will be meeting with his counterparts at the International Security Institute in Serbia next month. Hristovski will also travel to the neighboring Republic of Macedonia, where the center has a memorandum of understanding to help that country’s Military Academy. The memorandum explores possibilities for mutual collaboration, and calls for the sharing of expertise in a number of areas, including: the detection of biological and chemical threats, critical infrastructure protection and emergency management.

“This agreement provides a formal framework which allows us to enhance the cooperation with one of the most prestigious research institutions in crisis management in the world,” says Colonel Orce Popovski, dean of the Macedonian Military Academy. “This memorandum of understanding will serve as a platform to expand the educational opportunities by conducting training, seminars and scientific research that will benefit Macedonia, the U.S. and the entire region."

International and domestic outreach is one way the CEMHS is seeking to leverage the expertise of ASU’s interdisciplinary approach to research.

“The research we’re doing is specific to solving a problem,” says Rick Dale, executive director of the center. “We deal with senior level executives in either federal, state or local government and industry, and we ask them ‘What keeps you awake at night?’ Our goal is to develop and deliver solutions to real-world problems.”

Created in late 2013, the CEMHS is based in downtown Phoenix. It runs the State of Arizona Alternative Emergency Operations Center and operates among all Valley campuses. CEHMS provides curriculum for an undergraduate degree in emergency management and an undergraduate certificate in security studies as well as homeland security, offered by the School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Programs. The school also offers an online graduate degree in emergency management and homeland security through ASU Online.

International presence

A member of the the center's leadership team is in Dubai for several days this month as part of an international accreditation team. Danny Peterson, a professor of practice in the School of Public Affairs, was invited by the United Arab Emirates Commission for Academic Accreditation to evaluate a degree offered by the University of Modern Sciences. The university offers a master of science in crisis emergency management.

“We want to make sure its academic program matches it against best practices and standards in academia,” says Peterson. “We’re also looking at the ability of the program to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of the field – education rooted in practice.”

New advisory council members

The center recently added two new members to its advisory council. Security software executive Steve Hooper and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deputy director Jeffrey T. Morris will provide insight on emerging trends and needs in the fields of emergency management and homeland security. Hooper is vice president of the law enforcement practice at Phoenix-based Stealth Software. A retired FBI special agent, he served as the chief of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division Threat Monitoring Unit at FBI headquarters and headed the Phoenix field office Joint Terrorism Task Force and domestic intelligence programs.

“I’m pleased with the opportunity to lend my expertise to the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security. During my career with the FBI, I experienced first-hand the importance of a unified approach to crisis management and homeland security. Now, in my position with Stealth Software, I can provide insight on the ever-growing threat of cyber terrorism.”

Morris is deputy director of programs for the U.S. EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, which evaluates new and existing chemicals for their risks, and works to prevent or reduce pollution from them.

“Jeff Morris is an internationally recognized expert in nanotechnology, pollution and toxins,” Dale says. “He brings expertise and a global view that can help CEMHS provide the kind of research and deliverable solutions to whatever existing and emerging threats come about.”

Morris and Hooper join two other experts on the center's advisory council: Arizona Cyber Threat Respone Alliance CEO Frank Gimmelmann and Quarles and Brady LLP partner Leezie Kim, former deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“I’m proud to help advance the mission of ASU’s CEMHS," says Morris. "I hope to add value through the advisory council by sharing my experience in environmental and public health protection, and applying novel technologies to mitigate risks to people and the natural environment.”