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ASU launches Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security

An assessment team surveys damage following Hurricane Sandy
January 20, 2014

The need to expand preparation, response and management capabilities for various-scale emergencies has led to the creation of the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security (CEMHS) within the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University.

The center fuses academics, research and solution delivery capabilities to meet significant incident or crisis mitigation, preparation, response, recovery and management needs of public and private sector stakeholders. It will leverage existing facilities and expertise developed at the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa with additional new space and opportunities at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. The center will also educate and train public management professionals.

“It’s always top of mind for people in the United States and Europe, and especially in Russia right now – just prior to the 2014 Olympic Games,” says Rick Dale, executive director of the new center. “The public looks to government and the private sector to prevent or address natural or man-made disasters and other significant events.”

The center will have the ability to leverage capabilities across multiple disciplines at ASU, a key component of the New American University concept of ASU President Michael Crow.

As an example, Dale points to the issue of cybersecurity and the work of the Information Assurance Center in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“The need for protection in cyberspace is universal, and we’ve all felt the impact,” Dale says. “ASU already has a certified national center of excellence in information assurance, both for academics and research, that we will utilize for solution delivery as well.”

A collaborative effort

The center’s three-pronged approach – academics, research and solution delivery – makes it unique in this sector.

“We are implementing effective emergency response solutions for our partners,” Dale says. “At the same time, we are proactively working toward innovations and improvements in emergency mitigation, preparation, recovery and management. We are putting in place the training, academic and internship programs that ensure the professionals in this field are not only prepared for a complicated, demanding profession, but also have an understanding of the political and socio-economic nuances.”

Through the College of Public Programs, the center will help lead efforts to establish curriculum and degree and certificate opportunities to train the next generation of emergency management and homeland security professionals. The center will also provide opportunities for graduate students to work alongside researchers and practitioners.

“Our college brings systems-level thinking to address the challenges and complexities of contemporary governance,” says Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs. “With the CEMHS and accompanying academic programs in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, we are putting those strengths into action in a critical area. The center will serve the needs of our communities, and students will have access to coursework that addresses real-world needs and hands-on experience that will prepare them to effectively lead civic projects that make our communities safe, vibrant and resilient in the face of natural and man-made dangers."

New academic and job opportunities

In addition to an existing Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Emergency Management, the College of Public Programs plans to offer a Master of Arts in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, starting fall 2014. The graduate program will provide students with an understanding of the political and social implications of disasters, terrorism and national security. It will allow students to develop practical skills, such as oversight of emergency operations centers, security and protection of critical assets and best practices for developing prevention programs against cyber terrorism. This degree will be offered through ASU Online.

The College of Public Programs and Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security will also offer two certificates for students completing their bachelor’s degree. The undergraduate Certificate in Homeland Security will prepare students for careers in the public and private sector by providing courses in international, domestic and cyber terrorism. It will be offered through ASU Online.

An undergraduate Security Studies Certificate will provide students with the skills and credentials necessary to expand their employment opportunities in corporate and public security. Students will receive extended education in cross-disciplinary topics such as accounting, computer studies and advanced crime and law courses. This certificate will ultimately better prepare students for corporate and public security positions, and will also give students access to employment opportunities that they may not be currently prepared for.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, released Jan. 8, 2014, underscores the need for such degrees and certificates. One of the fastest growing occupations over the next eight years will be information security analysts. The bureau estimates a 37 percent job growth rate, with a median annual salary of $86,170. The need for corporate security positions will remain strong, with an 11 percent growth rate, and management trainee positions for new college graduates starting at $45,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also estimates an 8 percent growth rate with a median annual salary of almost $60,000 for emergency management directors employed by the public and private sector.

Center leadership

As executive director of the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Rick Dale brings more than three decades of expertise in executive and technical management, professional services and system integration in the emergency response sector. He also serves as professor of practice in ASU’s College of Public Programs.

“Significant event mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and management challenges are increasingly complex, and we not only need to build the capacity of stakeholders, but integrate public management and organizational design thinking into overall emergency management and homeland security solutions,” he says.

Prior to joining ASU, Dale served as executive chairman and chief executive officer of IXP Corporation, a company he founded in 2000. IXP became an industry leader over the next 13 years, serving the emergency response needs of government, universities, health care and energy clients, including the City of New York, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Constellation Energy.

Danny Peterson recently joined the School of Public Affairs, part of the College of Public Programs, as a professor of practice. He is taking the lead in designing the new interdisciplinary academic programs in emergency management and homeland security.

Previously, Peterson was professor in the Environmental Technology Management program at ASU, where he was instrumental in establishing the Emergency Management curriculum. He is a Certified Emergency Manager and Board Certified in Homeland Security.

“We ensure that all of the theory taught in the classroom is grounded in practice,” Peterson says. “Our goal is to instill the critical-thinking skills necessary to tackle large-scale problems.”

The university is home to a fully-functional Emergency Operations Center at ASU’s Polytechnic campus that serves as the alternate emergency operations center for the state of Arizona – a partnership with the Arizona Division of Emergency Management. Peterson points out that the Emergency Operations Center also serves as a learning lab, enabling research and simulation.

“We can bring together resources from across the university to facilitate large problem-solving initiatives. For example, we worked with the Arizona Division of Emergency Management on an exercise that dealt with mass evacuation of cities,” he notes.

Also joining the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security is Dr. Richard Besserman, who will serve as an operations executive. Besserman brings experience in managing emergency medical responses to Katrina and 9/11. He has also developed large-scale health and safety data management, data security and environmental systems for industry and government.

An advisory council of industry leaders will provide the center with insight on emerging issues. The council includes: Frank J. Gimmelman, president and CEO, Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance; Quarles & Brady LLP partner Leezie Kim, former deputy general counsel to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Gilbert M. Orrantia, director, Arizona Department of Homeland Security; and Wendy Smith-Reeve, director, Arizona Division of Emergency Management.