Centered on Education for Public Safety: This Month, Owens Community College Will Take Its Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Training to Another Level with the Opening of a New Center That Will Have Far Reaching Benefits

Article excerpt

According to the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, community colleges educate the majority of the nation's first responds, since more than 60 percent of all new nurses and nearly 85 percent of law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are educated by community colleges. One of those Ohio schools, Owens Community College (OCC) in Toledo, Ohio, is certainly doing its share of that training.

In the OCC School of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, students can earn an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice technology, emergency management and planning, emergency medical management, fire science technology or public safety communications. There are also programs in development that include criminal forensics, white collar crime and information security.

The, criminal justice technology degree includes a corrections major as well as military science and peace officer academy options. Students in the fire science technology program may earn a fire officer certificate, and the program includes the Ohio Fire Academy option. Emergency medical management at OCC includes both basic and intermediate EMT certification. OCC also offers a first responder certification course, and an EMT paramedic course is offered through a collaboration agreement with the University of Toledo Medical Center.

In public safety communications, students learn the skills necessary to become dispatchers for police, fire and emergency medical services personnel. In the emergency management and planning program, students learn how to develop emergency preparedness plans, identify natural and manmade emergency needs and resources, and operate an emergency operations center. Graduates may find jobs with national, state and local government agencies, and with private relief organizations or in industry.

According to Michele Johnson, department chair for the School of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness at OCC, the program has a number of connections with other schools, such as the articulation with the University of Toledo Hospital Center for basic and intermediate

EMT training. She also notes that college tech prep will begin in the fall, and OCC has signed articulation agreements with two high schools--Whitmer and Penta County.

Johnson believes that her program is special in what it offers its students and because of having the academies for both the Toledo Police Department and the Toledo Fire Department on campus.

"I think we are unique because of the diversity of our programs, especially now with our new center," she says.

Center for Emergency Preparedness

The training in public safety at OCC reaches a new level this month, as the school opens its new Center for Emergency Preparedness. "The students are pretty excited about it," says Johnson.

Paul Unger, provost and executive vice president of OCC, says the center is the result of a vision that has existed at the school since 1994. Although the college has had associate degree programs in criminal justice and fire sciences for almost 40 years, there was a growing recognition of the need to expand that training to first responders and others involved in the public safety of both the city of Toledo and the nearby rural areas.

As Unger points out, this was a $25 million vision, so implementing it was not a simple thing to do; but the events of 2001 made it much more prominent. OCC already had the 110-acre property for the center, and they received appropriations from the Ohio Board of Regents for the infrastructure needed, including gas lines, water lines and roads. So in 2004, the college broke ground on its new Center for Emergency Preparedness.

The second phase of the project was completed this year and includes a five-story burn building, tanker truck fire simulator, propane tank burn simulator, collapsed building tunnel system, confined space rescue area, gas station with car burn, dive and rescue pond, and car extrication. …