USC starts emergency prep program

USC has launched a free emergency preparedness program, the Community Emergency Preparedness Project, within the surrounding community.

The pilot version of the program has been running since March 7 and will end on April 25. It intends to fully prepare both USC and the surrounding areas for possible emergencies by providing Community Emergency Response Training, Citizen Corps neighborhood team planning and family preparedness training.

William Regensburger, director of fire safety and emergency planning at USC, said he has noticed that many people in the local area want to volunteer but cannot afford to pay for the emergency response kit that is required for the course.

Regensburger has asked for a grant to cover these costs and help better prepare the community in the event of a disaster. If the grant is awarded, the program will officially begin in July and will include a variety of emergency preparedness courses.

Currently, the university has a team of approximately 300 people trained in emergency preparedness, but the surrounding communities are not nearly as prepared. Regensburger said he has desired to start a program such as this one for a long time, but felt more pressure recently.

“Especially with the recent earthquake that has occurred, it seems necessary to make sure our community would be prepared in the event of a major disaster,” he said.

Regensburger, along with Erroll Southers, associate director for research transition of the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, reached out to various student organizations, staff and community members to participate in the pilot program.

Gregory Papazian, a graduate student within the Price School of Public Policy and a participant in the program, noted that the university’s outreach is part of a continuing mission to better the surrounding area.

“USC has a great tradition of community service, and offering this training in a bilingual format highlights the fact that USC cares deeply about safety on campus and in our surrounding neighborhood,” Papazian said.

He went on to note that being in the course revealed the local area’s willingness to learn.

“As a participant in the class, I have seen the power of community collaboration while also learning some practical skills I can use in case of an earthquake or other emergency,” Papazian said.

Lynn Cohen, president of the           First-In Fire Foundation — one of the nonprofits working with USC — said the classes have shown students what emergency preparedness really is.

Some of the other classes involve learning how to put out fires, how to do search and rescue in a building and the practice of drills simulating mock emergencies.

Regensburger hopes that providing this course will help make the community more self-sufficient in the event of an emergency.

“I want to see the neighborhood do as well as the university and recover well,” Regensburger said.

USC is the first university in the nation to extend an emergency response team to its surrounding neighborhood, Regensburger said.  In addition to working with nonprofit organizations, USC will also be collaborating with the fire department, the police department, the emergency management department, the department of public safety, faith-based networks and community members.

For the duration of the program, the classes are held on Fridays from     9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Newman Hall at the Caruso Catholic Center.