Opportunity for real life experience

Ten students in Dean R. Larson’s OLS 590A “Foundations of Homeland Security” were asked to write actual emergency evacuation plans for Carroll and Whites Counties along the Tippecanoe River.  The residents of these counties often experience flooding from the river and the flooding increases the damage potential on two hydroelectric dams.  The counties did not have adequate emergency evacuation plans and, through NIPSCO, asked Purdue Calumet for help.

Early in the semester, the Tippecanoe River flooded to the “500 Year” flood level with two instances of “100 Year” flood levels within the following six weeks.  The students learned the feeling of solving real-life problems that they followed from the media reports.

During the semester the students participated in meetings with NIPSCO, county leadership, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Service, and Indiana Department of Homeland Security as the issues involved with flood prediction, warning, and evacuation were discussed.  The students contributed fresh ideas to spark discussion.  Often, these ideas were developed in solutions for the many problems attendant to river flooding.  The most important part of the meetings, the students witnessed first-hand the cooperation that works to solve problems.

The most important lesson was the experience of learning to work together in teams.  The team composition was based on ensuring a mixture of the various academic disciplines represented among the students.  This project experience differed from the normal self-selection of team mates and team projects, with the experience being a better mirror of real life.

Dean R. Larson, PhD, CEM, CSP, CPT, is a Limited Term Lecturer in the Construction Science and Organizational Leadership department.