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Idaho State University Disaster Response Complex Hosts Training Events for Emergency Responders

April 20, 2021

A man trains at the Disaster Relief COmplex

Taking COVID-19 pandemic challenges in stride, the Idaho State University Disaster Response Center (DRC) is preparing to host multiple training events in the coming months to assist with the readiness and skill development of emergency responders.
The DRC is currently working with local, regional, and state entities to host training events at its facilities on ISU campus in Pocatello. 
Training scenarios for emergency responders include subterranean, breaching, and HAZMAT response. One of the emergency responder communities that the DRC will be hosting includes the Civil Support Teams (CSTs). CSTs are part of the United States National Guard which supports civil authorities during domestic natural or human-made disasters that may result in catastrophic loss of life or property. There are 57 federally sustained but state-controlled CSTs throughout the United States and its territories that are on standby for emergencies 24 hours a day, year-round. The Idaho National Guard’s CST is based in Boise and consists of 22 soldiers and airmen. 
Local first responders, like firefighters and law enforcement agencies, are also able to utilize the DRC training facilities to practice efficient and effective responses to natural and human-made disaster situations.
“This training facility will not only better lives, but it will save lives,” President Kevin Satterlee said. “The complex simulates real-world training exercises for first responders. It is unique for our region, and the knowledge gained will be used to address disaster and emergency situations that may impact our state, our region, and our entire nation.”
The DRC is a unique training facility in the Northwestern United States. Training events hosted at the DRC simulate real-world emergency and search-and-rescue scenarios and have the potential to improve and maintain life-saving skills used by responders during disaster remediation. Training scenarios can be customized and structured in several ways. For instance, precast concrete elements are used to create situations that require navigating training lanes that simulate collapsed structures, confined spaces and vehicle rescues.
The principal investigator on the DRC project is ISU’s Associate Professor Mustafa Mashal, the co-principal investigator is Professor and Chair Bruce Savage, both from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“The DRC’s ultimate goal is saving lives when a catastrophe hits. As a citizen of the United States, I am truly honored that our DRC project supports the community of emergency responders in various ways,” Mashal said. 
While construction on the core DRC facilities is complete, projects to expand facility capabilities are planned to continue this year. As the DRC broadens its offerings, customizable training can focus on issues beyond cleaning up the aftermath of disasters to the protection of national security.
The DRC opened for training events in 2020 and has already hosted more than 100 first responders. The DRC kicked off 2021 by hosting a K-9 training event for the Snake River Search, Inc. in January. Ten K-9 trainers, 12 K-9’s, and four ISU students and faculty participated in the exercise. 
“It is also exciting to see how far we have come with the DRC project,” Mashal said. “In August of 2019, we started this project from nothing. Today we have a nearly 3-acre outdoor facility that has already started hosting training events for the emergency responders, and has created opportunities for numerous engineering students at ISU to work in different areas of the project, including research, design, construction, curriculum, and training events. The credit for the DRC goes to our hard-working engineering students at ISU who despite all the odds imposed by the global pandemic have done a fantastic job.”  
Recently the DRC hosted a training for the Idaho Falls Fire Department where 20 trainees and four instructors participated in a confined space exercise.
The DRC has also been an advantageous resource for ISU students, faculty, and staff who have utilized the DRC for practical training on several occasions. One such example is ISU’s College of Technology’s Emergency Medical Technician program that has been utilizing DRC to provide hands-on and realistic training to the participants.
The DRC has three focus areas: research, curriculum and certification, and training and exercise. The training and exercise focus area encourages local and regional emergency responders to use the DRC for real-world simulations of natural and man-made disasters. The development of the DRC was made possible by funding from the Idaho State Board of Education under the Higher Education Research Council – Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (HERC-IGEM). 18 engineering students from ISU have been working on different pillars of the DRC. The facility is managed by ISU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
To learn more about the DRC, please visit https://www.isu.edu/cee/research-facilities/drc/.


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