CEDAR FALLS | Disasters seem like an everyday occurrence but one that always seems to be happening elsewhere.
The University of Northern Iowa and the Federal Emergency Management Agency held a Ready Campus event Thursday aimed to bring those disasters a little closer to home.
“I think people are becoming more aware of the frequencies of disasters increasing; in terms of personal preparedness, though, it seems like oftentimes, it’s after a disaster where we meet people who say, ‘Man, I wish I would have taken that step to be better prepared,’” said FEMA Region 7 external affairs specialist David Gervino.
Gervino said FEMA Region 7 launched the Ready Campus events to get students thinking about disasters before they happen and “create a culture of preparedness” early on in their lives so they are ready in case disaster strikes. UNI is the first Iowa college campus to hold such an event.
The event had multiple purposes: introducing students to potential career fields, raising awareness about what resources are available and spotlighting what plans are already in place in the community.
FEMA officials, Iowa National Guard members, Iowa Civil Air Patrol members, Duracell employees, the American Red Cross volunteers and more introduced students to the roles they play in disasters and even offered demonstrations and tips to be safer at home.
Mark Grey, a UNI anthropology professor, said that is important as climate change is increasing the power and destructiveness of disasters, particularly for vulnerable populations in the world. It’s also important close to home, as Grey said northern Iowa is becoming a part of the so-called Tornado Alley, where those disasters are most likely to strike.
Erin Gomez, a UNI sophomore from Davenport studying global health promotion, said she was interested to learn from the local emergency management agency about the role communities play in preparedness and planning before the larger scale first-responders get to the scenes of disasters.
Gomez selected her field of study because it combines two of her interests.
“I’m also a Spanish and geography minor, so I really like to learn about different cultures and where they are in the world and how it interacts with each other,” Gomez said. “I’ve always enjoyed health and medicine, and I can kind of get the best of both worlds with this major.”
Her classmate, UNI sophomore Nick Anderson of Mediapolis, said he had similar reasons for selecting the field of study. Anderson said he is driven to help people in vulnerable populations, in part due to his strong faith, and global health promotion allows him to help people and interact with different cultures.
Anderson said he is confident he’s chosen the right major, but he’s still seeking the right career choice, so he liked the opportunity at the campus fair to see what options are available.
Michele Devlin, a UNI health promotion professor, said the university was selected as the first site in Iowa in part because of its leadership role on emergency management courses and its global health promotion major. She said the university has been offering majors in those fields for more than 20 years.