U.S. Institute of Peace Awards Grant to Expand IRSC Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Operations Program

Thursday, April 29, 2010

FORT PIERCE, FL -- Indian River State College has been awarded a prestigious United States Institute of Peace (USIP) grant of $79,680 to expand the College's Center for Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Operations as a training model for educational institutions and aid organizations in the US and overseas. The IRSC program provides intensive field-based training in response to earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural and manmade disasters. Combining full-scale crisis simulations with a relevant academic foundation, the multi-faceted program is the first of its type in the nation.

For the past five years IRSC and its partner colleges and universities have conducted intensive disaster simulations in Florida and in Macedonia in Southeastern Europe to hone the skills of future humanitarian operators who will work in insecure and challenging environments. Partners with IRSC include the United States Military Academy at West Point, The Citadel, Northwest Missouri State University, Northern Oklahoma College, Salve Regina University, the Center for Creative Leadership and the University of St. Cyril and Methodius in Macedonia. The program partners have formed a Consortium for Humanitarian Service and Education that will participate in the grant-funded activities.

The USIP grant will be used to bring together faculty, students, and leading subject matter experts from the United States, Macedonia, and the international community in a series of workshops and conferences over the next two years that will further develop this world-class program for training the next generation of disaster relief and humanitarian aid workers. Discussions will focus on the conduct of practical training for leading edge concerns in the aid community such as civil-military relations, safety and security, humanitarian negotiations, leadership and team building, aid delivery, contingency planning, and inter-agency management. IRSC will disseminate the training program curriculum to its national and international partners in the project.

"We recognize that training for aid workers must combine solid academics with practical exercises so that our graduates understand how to ‘get it right' working with real people with real concerns under real conditions,” said Dr. Paul Forage, who directs the IRSC program. "To provide an additional layer of experience, we work in partnership with the organizations found in the real world of humanitarian work and disaster relief.”

American students work side by side with their Macedonian counterparts to practice delivering humanitarian assistance safely and securely while coping with diverse social and political conditions during the crisis simulations. Two IRSC students who participated in the training last summer utilized their skills and experience to provide valuable leadership and assistance in Haiti following the earthquake. Other graduates have gone on to apply their skills in Africa, northern Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The IRSC Center for Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Operations is based at the College's Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex in Fort Pierce, Florida, a fifty-acre living laboratory for criminal justice, fire science, emergency management, legal assisting and human services.

The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by Congress in 1984 to increase the nation's capacity to manage international conflict without violence.