Keeping Liberty’s campus safe: Completing federal and state courses

Four members of Liberty’s Emergency Management and Community Engagement (EMCE) department graduated with both FEMA and VEMA certifications this past December.

After working towards this goal for the majority of 2023, they have now each earned the title of professional emergency manager.

Director of Emergency Management and Community Engagement Jeff Hurtak, along with Associate Director of Emergency Management Chris Chambers, Senior Emergency
Management Planner Carl Wenzler and Emergency Management Planner Tyler Edwards reached the end of their training at the beginning of the fall semester.

Between the four of them, one person from each level of the emergency management team was certified. The Virginia Emergency Management Association (VEMA), has an extensive certification process that is made up of months spent gathering information on the applicant.

Then, they are required to submit a document of more than 250 pages defending why they deserve to become a professional emergency manager.

But they did not stop there. Along with their VEMA certification, these leaders of Liberty’s emergency management department also earned their Basic Academy Certification from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).

This academy is usually very hard to find without traveling across the country. However, they were able to take all five of the classes required here at Liberty through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).

Each of these men dedicated their time and effort to become better educated on how to protect, through service, Liberty University and the surrounding communities.

“If it’s Christian, it should be better,” Hurtak said, quoting Liberty’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr.

Over 20 prerequisite classes are required before one can even enter the FEMA Basic Academy Certification course. Once admitted, students undergo 480 hours of training split between five classes over five months, boiling down to one week-long intensive per month.

The material covered includes understanding what emergencies are, how the command structure works during a response, how to address the public during an emergency and an explanation on the science of disasters. Drills and scenario-based training are also a significant part of the learning process. However, experience is required just as much as education.

“That’s what’s tough about our field,” Hurtak said. “It’s not just how many diplomas you can throw on the table; it’s how many events you’ve already been involved in. They take experience and education, and they put them together.”

According to Hurtak, the only way to learn how to manage an event is to be in the middle of it, as classes will only take you so far. These four graduates possess an abundance of both experience and education, making them prepared to protect the community.

“At Liberty University, we prioritize safety and security without exception, and God has brought amazing individuals to our team (who) work tirelessly to ensure that we fulfill that priority,” Marcus Tinsley, vice president of security and public safety, said.

In addition to the state and federal certifications, Chambers shared his desire to see the department pursue several international certifications that are not required but would be an amazing learning opportunity.

“The field is always changing. There (are) always innovative measures that we can take to continue to learn and grow,” Chambers said. 

Barber is a news reporter for the Liberty Champion

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