Being ready for The Big One might be high on your mind this year.
With all the talk of the impending Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, emergency service providers are urging families and businesses to develop plans and emergency preparedness kits. That’s where the Cascadia Technical Academy — previously known as the Clark County Skills Center — comes in.
The Cascadia Technical Academy’s Homeland Security program on Thursday will unveil its Emergency Operations Learning Center with a grand opening event. The EOLC mimics a functioning emergency operations center, allowing students to practice emergency coordination efforts or community groups to use the space to run drills of their own.
Think of it like a mirror to Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, said Homeland Security instructor Jeff Kaliner.
“It’s kind of a nerve center,” he said.
The classroom, supported with $50,000 from the state and Cascadia Technical Academy’s foundation, features state-of-the-art equipment, including multiple projection screens, an interactive whiteboard, video conferencing and dedicated phone lines. It’s the only classroom of its kind in the country, Kaliner said.
The space gives students a chance to learn how to manage emergency response for a broad range of disasters, including terrorist attacks, earthquakes or disease outbreaks.
If You Go
• What:Grand opening of Cascadia Technical Academy’s Emergency Operations Learning Center.
• When: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
• Where: 12200 N.E. 28th St., Vancouver.
Additionally, the community is invited to use the space to prepare for disasters. Businesses, community organizations or government agencies are invited to use the facility to develop their own emergency plans.
“We’re coming out and saying this is a new community asset,” Kaliner said. “All we ask is you bring in our students as you plan.”
Evergreen High School junior Matt Lansdon, 16, is the designated public information officer for the class. After all, his teacher notes, someone’s got to talk to the press during a disaster.
Lansdon plans to enlist in the Marine Corps after graduating and hopes to become a firefighter. He hopes to apply the skills he’s learned in class to life after high school.
“I feel that having all this knowledge of how the enterprise works and how incidents work out in the real world will help me for my future,” he said.
Even if the program doesn’t directly align with students’ career path, Cascadia Tech Academy Interim Director Mark Mansell said the program gives students critical thinking and analytical skills they may not find in other programs.
“It’s really about having frameworks of how you address and prepare for emergencies,” Mansell said. “It’s really more of a cognitive preparation than any of our other programs.”
Emergency Management Division Manager Scott Johnson offered Kaliner guidance on what to include in the new space — though he gives full credit to Kaliner.
Ultimately, Johnson hopes the space promotes a community that is resilient when disaster strikes, he said.
“What Jeff’s set up does is it provides an opportunity for community partners to work with the students to test some of their resilience plans, their disaster plans, in an environment where they can plan,” he said.