Suppose you were stranded without anything to drink. Do you know how to use a plastic bag to make a cup of water? As a business owner, are you familiar with the steps needed to ensure your organization is prepared to reopen after a disaster?
University of New Orleans healthcare management professor Randy Kearns has more than 30 years in disaster and emergency management, and he has used that experience to create a business course called “Disaster Management, Business Continuity & Personal Preparedness.”
The course examines disaster planning and emergency management from a personal and business standpoint.
The objective, said Kearns, an Eagle Scout—which is the highest and most prestigious achievement among Boy Scouts, is to teach some of the “little” things people need to be able to do in responding and dealing with a disaster.
“Disasters will always happen,” Kearns said. “We can’t control the hazards. We can control our vulnerabilities to those hazards.”
Kearns, who worked as a paramedic for a decade and spent eight years as a Federal Emergency Management Agency reservist responding to federally declared disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, is well versed in the many facets of trauma and crisis. His area of expertise is in healthcare management, policy, operations, disaster medicine and burn care.
His career path also includes stints leading a county emergency service department and faculty posts in healthcare, including at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine for seven years.
Prior to coming to UNO last year, Kearns was an associate professor and healthcare management department chair at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina.
“I lived it,” Kearns said regarding the content covered in the course. “Experiences influence what I teach.”
Kearns said he views emergency management at three levels:
• Number one is community preparedness. How do we help the community be more prepared? The course includes discussion on major local, state and national policies and programs designed to improve preparedness to a large-scale disaster, public health or medical emergency.
• Then he connects community preparedness to the business world. If an organization doesn’t understand the principles of business continuity, they are one disaster away from not being able to do what they do, Kearns said. “Whether you have dozens of employees, two employees or hundreds of employees, somebody has got to keep their eye on what it takes to be able to continue the business,” he said.
• The third piece of emergency management is personal preparedness. That runs the gamut from basic first aid to personal survival, Kearns said. Can you stop life-threatening bleeding? Can you open an airway? Can you do just a general injury assessment? “You have to be able to protect yourself, help yourself and then help others,” Kearns said.
As part of the course, students will complete up to 12 FEMA training certificates that many public and private sector companies require emergency management employees to possess, such as the Incident Command System or ICS 100.
“It gives you an opportunity to have those on your resume from one class,” Kearns said.
As part of the personal preparedness section of the course, students will not only learn how to take a plastic bag and make a cup of water, but Kearns also will teach students how to start a fire—with a bottle of water.