Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Joe King, Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-4299

January 23, 2006

NIU selected to create  homeland security
course for Illinois colleges and universities

DeKALB – The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced today that it has selected Northern Illinois University to lead the way in training a new generation of emergency management specialists.

Under the terms of the $75,000 grant, NIU will develop an introductory course upon which a wide range of programs can be built to educate individuals how to prepare for and respond to all types of disasters, natural or man-made. NIU’s proposal was selected by DCEO from among several submitted by universities across the state.

The course will be used at NIU as part of a new program offering a certificate in topics related to homeland security and also will be made available to all public colleges and universities across the state for inclusion in similar programs as they are developed.

“We are very excited to be leading this effort,” NIU President John G. Peters said. “Since we opened our doors 105 years ago, our mission has been to meet the most pressing education needs of the state, and today that means helping to develop a new generation of leaders who will step up in times of trouble.”

Peters pointed out that a recent study performed by the NIU Regional Development Institute found that citizens across the state are beginning to realize the need for greater attention to emergency preparedness. The university’s annual Illinois Policy Survey found that two thirds of Illinoisans rate the capacity of the federal government to respond to terrorist attacks or natural disasters as only fair to very poor.

That perception has some basis in reality as there is a growing, and unmet, need for emergency management professionals. According to estimates released by the FederalEmergency Management Agency the demand for emergency management specialists nationwide is expected to increase nearly 30 percent by 2012, and there are currently not enough programs to train individuals to meet that need.

“Certificate programs like those being developed at NIU’s, will not only help ensure that we have the men and women to fill those jobs, they will also help launch a change in the way we think about emergency planning,” said Peters. “They will help ensure that tomorrow’s emergency workers have the academic knowledge base required to develop strategic efforts to properly prepare for and recover from disasters.”

The introductory course is being developed by Dennis Cesarotti, a professor in NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. He brings both academic and practical credentials to the job. Cesarotti has more than 20 years experience in disaster management, having served as a responder, team leader and incident commander at events ranging from floods to anthrax scares.

The course, which will be developed for both classroom presentation and delivery over the Internet, will teach students how to evaluate the risk of various types of disasters, how to mitigate the effects of those disasters and how to recover from them. They will learn how to use that knowledge to create plans that can be used to protect everything from a small factory to a large town.

The class will be based upon one that Cesarotti has taught for several years at NIU, including this semester. Enrollment in his latest class demonstrates its application to many different professions, he says.

“In addition to engineering students, students majoring in public health, business, economics and hospitality administration are also in the class. The skills and knowledge they gain in this class will make each of them much more valuable employees and give them a competitive edge while seeking employment,” Cesarotti said. “Recent experience has demonstrated the critical need for people who have the broad skill set required to advise all manner of public and private organizations on the best practices in risk management and on the proper approach to disaster response and recovery, and this course will provide that foundation.”

Students at NIU can currently enroll in courses that will lead to a homeland security certificate in industrial technology. Homeland security certificates are also being considered for areas such as information technology/communications, health sciences, biology and life sciences.