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In Disaster Prep, One Class Fits All

As seen in Long Island Business News


Morgan Lyle,Assistant Director of Public Relations
LIU Riverhead

Long Island Business NewsHEMPSTEAD – Long Island, according to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, “isn't off the hook.” In a speech last week at Hofstra University, Chertoff called on the private and public sectors to prepare for the worst by setting up business continuity and disaster recovery plans. As an example, he cited the 1938 “Long Island Express” hurricane, a Category 3 monster that killed 600 people.

Vincent Henry, director of Long Island University's Homeland Security Management Institute, said the wheels are already in motion. Preparedness lessons learned after 9/11 can be applied to natural disasters, Henry noted, part of an “all-hazards” approach that is a core principal of homeland security education and the foundation of the LIU program.

The homeland security Management Institute is the first of its kind on Long Island and was selected by the Naval Postgraduate School as one of two partner universities in the nation. Henry said the partnership enables the LIU program to share instructors and course materials with the Navy program, funded by the Department of homeland security.

Tuition for the program is $11,500. Professionals from the public safety sector can receive a 30 percent discount.

In May, a class of four students will become the first to complete the program, which is part of the Southampton College graduate program but only available online. Henry said the online format is the only way the 40 students in the program, most of whom are involved in public safety, can advance their management skills in homeland security.

“These are people subject to being called out at anytime,” Henry said. “They are not nine-to-fivers. Conceptually, the classroom is open 24/7.”

“I had feedback from a narcotics supervisor on the NYPD,” he added. “He worked 30 hours straight and was wired with energy at 2 a.m. He went online and did three hours of work.”

To earn a certificate, students must complete five classes covering facets of homeland security and terrorism.

Barry Galfano, a NYPD captain and commanding officer of the NYPD Emergency Services Unit, is thinking of retiring and starting a homeland security consulting business after he completes the program in May.

“In 20 years, my career went from basic law enforcement to counterterrorism and homeland security,” Galfano said. “Since 9/11, everything the ESU does has been designed for homeland security.”

Even with decades of practical experience behind him, including responding to 9/11, Galfano said he benefited from the program.

“I've probably learned more from the students in the classes than the readings the instructors have given us,” he said. “We build networks and relationships which we can use in emergency situations in the future.”

Among the reading materials that students download on the course Web site are FEMA and government reports on past emergencies. Students also download audio versions of textbooks.

Learning how emergency management evolved in the country makes it easier to understand how and why decisions are made, according to Galfano. That knowledge, he said, can be relayed to first responders on the ground to ease frustrations during an emergency.

Not every student has ambitions of starting a business. Bruce Blakeman, a partner at Robert M. Blakeman & Associates in Valley Stream, is also a New York Port Authority commissioner. Blakeman serves on the Port Authority's security subcommittee, which oversees all security aspects at the authority's ports and assets.

“One thing I realized was that there was more that I didn't know than I did know,” Blakeman said. “I get a tremendous amount of info from students with law enforcement backgrounds. They give me a way to look at situations with a practical view, as opposed to a theoretical or philosophical basis.”

Students are required to engage one another through a series of responses to a “question of the week.” Past topics have included “the failings of interagency communications during Hurricane Katrina response” and “the implications of NSA wiretapping.”

For his required research paper, Blakeman is writing about the federal “allocation of state and local funding using a risk-based analysis.” This subject shares another Chertoff message.

“The federal government can't protect everyone and everything,” the homeland security chief said at Hofstra. “If we tried to do this, it would bankrupt the country. We must operate using principals of risk management.

“The federal government is not the first responder to a natural disaster,” he added. “That job belongs to local and state government, people who know the community best.”

Joseph Pascarella, captain of the NYPD's Office of Management Analysis and Planning and a Fulbright scholar also teaches in the LIU program.

“Previously, homeland security was a military function, but now that the threats are domestic, it has become a domestic issue,” Pascarella said. “Security has become a commodity.”

“Better than 80 percent of critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector,” he added. “There has to be a lot more collaboration with these companies to protect that infrastructure.”

And to do this, companies around the country will need managers who can define smart security policies, said Pascarella.

William Dement, a retired NYPD detective-lieutenant, who saw big opportunities out west after taking the LIU course.

Dement's Western State's Management Consulting firm teaches local law enforcement how to respond to situations including terrorism and gang violence by crafting smart emergency policies.

Admittedly, his 4-month-old business is niche, but Dement said he has plans to branch out.

“My expertise, my bread and butter, is my police background,” he said. “But I also have a management degree from New York University and I want to parlay that into hurricane preparedness.”

Dolan Pely, chief editor of homeland security Research, a leading think-tank on the subject, said homeland security education is now a matter of supply and demand.

“There was a whole market of materials and courses overseas in Israel, but there was no market for these goods in the U.S. until 9/11,” Pely said.

© 2006 Long Island Business News

Posted 04/28/2006

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