Northwest hosted its sixth annual four-day field response exercise, Missouri Hope-Atlantica, this past weekend.
Missouri Hope is a field training exercise that partners with Northwest’s Emergency and Disaster Management program and local and state emergency response resources to give students hands-on learning experiences and necessary skills needed for future real-world emergencies and disasters.
This year, Missouri Hope switched up training exercises to an international mass casualty scene focusing on humanitarian relief and preventing and alleviating human suffering. For the past five years, the Missouri Hope scenario has been domestic training and tornado exercises.
Missouri Hope Director John Carr said they had kept the same domestic scenario because that is what majority of students will deal with in their respective future careers. The scenario was changed this year to allow students the opportunity to experience a different type of exercise.
“Our program is such that we need to make sure that students not only get learning in the classroom, but also hands-on learning out in the field,” Carr said. “We want to try and show them what type of hands-on skills they’ll need to know, and also make sure that for them they are getting the chance to experience what careers are out there, what things they can do after school.”
The scenario this year was in the fictional country of Atlantica that had been hit with a 6.8 earthquake as well as civil violence resulting from the recent civil war within that country.
Within the exercise, there were 36 participants, 21 of which were Northwest students, the others came from seven other institutions. There were 70 staff members and 182 volunteers role-playing as victims.
Participants were divided up into four groups of nine. Each group was paired with two staff members who worked as control evaluators and mentors. The groups then spent the next 72 hours in scenario.
Sophomore Savannah Baker, emergency and disaster management major, was a participant in Missouri Hope-Atlantica. This was Baker’s third exercise; she was a participant in Missouri Hope last year and in New York Hope in August.
Baker said the annual emergency response field training Northwest hosts is what drew her to the University.
“I always learn stuff in a Hope exercise, no matter if it’s my first or my third,” Baker said. “I definitely have to say you learn more about yourself for sure. You may think you know exactly what you’re doing, but then you get into these exercises and you feel humbled, but you’re able to learn and grow still. You may get knocked down one step, but you keep growing from there. You learn from getting your butt kicked in a sense, I guess.”
Carr said Missouri Hope-Atlantica was valued at about $3.2 million, this figure includes equipment used, donations and man hours put into the simulation. The cash budget from this event is about $9,000. Staff members had to pay $70 and participants had to pay $140 to cover for meals, t-shirts and facility rentals.
Junior Christopher Fowler, an emergency and disaster management major, was a participant in Missouri Hope-Atlantica. This was Fowler’s third Hope exercise.
“I really enjoy the exercises because it’s kind of the bread and butter of the major, so it’s a lot more of the hands-on type of work,” Fowler said. “Instead of sitting in a classroom, lecturing all of the time, we’re actually getting to put to use what we’ve been talking about this whole time.”
Disaster and Emergency Management major sophomore Natalie Coté was a participant in Missouri Hope-Atlantica, this was her first Hope exercise.
Coté said this field exercise allowed her to see the things she had been learning about within her major in a real, physical way, teaching her insights needed for a future career. Coté said getting to work alongside staff members was inspiring.
“As someone that’s just learning, it is incredibly inspiring to see these people that may be, at one point, were in my shoes, but now 10, 20, 30 years down the road have all of these skills and have the capacity to be able to help people in the way that I want to be able to help people someday,” Coté said.
Junior Mallory Krishna volunteered as a victim for the simulation. This was her second year volunteering. This year, she had moulage to look like bruising on her side and acted as if she were dying from her injuries.
“I know that for a lot of first responders, especially in this area, this is one of the only events they get to go to so they can practice,” Krishna said. “For them, this is really critical and important because when they go out into the real world if they don’t have any practice, they don’t know how to deal with it, so this is just a good practice run for them.”
Coté said she felt like she was thrown into the deep end at Missouri Hope-Atlantica but the experience was well worth being pushed emotionally and physically.
“I think Missouri Hope-Atlantica was very intense, but it was very rewarding,” Coté said. “You don’t need to be apart of the major to get something from the exercise. I definitely encourage anyone that wants to get a better understanding of triage or humanitarian aid or just what to do in a disaster situation to look into it and potentially do the exercise.”