City program to teach homeland security skills

City program to teach homeland security skills

Students will have a unique opportunity beginning in the fall at Williamsport Area High School to learn life-saving technical skills in the new homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and related protective services program. The program will prepare individuals to apply technical knowledge and skills required to perform entry-level duties in law enforcement, fire fighting, EMT and other safety services, said Matt Fisher, director of Career and Technical Education at the high school.

“It is designed for anyone thinking about a career in these services or for those entering the military,” said Dr. Brandon Pardoe, principal. “We have been working with professionals in the different fields to determine needed equipment and competencies.”

The new instructor Melanie Stump, of the Milton area, has been a paramedic at Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg, for 11 years. She, also, is an EMT instructor for Pennsylvania College of Technology and a member of the Milton Fire Department since she was 16 years old.

“I hope the program is super successful in that the kids who have a passion for any of the three fields will gain the knowledge to be job ready and continue their education and choose their future. And the high school will give them the tools to do this,” Stump said. “We have 49 students scheduled for the first year. This is an amazing opportunity and one of the first programs offered in the area. This is something I am very passionate about and I hope to give the students the tools to be what I am now.”

The district sought an instructor for the program in the spring who had a minimum of four years as a police officer, EMT, fire fighter or related military experiences in the last 10 years. The program will feature a classroom and lab. In the lab space, students can learn fire hose management, put on turnout gear, a squad car can be brought in or an ambulance simulator and there is space for an incident command center, according to Fisher.

Stump plans on many guest speakers to pass on their knowledge and for the students to network. The students will receive hands-on training to see what professionals do on a daily basis and see first hand what happens in the career field every day, Stump explained.

Sergeant Jodi Miller, school resource officer, hopes to be a resource in regards to the law with exercises or training.

“This is a new program so there’ll be a learning curve for all, but hopefully it will spark interest in the fields.”

“We are excited to be one of the host departments for the class,” said Todd Heckman, fire chief at Williamsport Regional Fire. “This is a great opportunity for the area police and EMS and the volunteers.”

There is data that recognizes high priority occupations for the North Central workforce development area and there is a critical shortage of folks in those areas — both volunteer or paid across the board, Fisher said.

“Police, fire and EMS all interact on a scene,” Joe Hopple, director of emergency services for Old Lycoming Township, explained, “First responders understand all angles and disciplines. We try to meet with young people because this is a young person’s game. If we can get them involved early it can be a life-long career. I wish we would have had it (the program) when I was in school.”

Hopple said he can provide equipment to practice with such as a self-containment breathing apparatus, older protective gear, hoses, ground ladders and even bring up an engine.

“We can’t expose the students to products of combustion such as smoke or fire but we can work on everything around it,” Hopple said. “Even if they don’t choose a career in police, fire or EMT they will still be able to help their community.”

According to Fisher, many have been involved in planning the program.

“There is an incident command team that meets in the district: 911, police, fire, probation, EMS, here once a month and we have utilized that group for feedback on how to shape the program,” Fisher explained.

The program will encompass two periods each semester with three levels of training. This is the 15th program in the career and technical education section at the high school.

“This will be a three-year program where students earn 1,080 hours in the program and when finished will complete the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) test to assess the competencies of the program,” Fisher said. “The program is open to students in 10th to 12th grade. Freshman can take an introductory semester course. There has been a great student response through the scheduling process.”

Gabe Manetta will be a senior in the fall and hopes the program will begin to prepare him for some of the stuff he will learn in college.

“It’s the only class that seems to fit the job I want,” Manetta said. “I’m looking at state police work. I have two uncles who are state troopers. I have been getting information from them in what I can do in the job and what it could do for me.”

Manetta, the son of Dan and Liz Manetta, of Cogan Station, plans to study criminal justice and is looking at different colleges this summer.

Jesse Polys, son of Sam and Mackensie Polys, of Cogan Station, scheduled the course for his senior year because it looked interesting.

“I want to learn more about the government because I hope to be in the CIA.”

Fisher explained that the “program stresses the techniques, methods and procedures particular to the areas of criminal justice and fire protection especially in emergency and disaster situations. Physical development and self-confidence skills are emphasized due to the nature of the specific occupations. In addition to the application of mathematics, communication, science and physics, students will receive training in social and psychological skills, map reading, vehicle and equipment operations, the judicial system, pre-hospital emergency medical care and appropriate emergency assessment, treatment and communication.”


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