Emergency training goes to campus

Virginia Center for Innovative Technology

Three universities are uniting to establish a training center for emergency service first responders in Virginia's northern corridor, fueled by $5 million provided through the recently signed federal fiscal 2003 spending bill.

The center, which initially will be called the Response to Emergencies and Disaster Institute (READI), will be located at The George Washington University's Loudon County campus. The other schools involved in the project are George Mason and Shenandoah universities.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), whose area of constituency includes the new center's site, believes READI has the potential to become one of the premier training facilities in the area, providing first responders with the kind of information they need to deal with large-scale incidents.

The training READI offers is expected to complement the activities of the recently formed Virginia Institute for Defense and Homeland Security (IDHS). The IDHS is a research, education and technology transfer consortium that will develop and commercialize technologies in telecommunications, biodefense, sensor systems and risk management.

"Virginia is host to a large number of federal agencies and an extensive defense and security industry," Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said in a statement this month. "The geographic proximity of these agencies with companies as well as their integration with Virginia universities enables the IDHS to accelerate technology innovation from concept to commercialization, allowing a more rapid deployment of high-quality end products for our nation."

The institute was formed as a result of recommendations made last fall by the Secure Virginia Initiative Panel, which has its headquarters at the state's Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon. Shenandoah University will be joining the IDHS, whose membership consists of the original 12 founding universities, including George Mason.

The three universities want READI up and running as soon as possible, Shenandoah University President James Davis said, although it could take a couple of months before the preliminaries are worked out.

"What training the center offers will depend on what the first responders themselves want," he said, "so we'll be taking time to talk with them and other government emergency people before we'll know exactly what we'll be doing there."

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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