Tech Training Program Gets $23 Million From Homeland Security

SOCORRO, N.M. November 6, 2009 – The Department of Homeland Security has awarded $23 million to New Mexico Tech to continue operating the All Hazards Response Training Program.

First responders from every state and territory have enrolled in incident response training classes through Tech's research division, Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center.  EMRTC photo

The award represents a $1 million increase over 2009 funding. The Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center conducts the training program, which has hosted more than 50,000 students in Socorro and educated more than 300,000 first responders across the nation.

“We’ve expanded this program every year since we started in 1998,” university Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said. “We are considered an integral part of Department of Homeland Security training activity.”

The program was originally designed to train first responders about reacting to terrorist incidents. In recent years, the program has been expanded to include response to natural hazards, like floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, Romero said.

“First and foremost, this is a continuation of a very important, very critical program that benefits every state in the union and all U.S. territories,” EMRTC director Dr. John Meason said. “No. 2 , it keeps a lot of people employed and salaries paid and keeps funding coming in to the university.”

Meason said the funding increase will allow the university to train more students in 2010. He said EMRTC has sufficient capacity and infrastructure to accommodate more first responders without investing in new facilities.

In addition to classroom work, first responders get extensive field training exercises through EMRTC's incident response courses. EMRTC file photo

“The Department of Homeland Security looks at the demand and our waiting list,” Meason said. “They realize that with a bit more money, we can add significantly to our training schedule, particularly because the additional funding goes into training and none into infrastructure development.”

The terrorism response training and all-hazards training are very popular with first responders. Meason said the weeklong course provide eye-opening experiences for students.

“Very few people have ever seen explosions and fewer have seen large explosions,” he said. “Seeing a car bomb gives them a real feeling about what they might face. They understand after they complete the course that they have to do everything right or their lives – and the lives of others – are in jeopardy.”

New Mexico Tech is one of several training centers for first responders, which includes police, firefighters, military and other emergency personnel. Nationwide, more than 1.6 million people have received training through the Homeland Security-sanctioned programs.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech