Houston Community College (HCC) announced its plans for the city’s first program designed to reduce the impact of catastrophic events and other unexpected disasters.
The school hosted its State of the College event at the Hilton Americas-Houston focusing on the 2022 theme of Resiliency by Design: A Bold Response to Houston to unveil its initiative which includes a $30 million Resiliency Operations Center to train first responders, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical staff, business owners and community members how to properly prepare for such disasters using simulation exercises and technology.
This initiative comes on the cusp of several federally declared natural disasters, including the novel coronavirus pandemic that has impacted the city’s economic, social and environmental infrastructures.
HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado said the first cohort will begin this fall and will take non-credit courses. He said the campaign roll-out will be marketed across the region, including the most vulnerable and underserved communities.
“Our objective is to protect the wellbeing of our citizens in our communities and increase economic stability,” Maldonado said. “We will leverage HCC’s existing footprint and its 14 centers of excellence and educate a wide variety of disciplines critical to disaster preparedness.”
The centerpiece is the Resiliency Operations Center (ROC), a five-acre training space located on HCC’s northeast campus. Officials said students will train in simulations of flooded residential areas with floating debris, downed powerlines and submerged vehicles. The street scape also includes mock training buildings, swift water rescue channels, and lakes with shallow and deep water areas. The ROC center will also include trainings for pandemics, chemical spills and leaks, winter freezes and fires.
“The pathway that a student takes will be a function of where they are today, whether they want to do this professionally or as a community supporter,” he said. “What we are noticing in industries across the area, there are new careers that are emerging in resiliency…there is going to be a lot of evolution over the next five to 10 years on the curriculum.”