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SOCORRO, N.M. August 8, 2011 – Dr. Dan Walsh, associate vice president of research at Tech, has a new hat to wear for the next three years. Walsh was elected the chairman of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, or NDPC.

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Dr. Dan Walsh (standing, center) officially took over as chairman of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium during the quarterly meeting in late July in Socorro. Above, Dr. Van Romero addresses consortium members over dinner at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. Walsh is the associate vice president of research at Tech.

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Dr. Dan Walsh (standing) chats with EMRTC and Tech employees during dinner at the MRO.

Photos by Perry Johnston/EMRTC
The top decision-makers for First Responder Training Programs from around the nation converged on Socorro for their quarterly meeting in late July. The 60+ leaders met in committee and conference meetings for three days and were treated to a tour of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and an explosives demonstration at the EMRTC test range in the evenings. The group held an informal passing of the gavel to Walsh during dinner at the MRO.

“Dan Walsh has been involved since the beginning and now it’s his turn to take charge,” said Dr. Van Romero, vice president of research at Tech and a former NDPC chairman. “From an academic standpoint, he’s been the Dean of Adult Education at LSU and he knows how adults learn. He’s the expert. He also understands the first responder world. Not a whole lot of people have all those skills.”

Ron Purvis is an advisory board member from Mississippi. He has been involved with the NDPC for many years, including the last three on the advisory board.

“Sometimes we need to operate within boundaries and Dan will be good about re-establishing boundaries,” Purvis said. “He seeks input about the NDPC mission and the work at New Mexico Tech. He takes initiative and I’m impressed with his leadership skills.”

Walsh was formerly the dean of adult education at LSU. He moved from Louisiana to New Mexico Tech about 11 years ago. Earlier this year, he won the Appreciation Award for a staff member from the Student Association at the May 2011 Commencement ceremony.

In 1997, New Mexico Tech, Texas A&M and LSU formed the Consortium to establish collaborative efforts to train the nation’s emergency response personnel – police, firefighters, medical personnel and others. The Nevada Test Site and the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Aniston, Miss., are also charter members. The University of Hawaii joined soon after.

The group meets quarterly to share best practices, discuss budgets, new technology, the latest developments in terrorism and plan future training sessions. Typical meetings include representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and members of the advisory board, who are typically emergency management directors from various states.

The Consortium’s mission is to address the counter-terrorism preparedness needs for all hazards, including chemical, biological, radiological, natural disaster and explosive hazards. Each member hosts a training program that educates first responders about how to recognize dangers and how to react in manners that will save lives and property.

At $23 million annually, the First Responder Training Program at New Mexico Tech is among the most lucrative federal contracts on campus.

“We’re making a significant contribution to our nation’s ability to protect itself,” Romero said. “The vast majority of what we do is prevention.”

Purvis used different language: “We teach responders to stay alive and what better mission can you have?

“We support 1,000 percent what is done through the NDPC and here at New Mexico Tech. This is unique,” Purvis said. “Nowhere else in the world can you get bomb awareness training in the way it’s taught here in Socorro.”

Consortium members have not experienced federal funding cuts in recent years, but they have their work cut out for them, thanks to federal budget cuts in other areas. For example, the feds cut $2 billion from the Urban Area Security Initiative. Instead of providing security assistance to the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the feds are now only serving the 10 largest cities, Walsh said.

“Those areas still need training,” he said. “We need to see how effectively we can use new money to support those areas.”

As chairman, Walsh will help direct the nationwide training efforts to give law enforcement officers the tools they need to combat terrorist threats.

Walsh points to the New York Police Department, which is the largest and most recognized in the world.

“They’re the best in the world, but they come here to train,” Walsh said. “They can’t do it all themselves. Self-training is like an intersquad game. You don’t know how good you are until you test your mettle in the big leagues.”

The Consortium members assemble the most experienced educators in law enforcement to present customized training sessions that include classroom and field work.

“They learn things in New Mexico that they can take home,” Walsh said. “We train the trainers. First responders learn new tactics here; they then teach the same class back home.”

To track the efficacy of the train-the-trainer philosophy, Consortium members provide the supplies and materials for the off-site classes. Each off-site student must take a pre-test and a post-test, which are immediately submitted to the training site of origin, Walsh said. The Consortium members can then show FEMA and Congress how effective the training programs are – and how the federal funds are being well spent.

Walsh said one of his main goals as Consortium board chairman is to streamline business and get back to basics.

“We have hundreds of courses prepared,” Walsh said. “We need to assess which ones are viable and relevant and sought after. Then, we’ll take the rest and put them on the shelf.”

The law enforcement sector experiences about 20 percent turnover each year, Walsh said, with much of that occurring among new recruits who leave for other jobs.

“We need to get back to the core courses for the foot soldiers,” Walsh said. “We don’t have much fluff in our organization, but we can do more and be more efficient. We’re making our nation safer for everyone.”

Purvis said the Consortium provides training that states otherwise would not be able to afford. All training provided by the Consortium members is free to the officers’ home departments – including all travel costs.

“The NDPC does what we can’t do back home,” Purvis said. “Officers get 50 hours of training on how to keep themselves alive. It gives our responders the tools to be better at their jobs, while not pulling from our resources.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech