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AU News

School of Public Service and Administration Students Find Their Purpose in Disaster Relief

April 26, 2021
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Homeland Security and Emergency Services Management students of the Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration got hands-on experience in disaster relief, and found their calling in the process of helping those in need.

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When disaster rocks your world, it’s heartening when somebody appears at your doorstep ready to roll up their sleeves and help put the pieces back together. 

Two Homeland Security and Emergency Services Management students from the Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration responded to two separate disasters recently in two states. 

Trenton Maddox, a Homeland Security and Emergency Services Management major, had been on several disaster relief trips with his church, affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Task Force. In his 12 years of disaster relief experience, Maddox has traveled to Alabama, Kentucky and his home state of Tennessee, among others. He also traveled with a team to the Caribbean island of Dominica. On one of the trips, Maddox felt led to go full time into disaster relief. He found that Anderson University was one of the few institutions offering Homeland Security and Emergency Services Management in the Southeast. 

When deadly flooding hit Nashville, his hometown, Maddox was there as part of a mudout team to get homes cleared of water-damaged drywall, flooring and anything else below the waterline that could possibly breed mold. 

“My main focus is on saving lives and bringing hope to those that have no hope,” Maddox said. 

Maddox was also part of a team of students working with local emergency management and other disaster relief organizations involved in disaster relief efforts following the April 13, 2020 EF-3 tornado that did extensive damage to the Seneca, South Carolina area. 

Emily Prunty is no stranger to helping out in times of disaster; the Anderson University junior has been involved in disaster relief projects since she was 15 with North Carolina Baptists On Mission Disaster Relief. 

In March, Prunty traveled to Oneida, Kentucky, a small town ravaged by floodwaters from Red Bird River, Goose Creek and Bullskin Creek which run through the community. Torrential rains caused the waters to inundate much of Oneida, damaging numerous homes and other structures. She was part of a mudout team tasked with removing flood-damaged drywall and other interior materials.

“I honestly enjoy helping people in need. Through all of the dirty work, I come out more blessed than the homeowner, because I get to see their resiliency during the disaster and after,” Prunty said. “Most of them will help us as well; sometimes they bring us treats and different things and they are just thankful for the work that we do.”

For Prunty, the experience proved to be a real-life application of coursework she was doing in the class “Social Dimensions of a Disaster,” taught by Dr. Howard Murphy, associate professor of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

“It has actually been very helpful to learn about the resilience and recovery of communities,” Prunty said. Prunty is also minoring in health care management and is interested in possibly working with a hospital.

Dr. Murphy encourages students to get involved with the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief Task Force, the Anderson County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or whatever disaster response or relief organization with which they’d like to serve. 

When Dr. Murphy was a college student, he led a team of 63 students to assist in areas of South Carolina ravaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, in coordination with and support of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

“The work we did in 1989 was my introduction to disaster relief and emergency management, and I have been involved in this rewarding work ever since. For this reason, I encourage others pursuing careers in disaster relief or emergency management to consider getting involved in the mission field,” Murphy said. “There are amazing opportunities here in the U.S. and around the world to be servant-leaders and ambassadors of Jesus Christ, helping to meet people’s needs, fulfilling not only his teachings in Matthew 25:35-40 about feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and injured; but also the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.”

The Emergency Services Management studies are designed to prepare managers and leaders in the fields of Homeland Security, Emergency Services and Emergency Management to deal with the complexities and challenges of managing agencies in an organizationally sound and ethical manner during all phases of homeland security (prevention and deterrence) and comprehensive emergency management (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.)

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