VU Homeland Security students helping with local tornado cleanup

VU Homeland Security students helping with local tornado cleanup

VU Homeland Security and Public Safety students and faculty helping with tornado relief efforts

April 06, 2023

SULLIVAN, Ind. – After an EF-3 tornado ripped less than a week ago through Sullivan County, Indiana, and took lives there, Vincennes University Homeland Security and Public Safety Program Chair and retired FBI agent Lou Caprino launched his drone to capture photography of the extensive damage. Those images were then shared with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for use in their early assessment.

Recalling the supportive role HSPS majors in helping New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, Caprino quickly got to work on exploring how current students could come to the aid of a nearby community.

According to Caprino, “The students were on board immediately to step up for their fellow Hoosiers. They expressed a strong willingness to assist in the recovery operation in Sullivan. Vincennes University is proud of the young men and women in the Homeland Security program for their dedication to serving the community during times of crisis. Their education and training have prepared them to make a difference and provide assistance to those impacted by disaster.”

The National Weather Service reports the tornado crossed the Wabash River from Illinois and entered Sullivan County during severe weather Friday night. The tornado destroyed and damaged homes, structures, and vehicles as winds reached 165 miles per hour. Three individuals lost their lives.

VU students are putting in long hours and many days of volunteer work in Sullivan this week.

Wearing a hard hat and fluorescent safety vest, HSPS junior Eli Switzer was taken aback by what he saw. Although, his mood was hopeful.

“Through the adversity, you see a lot of people coming together,” said the Crawfordsville, Indiana, native. “Our entire Homeland program has come together to help these people we don’t even know. Even though it is sad now, it’s nice to see people that have never met each other and don’t have any occupation together come together.”

Under the direction of Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Pirtle, VU students are sorting and hauling debris, inventorying and securing any personal items, including furniture, electronics, photographs, and jewelry that is salvageable. They are also personally assisting residents who have returned to their destroyed homes by retrieving items needed by the homeowners.

Their involvement in the recovery process aligns with VU’s motto of “Learn in Order to Serve” and the curriculum taught in the Homeland Security and Public Safety program. The hands-on experience in Sullivan is integral to the HSPS students' learning process, allowing them to gain real-world practice and integrate what they have learned into their future careers.

“The students are representing Vincennes University, their families, and themselves in a highly professional, sensitive, and caring manner,” Caprino said. “I am proud to have the opportunity to watch these future Homeland professionals at work. The students are enthusiastic and eager to make a difference in the lives of those affected by the disaster.”

The VU community is also supporting relief efforts in additional ways.

The VU Nursing Department is collecting items for the communities impacted. It is accepting non-perishable food items, sports drinks, feminine products, cleaning supplies, paper products, children's clothing, baby formula, and diapers at the Center for Health Sciences, 27 W. Harrison St. on the Vincennes Campus.

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