May 5, 2004 – The University of the Virgin Islands joined in the national fight against terrorism on Wednesday by sealing a new partnership with the Law Enforcement Planning Commission's Office of Domestic Preparedness.
Ilene Garner, head of the university's Center for Community Education and Lifelong Learning, and UVI Provost Gwen-Marie Moolenaar accepted an $81,000 check from the LEPC director, Eddy Charles, at a press conference on the St. Thomas campus.
The money, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will fund security awareness training for emergency-services personnel as well as government and private-sector workers throughout the territory.
According to a UVI release, personnel with local agencies including the Police Department, Fire Service, Emergency Medical Service and the Public Works and Health Departments will be required to participate in the awareness training. The training, free and tailored to the needs of each agency, will focus on potential chemical, explosive, biological and radiological threats, it said.
"We will give citizens and first responders the education they need to detect a terrorist threat," Charles said, "and we will raise the level of awareness in the community" with regard to terrorists and their tactics.
UVI's Community Education and Lifelong Learning, or CELL, program was established nearly two year ago, Moolenaar said, to provide workforce and professional development training in the territory and for nearby islands. The center offers training and certification classes in a variety of disciplines, from real estate and computer technology to hospitality and management.
Since its creation, Garner said, "the center has been working to supply professional services" to various entities in and around the territory and has also become "very interested in partnering with other organizations, public and private."
Wednesday's exchange of money and promises, however, marked the a new departure for UVI-CELL: working with a defense-related organization.
"We will be handling all of the administrative duties," Garner said, explaining that those duties will include locating training facilities, securing teaching materials, setting up classes and maintaining records for the LEPC Office of Domestic Preparedness.
Hezekiah U. Samuel, who is in charge of the local Homeland Security preparedness programs, said that up to now most of the training has taken place on the mainland. "The partnership will make it possible for training to take place right here in the territory," he said
And if all goes well, Charles and Samuel expect the Homeland Security funding to continue and for training within the territory to become the norm.
Charles said preparedness teachers will come from within the territory and will be paid around $25 an hour. He thinks a lot of the training materials will be provided free of charge by the Homeland Security Department. And so, he figures that "the $81,000 will train a lot of people."
The first round of training will be fairly basic, he said. "We will teach people what to look for, how to detect when something is out of place and might pose a terrorist threat, and then what to do about it," he said.
The federal Department of Homeland Security was created in November 2002 with the mission of protecting American soil from terrorist and other threats. The department has an annual budget of more than $35 billion and employs more than 200,000 people, according to congressional figures.
The department's Web site states that is has trained more than 500,000 responders and has provided more than $13 billion for teaching efforts like those soon to begin in the territory.
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