By Leischen Stelter
Dr. Yvette Aguiar knows the value of training—it helped save her life on September 11, 2001. Early in her 20-year career with the NYPD, she enrolled in a fire science training course that included an extensive discussion on the fire complexities of the World Trade Center (WTC) complex.
“I clearly remember the fire chief who taught the course. He was charged with fire operations at the WTC and at one point in the course described in detail the structure and architectural design of the South and North towers,” she said.
The buildings were designed with the main support running down the center of each building so if they were compromised the floors would collapse on top of each other, preventing a domino effect. They were also built on wheels to absorb an impact from an aircraft.
Dr. Aguiar had not thought about that training session until she ran into the lobby of the South tower on Sept. 11, 2001. As she assisted in the evacuation, “miraculously, I remembered the fire chief assuring us the buildings were designed to implode if they were compromised,” she said. “I stepped outside to look at the entire structure and the tower began to implode.”
Dr. Aguiar survived thanks to the knowledge she gained in that course.
A Career Focused on Training
Soon after the terrorist attacks, the NYPD Police Commissioner formed a Counterterrorism Division. Dr. Aguiar was selected as a detective supervisor, charged with developing and training the nation’s largest police force. She trained extensively with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of Justice, Israeli Security Agency, and the FBI.
“It was an extensive effort on many fronts between the NYPD and many governmental training entities. As a result, we brought everyone up to speed in a relatively short period of time,” she said.
After she retired from the NYPD in 2006, Dr. Aguiar applied her enthusiasm and passion for training and education in the private sector. She entered the field of college teaching and obtained a PhD in Business Administration, specializing in Homeland Security. She is currently an adjunct professor at American Military University (AMU), teaching courses in Security Management.
Developing an Interactive Approach to Campus Security
Most recently she used her real-world experience and extensive training background to spearhead a revision to the AMU’s Security Management undergraduate course, SCMT379: School and Campus Security, which launched in January.
“The topic of school security is very fluid and this is the type of course that should remain current as these types of incidents continue to occur,” she said. “At each mass-casualty incident, a lesson will be learned.”
Students will explore risk management and emergency management protocols, the threat assessment process, crisis and recovery measures, and become aware of DHS protocols for active shooters/mass-casualty incidents. Course topics include campus and school criminality, staff awareness and training, critical incident recovery, and crisis management planning, which includes the development of an active shooter response plan.
“We’re not going to solve the issue of school or massive shootings in the near future, but we can move forward in a proactive way by having a viable comprehensive risk management plan in place for active shooters. Thus, saving lives,” she said.
Officials at educational and all types of institutions must be prepared to manage every day security issues while planning for high-impact scenarios such as terrorism and active shooter/mass-casualty incidents. This course will benefit students in the educational, criminal justice, public administration, security management, emergency management and homeland security fields.
Incorporated into the course are interactive and application approaches. For example, at the end of the course after students have developed response plans, they are presented with a scenario of an active shooter in a school cafeteria. Students are afforded with the opportunity to apply the concepts, theories, and knowledge they gained in the course and respond to the unfolding scenario presented to them.
“I have found that students really enjoy this type of approach. They are free to apply the knowledge they gained, critical-thinking skills are required, and analysis of the course material is expected,” she said.
In addition, students who complete the course earn more than just a grade. As part of the course, students are required to complete the web-based Emergency Management Institute’s FEMA online IS-907: Active Shooter training course. Upon completion of the course, students are issued a certification directly from FEMA, which will enhance their résumé.