Influx of federal funds spurs training enrollments

COLUMBIA, Mo. – An influx of federal funds to train emergency personnel in the National Incident Management System and to provide technical rescue training for the Urban Area Security Initiative
(UASI) in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas has resulted in a surge in enrollments at University of Missouri Extension Fire and Rescue Training Institute (MU FRTI).

According to Kevin Zumwalt, MU FRTI special projects manager, enrollment at the institute has increased by at least 30 percent during the past academic year.

“We’re getting state-of-the-art training out to (Missouri) firefighters, which in turn makes them better prepared to respond to emergencies at home,” Zumwalt said. “I think we’re still going to be riding the wave (of higher enrollments) for another year or so because we’ve already got contracts for training next year.”

The institute enrolled 28,408 students for the 2005-2006 year ending June 30. MU FRTI courses range from one-day and week-long field and classroom conferences to semester-length online courses. Enrollments broke the institute’s previous record of 21,171 students set in 2001-2002, said Gary Wilson, MU FRTI director.

Total instructional hours by students taught came to 349,421 hours, compared to the last record of 233,042 set in 2004-2005. That’s the equivalent of nearly 1,200 full-time students. The institute delivered 1,189 courses to more than 1,000 different agencies and enrolled students from 42 states and all 114 Missouri counties, Wilson said.

Wilson, who has been with MU FRTI for 10 years, recently accepted a job as training chief with the Overland Park, Kan., fire department. He will leave MU FRTI at the end of July. A national search will be made for his replacement. More information is available at extension.missouri.edu/careers. Review of applications will begin September 15, 2006 and will continue until position is filled.

The federal government required that all emergency responders, from local and state, to federal agencies, be trained in the National Incident Management System, a plan meant to coordinate disaster response efforts between agencies. MU FRTI was one of six agencies offering that training in Missouri. The programs were funded by the State Emergency Management Agency via federal grants.

Also, MU FRTI trained emergency responders in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas in advanced technical rescue techniques as part of the federal urban area security initiative.

The institute, which recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its nationally-recognized Winter Fire School, traces its roots back to 1933. MU FRTI offers unbiased training to emergency personnel throughout the state and nationally. MU FRTI began to expand its mission in 2000 beyond traditional firefighting education to providing counter-terrorism and emergency management training to local responders, military personnel, state and local governments, private companies and extension specialists.

The institute employs 15 staff and about 160 part-time instructors. Last year’s operating budget was $2.36 million.


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