When Disaster Strikes, Take This Survival Class at Frostburg State

Part of developing curriculum is keeping its content fresh and current.

Recreation and Parks Management Professor Robert Kauffman, Ph.D. is doing just that at Frostburg State University. He’s updated his camping skills class for freshmen and called it Doomsday Preppers and Surviving the Unexpected.

Students learn how to plan for a hurricane, bad snow storm and even living in a bunker.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this story if it wasn’t for YikYak. While I monitor the app for security issues affecting the university, it’s good for story tips. A student mentioned the class in a post wondering if they had to stay the entire three hours for the course.

A couple phone calls later, it turned out to be a good story.

Kauffman emailed me to let me know he has heard from a wide range of people after the release was published as well as The Herald-Mail picking it up. A woman in Georgia congratulated him on teaching the course and a teacher in California considering to offer a similar course chatted with him for ideas.

A look around the Web shows the story has made its way to several prepper and alternative websites including one version on both  The Survival Place Blog and Activist Post.

Frostburg Students Learn How to Survive Anything in Doomsday Preppers Course

Frostburg Students Learn How to Survive Anything in Doomsday Preppers Course

FSU student Alena Knable, center, of Hancock, Md., participates in a hypothermia experimen

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Whether it’s a blizzard or a nuclear disaster, Frostburg State University students are learning how to prepare for anything in the course Doomsday Preppers and Surviving the Unexpected Emergency.

“I was always interested in the idea of being prepared for any emergency,” said mathematics major Braden Ebersole, who completed the course’s first offering in the fall semester.

Recreation and Parks Management Professor Dr. Robert Kauffman, a leading authority on survival methods, teaches the freshman-level interdisciplinary course, where students learn some MacGyver-worthy techniques to make it out of any situation alive.

“Am I going to be prepared for (Hurricane) Katrina, a three-day snow storm or the Yellowstone caldera blowing up?” Kauffman said. “There’s an immense security in being prepared.”

Kauffman authored a study on what’s called “the rescue curve,” where injury, damage or loss can increase as time between an incident and an intervention increases. Some of that idle time, alone, is helped by recreation and games to alleviate the mind.

Survivalism has also become a popular plot point in entertainment of late, with shows ranging from the reality series “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” to sitcoms “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Last Man on Earth,” looking at extreme, unlikely scenarios. In Kauffman’s class, he uses clips from “Castaway” and “Blast From the Past” among others to augment his examples of the psychological and physical effects of disaster preparedness.

As January’s snowstorm demonstrated, these skills come in handy whether stranded on a highway or isolated in your neighborhood.

Kauffman first offered the course to students in the fall and is in the midst of his second semester with the course. He plans to offer it again next fall.

Among the assignments in IDIS 150, students have to plan for short-term disasters and one-year disasters, take inventory of their food at home, design a shelter, determine how much in supplies and food they need, organize communication tools and, yes, learn how to prep for life in an underground bunker. But it’s the more likely scenarios that Kauffman really hopes the students will be prepared for.

“It is a reprocessing of your camping skills. Really, what we did is take the old-fashioned camping course and repackaged it,” Kauffman said. “The real emphasis is surviving the unexpected emergency we could be thrust into anytime, our car breaking down on the road, being stranded at a rest stop, or we just had a storm where people were stranded for three days.”

Ebersole, of New Enterprise, Pa., found the course helpful for when he goes hunting in the winter. He now makes sure he has an extra coat and supplies in his car for unexpected situations. It was a simple exercise in class that showed him why it’s important to have extra supplies.

“We pulled out everything from our pockets, and whatever you had with you at the time is what you’ll have during an emergency,” he said.

He also was well-prepared for the January snowstorm in part thanks to the class, having stocked up on enough food and supplies to make it until his neighborhood’s streets were cleared.

In a recent class, students volunteered for a hyperthermia experiment. They dunked one hand into a bucket of cold water and held a thermometer in the other. Then they watched the temperature on a thermometer drop, showing how their own body temperature was affected by having just a hand in ice water.

For more information on FSU’s Recreation and Parks Management Program, visit www.frostburg.edu/home/academic/majorminors/bachelor/bachelor-in-recreation-and-parks-management.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.


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