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When It Rains It Floods?

When It Rains It Floods?

In a large conference room filled with a bank of computers and maps projected on the wall, College of Justice and Safety students Kayla Donovan and Christina Burns huddle close to their computer monitor to examine the flooding patterns after a period of severe rains.  Their screen shows the areas most affected and the amount of potential property damage. 

They are not watching breaking news coverage on CNN but rather are using a FEMA software program as part of a class project in their HLS 461 – Mitigation and Disaster Recovery course taught by Dr. Chad Foster to simulate the impact of a natural disaster on a particular area.

In addition to predicting the areas most affected by flooding, Donovan and her classmates are interested in developing ways to minimize the property damage and loss of life.  “We’re looking at if there is a high density of structures or people in the area that would be affected,” she said.  “After doing the analysis with the GIS program, we think about possible prevention, preparation and mitigation methods that could be implemented.”

For this project, the students had to choose a county and a specific area within the county to inject a flood hazard. Burns, a junior from Owensboro, KY chose Shelby County, TN because it had critical infrastructure, bodies of water around it and a population between 50,000 and one million.  “We assessed and analyzed the area of damage as well as the dollar amount damage,” she said.

Donovan, a senior from Frankfort, KY had a personal stake in choosing the King County/Seattle Washington area because it's an area that she would love to travel to and maybe even one day live.  She likes the fact that it was near so much water but also not too far away from the mountains.

Before she decided to go to EKU, Burns was committed to go to Bellarmine and get a degree in accounting so she could focus on white collar crime. “I talked to a CPA to make sure that it was something I wanted to do and after that I changed my mind and decided I wanted to go into law enforcement,” she said.  “I looked at the degrees offered in the College of Justice and Safety at EKU and decided on Homeland Security because I wanted to try something different that would be challenging.”

“This class has presented the opportunity for me to learn more about mitigation and recovery. As a result of this, I have considered going into the Emergency Management field,” said Burns.

Donovan chose to pursue a degree in EKU’s Homeland Security Program after looking at many different options.  “I considered at least five different schools my senior year of high school, four of which were private institutions and the fifth being a community and technical college,” she said.  “I ended up going to one of the private schools but was unsatisfied with it and transferred to the community and technical college close to where I lived and got an associate’s degree in art.  I transferred to EKU because I knew I wanted to continue my education and EKU, which hadn't been on my list before, seemed like the right place to go for many reasons. I chose the Homeland Security program because of the Emergency Management option.”

After graduation, Donovan plans on a career in emergency management with an emphasis on public education.  “This class has shown me that there is a need for better public education when comes to disasters, which is an area I would love to work in.”

For more information on EKU’s College of Justice & Safety Homeland Security degree program, call 859-6227216 or visit

Click here for an additional article on the FEMA Flood Modeling Program

Published on March 03, 2016

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