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With natural disasters dominating the news, emergency preparation and response are becoming increasingly important. Fortunately, two Eastern Kentucky University students spent the summer in New Zealand studying just that.

Charles Daab and Chase Worthington, both seniors majoring in homeland security, spent six weeks participating in Massey University’s Disaster Risk and Emergency Management National Expedition and Internship.

The program, which included 11 students from across the U.S. and Canada, consisted of two weeks of field work, followed by six weeks of internships with local and national government agencies in Wellington.

Daab described the first two weeks as a “mobile classroom,” during which the participants traveled across the country visiting various communities and hazardscapes. Students worked with local emergency response experts to discuss the types of disasters most likely to affect each area, such as earthquakes, volcano eruptions, etc., and how to create an appropriate response plan for each scenario.

The second leg of the program was unique to each student, as they were assigned intern positions at various Wellington-based agencies, including the New Zealand Police Department, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Primary Industries, among others.

Daab was excited to intern with the former, specifically as part of the Response and Operations Group, a team responsible for handling emergency response for the New Zealand Police. His daily assignments included updating, analyzing, and revising policies and procedures such as Disaster Victim Identification Plans, Mass Fatalities Framework and Influenza Pandemic Plans.Daab long with several others.

Worthington spent his summer interning with the Wellington City Council in the Emergency Management and Business Continuity Department, where he collaborated with other interns to formulate two disaster response plans. The experience didn’t intimidate Worthington, who had previously taken a class focusing on disaster planning and exercises, in which he wrote a disaster call center plan for Kentucky Emergency Management. “The way we worked through both plans on my internship is exactly how we did it in class,” he said.

Both Worthington and Daab said Eastern, especially its homeland security program, had not only prepared them for the internship, but made them into better students and leaders. “Team-based learning classes,” which make up a large portion of the homeland security program, “have played a big part in my growing as a leader,” said Worthington. “Someone has to take charge and make sure things get done on time and are right, and that person has to be me sometimes.”

The pair also credited Dr. Ryan Baggett, associate professor of homeland security. “Dr. Baggett will definitely become a life-long friend once I graduate,” Daab said. “He has always been adamant about pushing myself to be successful and challenge myself in everything I do.”

While their time in New Zealand was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Daab and Worthington have equally exciting futures ahead of them. Daab, a native of Lake Zurich, Illinois, will be graduating in December, after which he hopes to obtain a job working for an emergency management agency at either the state or local level. He is also hoping to return to Eastern for a master’s degree in emergency management.

Worthington, of Georgetown, Kentucky, will also graduate in December and is currently in the hiring process for Border Patrol, and has applied for several other government agencies as well.

Despite their differing career plans, both students are confident about their future, thanks to their experience this summer. Worthington said the internship “did not directly relate to my career plans, but it has helped give me that real-world experience with working in a team and sharing my knowledge and leading but also stepping back and letting others lead when they are better fit to.”

To future students, Daab said he strongly recommends the study-abroad program to anyone interested in emergency management. “The amount of knowledge I took away, as well as the countless memories, is priceless.”

For more information about EKU’s Homeland Security program, visit

— by Yasmin White, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management