BY: KAYLA LASURE
Eastern will soon offer something no other school in the nation does: an online degree in Fire, Arson and Explosion investigation.
This department decided to put this degree online after attending the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis, said Tom Thurman, a professor in the Safety, Security and Emergency Department.
“The company [Compass] we work with did a survey, and people really wanted an online investigations degree,” Thurman said. “We really believe we are responding to a need in the community.”
Eastern’s fire science program had set up a booth at the conference and continuously had people coming up and asking if they offered an online program since most students were from other places in the country.
The Fire, Arson and Explosion investigation degree program is already one of the only programs of its kind in the country. This degree has been offered on campus at Eastern for 15 years and has about 80 to 90 majors within the degree.
“Most of the things we teach are very hands-on and may be hard to learn online,” said Jim Pharr, fire and safety department chair. “This is why we’re requiring the students to come to campus for about two weeks to do some hands-on work.”
The program focuses on teaching students investigative techniques and practices in relation to bombing crime scenes, terrorist incidents and arson.
“We in no way teach people how to make bombs,” Thurman said. “We teach people components of a bomb and how to collect those components for analysis post blast. This degree is to educate students to learn these things for the protection of our citizens and community.”
Thurman said he teaches a class in this degree called technical report writing for emergency services, classified as FSE 300W. He said in this class the students learn how to write and describe a crime scene technically and thoroughly. This is critical in helping determine what may have happened and how to prevent it from happening again or perhaps taking steps to determine if it is arson.
“Any missing information could be critical in determining what may have happened,” Thurman said. “When you go in to a scene to investigate, you have to have an open mind. You can’t go into a scene and automatically think its arson without investigating. You don’t mentally make the case and then find the truth to fit what you think happened. We use real cases and show people what not to do because of other people’s failings.”
Pharr said that the degree offered classes to help educate the students on how to properly investigate situations such as fires or explosions.
“With this type of program students can draw conclusions on what happened in a situation from scientifically based thoughts,” Pharr said. “This is critical for consumer product safety or even put someone in prison that may have set a fire. We want to make the quality of life better by determining the reason of a fire or explosion.”
Thurman and Pharr said they, along with the other professors in this department, are very excited for this degree to go online. They both agreed that they can’t wait to see the different demographics and background of people the degree will bring.
The Fire, Arson and Explosion investigation degree will be offered online starting in the fall.