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New emergency preparedness course prepares students to work in the COVID-19 era

Tom Turco, Photo Patrick Sweeney
Community & Environmental Health, individual outdoor portraits, photo Patrick Sweeney

Tom Turco, a lecturer in the Department of Community and Environmental Health, has developed a new online course for Boise State, gleaning insight from his 34 years at Boise’s Central District Health and decades of emergency response experience.

Turco believes that in a time of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is the responsibility of “those of us in public health and healthcare to know emergency response and be part of the solution.”

To that end, Turco is offering a three-credit course to better prepare students who will enter a COVID-19 era workforce. The course is called “Public Health’s Response to Emergencies” (it is cross-listed as HLTH 397-4001 Special Topics and PUBH 397-4201 Special Topics). Course topics include the legal basis of public health response, the international incident command system, communications, volunteer management, worker safety and collaborating with community partners. The course has no prerequisites and is open to all students interested in the subject matter, which Turco views as applicable to many fields and careers.

“Public health emergency response has always been a passion of mine,” said Turco, who participated in the Ada County Local Emergency Planning Committee for Central District Health and attended regional and national trainings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more commonly known as FEMA.

Turco also served on the Statewide Emergency Planning Committee representing the local health districts.

Students now can register for the summer 2020 session of the course, which will be offered during the second seven-week session (June 29-Aug. 16). The course will be offered again for the second half of the fall 2020 semester (Oct. 19-Dec. 11) and the first half of the spring 2021 semester (Jan. 11-Feb. 26). For more information, contact Turco at

– By Lizzy Miskell