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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee graduates will soon be helping lead the nation’s effort to manage and prevent industrial emergencies and natural disasters.

The department of health and safety sciences in UT’s College of Human Ecology this fall is offering two new master’s degree concentrations in safety management and emergency management.

Dr. Susan Smith, UT assistant professor of health and safety sciences, said safety management focuses on industrial hazards such as toxic waste and chemical spills, and emergency management teaches students to handle natural disasters such as storms, floods and wildfires.

Smith said situations such as recent wildfires burning more than 1.6 million acres in western states have drawn attention to disaster management education. Severe weather, population growth and new threats such as biological terrorism are boosting the need for professional disaster managers, she said.

“Demand for these professional managers is increasing,” Smith said. “Floods, storms, or fires can rapidly become disaster situations in areas that have grown more densely populated in recent years.

“These UT students will be prepared to lead and organize the efforts to manage those types of situations.”

UT offers the state’s only master’s degree program in safety.

Graduates of either new safety concentration will be prepared to work for organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross, local governments and industry, Smith said.

They also will be qualified to lead disaster prevention and emergency response efforts, inspect and reinforce buildings to withstand damages, develop evacuation plans and design storm shelters.