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Law and Environment


Russ DeckerWhen environmental law students began classes on March 8, they found that, instead of investigating case studies, their instructor, Russell J. Decker, asked them to look at how society’s attitudes have been reflected in the laws about environment.

In a class previously taught by attorneys, Decker, director of the Allen County, Ohio, Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, brings a different perspective to the topic. He explains that current events, the economy and the mood of society are often reflected in laws on the environment.

“I want to challenge them to think about the different environmental regulations coming in the future, the benefits versus the costs versus the politics,” he explains.

It’s something Decker knows from the ground up. Since 1990, he has been part of Allen County’s emergency management agency, becoming director in 1998. More than managing the agency’s budget of $1.6 million, he also oversees the regional hazardous materials management team and is administrator for the 12-county regional bomb squad.

He is also an instructor in hazardous materials, incident command, arson investigation, and bombs and explosives for the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy and the Ohio Fire Academy.

Dr. Ellen Wilson, chair of the Department of History, Political Science, and Criminal Justice, said, “Russ Decker’s willingness to bring his practical experience to the classroom provides our students with a wonderful opportunity.  The students can see how the theory has been – can be – and is applied. Russ has a wonderful ability to share his experiences as well as the content with his students.”

Decker is a leader at both the state and national level in his field. In June 2007, he was appointed to the National Advisory Council for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a 35-member council. He currently chairs the committee on preparedness and protection.

In this capacity, he has testified before Congress on community preparedness and discussed the future of FEMA with President Obama’s transition team.

He is co-author of “Homeland Security: Handbook for Citizens and Public Officials” (McFarland & Co., 2006) and is author of a soon-to-be published book, “Breaking News: An Emergency Responder’s Guide to the Media,” a fitting topic for a former radio news reporter.

Decker is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in public safety administration with an emphasis on emergency management through Capella University in Minneapolis, Minn.

Wilson adds, “Since ONU’s founding, a hallmark of an ONU education has been the combination of sound theoretical foundation with the experience and ability to apply to use that strong academic foundation. Russ Decker is one of the most recent practitioners to enhance education at ONU.”