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Transfer student takes on disaster management

by Jessie Kalish

Patrick Labuff knows he wants to save lives, and whether that means putting out fires or strategizing against aggravated gunmen, he says majoring in political science at Harpur College will advance him along his career path.

“Throughout high school and college I’ve always been interested in emergency services, and that’s one reason why I’m doing political science,” Labuff said. “I get a more governmental perspective on homeland security, more political views, learn how to run local and city governments, and do hazard vulnerability assessments.

“You get to know the people you’re protecting and know how the government runs so you can easily convince politicians to pass safety legislation.”

Labuff transferred to Binghamton University in the fall of 2013 from Onondaga Community College, where he majored in homeland security and disaster management. Transfer students such as Labuff make up about one-third of Binghamton’s student population.

With the assistance of his education, Labuff recently returned to Trumansburg, N.Y., his hometown, and assisted in manmade and disaster relief efforts.

“My family was affected by the Newtown shooting,” Labuff said, “so I immediately started planning for active shooter response in school systems.”

As a homeland security and disaster management representative of the Trumansburg Fire Department, Labuff guided the mayor and the fire and police commissioners through scenarios involving a disgruntled gunman so they could review their responses.

“They found flaws in their system,” Labuff said. “With these flaws they get to reconsider their whole plan, improve communications, and familiarize themselves with the different heads of organizations so they know what their steps are in responding to this case scenario."

Patrick Labuff
Patrick Labuff (center) with his fellow firefighters

Labuff describes the shooter preparation as one of his greatest experiences. He also highlighted his work as a firefighter and a lifeguard. “Directly saving people is probably the most rewarding,” Labuff said, and went on to relate what he considers another of his proudest accomplishments. “One of my best friend’s house was on fire, and luckily we got to save it. He was really grateful for it and we ended up saving the house.”

Labuff says his drive to save lives comes from his parents: “My mom and dad are leadership bound. They love helping people.”

Labuff detailed a situation particularly inspiring to him: His father, the assistant chief of the Ithaca Fire Department, suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass surgery but did not hesitate to return to duty.

“He went right back into fire fighting,” Labuff said, describing how his father volunteered to cover for the more dangerous work of a lieutenant when no one else could. “He goes into a burning building. He comes out safe. He does his job to the best of his ability. That inspired me a lot, the fact that he didn’t need to and he did it really well.”

Labuff said he is considering being either a firefighter or a helicopter rescue swimmer for a “stepping stone career” as he works his way toward the job he wants most. “My all-time career goal is be a commissioner of homeland security at the state or federal level. That would be fantastic … I would really love that job.”

In the meantime, Labuff plans to work with the student volunteer ambulance service, Harpur’s Ferry, and is debating taking up another major or minor. He says his classes have been tough but rewarding.

“The instructors here are fantastic,” Labuff said. “You can’t argue with that because they’ve just been very helpful.”

“If you go out of your way, they’ll go out of their way by leaps and bounds. You put in the work, they make sure they teach you the most and to the best of their ability.”

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Last Updated: 3/27/14