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Campus History

The National Emergency Training Center (NETC) was originally the site of St. Joseph Academy. Founded in 1809 by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, it was the first American, free parochial education institution for girls. Seton wrote classroom textbooks and trained her Catholic sisters to become teachers. All students were accepted regardless of ability to pay.

St. Joseph Academy was in operation until 1902. During this period:

  • Several large brick buildings were constructed, including the Second Empire Burlando Building (Building N), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Union troops camped on the fields of St. Joseph's during the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863. The Sisters of Charity, who operated the Academy, attended to the wounded in Gettysburg.

In 1902, the academy acquired a degree-granting certification to become St. Joseph College, a 4-year liberal arts college for women. To accommodate the growing number of students at the college, 12 brick buildings were erected as part of the academic complex. In the 1920s, 3 Colonial Revival style buildings added instructional and dormitory space. Several of the earliest academy structures were demolished in the 1960s.

The college remained in operation until 1973, when declining enrollment and increased costs led to closure. In 1979, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) purchased 107 acres of the property and 19 former college buildings for $3.5 million to house the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Academy (NFA). The first on-campus NFA courses were taught in 1980 and the first Emergency Management Institute classes were conducted in January 1981. Today, the NETC has 23 buildings and is a self-sufficient location with solar energy being the primary form of power.

To honor those who have given so much to protect their communities, you will find these monuments on the NETC campus:

  • National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, honoring our nation's fallen firefighters, and the Walk of Honor, which honors all members of the fire service.
  • National Civil Defense/Emergency Management Monument, honoring civil defense and emergency management professionals and volunteers.
  • “To Lift A Nation” statue, honoring all firefighters lost because of the horrific events of 9/11.

Why is this history important to students joining us on campus? It is important as it speaks to the commitment to education and resiliency. This location has always been a place of learning and sharing. It is a place of incredible history and survival and a place of peace and reflection. It brings together communities of practice to address the management and leadership of events that can have catastrophic impact on our communities and our nation. Here we come together to work through difficult situations and to bring about change that provides for a safer and more resilient culture.

The NETC campus is recognized by national and state historical societies for its connection to the history of our nation and to the state of Maryland. Please take a moment to reflect across our beautiful campus. Take in its history and its tranquility to appreciate what this place means to so many who have dedicated their lives and professions to helping communities be and stay safe.

Circle of Oaks

Located in the southeast corner of the campus near Building I is an area known as the Circle of Oaks. The legend says that a Native American chief name Ottawanta migrated to the banks of Toms Creek. He spent most of his time in quiet seclusion, cultivating patches of maize and melons and practicing the lessons taught to him by Catholic priests.

Ottawanta selected an elevated spot that overlooked Toms Creek as the burying place for his wife, 5 sons and a daughter. After burying each body, he placed an acorn at the head and foot of the grave. Over time, the acorns grew into trees which formed an inner and outer marking at each burial site. Although some of the trees are no longer there, the area is marked by a circular planting of shrubs with a metal arch entrance.