FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness Offers Vital Public Health Preparedness Training Opportunity

Submitted By

Karen Smith, MD, MPH
Napa County, California
August 28, 2013

Every now and then an opportunity comes along that seems too good to be true. Usually they are. That’s what I thought when I first received a notice from the Federal Emergency Management’s (FEMA’s) Western Region Coordinator soliciting attendees for training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama – for free. But in mid-July I attended CDP’s week-long Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents class and, not only was it entirely free of cost to me and Napa County, but it was an outstanding training that that exceeded my expectations in every way.

The CDP is operated by FEMA and is the only federally-chartered Weapons of Mass Destruction training facility in the nation. The CDP develops and delivers advanced training for emergency response providers, emergency managers, and other government officials from state, local, and tribal governments. The CDP offers more than 40 training courses focusing on incident management, mass casualty response, and emergency response to a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist act. Training at the CDP campus is federally-funded at no cost to state, local, and tribal emergency response professionals or their agency. Responders participating in CDP training gain critical skills and confidence to respond effectively to local incidents. The training also emphasizes the public health role in an emergency response and highlights areas where collaboration with public health is necessary.

The Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents and Integrated Capstone Event (HCL+ICE) training includes a strong component designed not only to increase skills of public health professionals but to educate the non-public health trainees about the critical role public health plays in disasters and emergencies. During my time at CDP, many students from hospitals and healthcare emergency management across the country expressed their surprise at how important and helpful public health can be for them during a response. At our final briefing “making a connection with my local public health department” was listed by several students as one of the top three things they planned to do when they returned home.

The training began with a day and a half of didactic training followed by several days of increasingly complex exercises culminating in a multi-disciplinary, full-functional exercise featuring a large mass casualty incident. The Nobel Training Facility includes a full emergency department with advanced simulation capabilities, an inpatient ward with pediatric and general medicine beds, hospital incident command, and a public health emergency operations center. The scenarios and the pace of the exercises were intense and tested many public health response skills and capabilities. In the Public Health Emergency Operations Center we responded to environmental threats and infectious disease concerns, provided support to the hospital response, and developed information and guidance for the community’s medical providers. All of these things we would do in a real emergency or disaster in Napa. The public health component of the exercises at CDP is developed by public health professionals, so they feel very real and very relevant.

CDP is an amazing resource for public health departments, especially in this time of tight budgets. We plan to return for the HCL+ICE course with a group of providers from Napa County’s public health, emergency management services, and hospital partners. I’ve no doubt we will both gain critical skills and confidence to respond effectively to local incidents, and become a more effective team through training together. We will also soon be sending public health staff to CDP’s Pandemic Planning and Preparedness course. I hope other local public health departments will take advantage of this tremendous resource and send staff to CDP for training. It’s a great experience at no cost to the jurisdiction. Information about CDP training programs can be found at http://cdp.dhs.gov, or contact the CDP External Affairs Office at (256) 847-2212/2316 or email pao@cdpemail.dhs.gov.

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