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Simulating working relationships during a disaster - the students' perspective

How well a community responds to a disaster or emergency depends, in large part, on how connected the community is.  The first step to meeting the needs of those impacted by a disaster is knowing what the needs are and what resources are available locally to meet those needs.  This disaster-related interconnectedness of a community can happen two ways: during a crisis where everyone is forced to work together towards a common goal, or by aggressively making the connections before a disaster through training and workshops. 

One of the courses taught at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, the Integrated Emergency Management Course, focuses on building the relationships and connections necessary to effectively respond to crises.  The course is a four-day, exercise-based training activity that puts local officials through simulated crisis scenarios so they develop the right procedures, practices, and plans to protect life and property.

Last week, we conducted the course for a group of 65 emergency responders, emergency managers, elected officials, and other local leaders from Volusia County, Florida.  The county is no stranger to disasters. Since 2004, Volusia County has been affected by four hurricanes, a tropical storm, two major tornadoes and several heavy rain storms that produced severe regional flooding.  Fortunately, this community has made disaster preparedness a priority.

Rather than trying to explain each portion of the course, we’ll let the feedback from students tell the story.  Here’s what a few participants said about the focus on making connections with other community leaders:

Ponce Inlet Police Chief Frank Fabrizio:

Bringing together many different organizations and disciplines from throughout Volusia County gave me a greater understanding of their needs and concerns and the resources they can provide for law enforcement. I found this training to be very beneficial and I believe it helped prepare Volusia County to better serve its citizens during an emergency.

Bob Mandarino, Fire Chief for the city of Ormond Beach:

The course and exercises had most participants playing their real-life roles and exposed them to areas of planning and communication where there could be room for improvement. The opportunity to network with fellow community participants and understand their perspective on how events should be managed will lead to the enhancement of processes for our community.

It was great to see a diverse group from our community learning and working together while preparing and handling the exercises.

DeLand Commissioner Leigh Matusik:

In addition to participating in training and planning exercises, this course helped all participants work together in a simulated emergency which makes us more prepared when we are put in a real world disaster situation.

training classHere's a shot of the students before the simulated Emergency Operations Center and Joint Information scenario.

On day two of the course, we discuss the role of the local emergency operations center, how to communicate effectively during an emergency, and work with Public Information Officers on media relations simulations.  Here’s what Adam Barringer, Mayor New Smyrna Beach, Florida said about his experience:

This is my first visit to the Emergency Management Institute, participating in the Integrated Emergency Management Course.  The information presented is timely as our county has encountered natural disasters and “terrorists” actions threatening our nation’s safety.  The on-camera training, which I believe will become the most applicable to my role as mayor, was very valuable to me, as well as learning about the Volusia/Flagler Public Information Network; the Incident Command System organizational chart and levels of responsibility. 

My role as mayor will allow me to share this information with our city council, while my role as Chairman of Volusia Council of Governments will allow me to share this information with all mayors in Volusia County and the executive director of the Volusia League of Cities. 

interview trainingOne of the Public Information Officers in a mock interview during the Integrated Emergency Management Course. 

The Integrated Emergency Management Course also provides information on the role of a Joint Information Center and how it can provide the media and the public with the most up-to-date, trusted information after a disaster.  Here are a few insights into the media and communications aspect of the training:

George Recktenwald, Director of Public Protection Volusia County Fla.

I learned working with the media to give out information can definitely help in an emergency. Social media is also important, since it can help build a network for the media and citizens to use during an event. The most valuable aspect of the training was the emphasis on making sure all of our websites and social media sites are relevant.

Loretta Moisio, Ormond Beach, Florida:

The training was beneficial as I have never been involved in a JIC and didn’t know how it would work. The information will be very valuable when I need to work in a similar situation because anything can happen anywhere at any time.  During training I learned that every detail in a news conference should be carefully planned as it can help to maintain calm during stressful situations and get the right information to the audience to assure their safety.

One thing we particularly like about the Integrated Emergency Management Course is that it is community-specific.  It’s tailored to the needs of the local community; so the Volusia County course was designed to provide a joint education and training package focused on the interaction of the Emergency Operations Center and the Joint Information Center.

The students’ reactions demonstrate why this kind of exercise-based, hands-on training is so important for emergency responders at all levels.  The more we can plan and practice, the better our communities and neighborhoods will be able to respond to emergencies when they happen. 

Last week’s course was particularly beneficial for everyone and we’d like to give a special “thank you” to the instructors and class participants.  If you’re an emergency manager or first responder and want to learn more about exercise-based training and Integrated Emergency Management Courses, visit www.training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IEMC/ .  To learn more about other training courses that FEMA offers training.fema.gov.  We hope to see you in a future class!

Emergency response training through a county administrator’s eyes

I am the County Administrator for a county approximately the size of Rhode Island.  With over 4,000 square miles, Lane County extends from the Pacific Ocean to the mountains, and includes dunes, wetlands, oceans, rivers, lakes, ski resorts, a large university, and a major north-south interstate.  The question of a large-scale disaster, man-made or natural, is not if it will occur, but when.

training student
CAPTION: Anniston, Ala., Oct. 25, 2012 -- Liane Richardson recently graduated the Technical Emergency Response Training for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive Incidents (TERT) course at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. The TERT course is multidisciplinary and a keystone training program at the CDP. TERT provides a foundation for all emergency responders, to include government officials. 

I recently had the opportunity to attend resident training at the CDP, in Anniston, Alabama. As a fairly new administrator, I am attempting to immerse myself into every aspect of the services we provide.  A large share of those services involves emergency response.  When I learned about the training opportunities at the CDP, I jumped at the chance to attend.

As County Administrator, I have specific roles related to the overall running of a full-service county.  However, I am also very interested in emergency management.  I am in charge of ensuring our county continues to operate during the worst disasters possible, while at the same time responds appropriately to the disaster itself.   The CDP training, without a doubt, makes a difference in the leadership decisions I make; whether in the office, or in an emergency management situation.

I recently attended the Technical Emergency Response Training (TERT) course. This training allowed me to experience first-hand what would be required should a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive (CBRNE) incident occur.   I have a better understanding as to what our employees will be facing, what training and resources they need, and what I can provide to them to ensure they respond appropriately, regardless of the situation.   I appreciate the fact FEMA provides the opportunity to receive CDP training, at no cost to the jurisdiction. The training is fully funded for state, local, and tribal employees.  Funding, such as this, is greatly appreciated, and a huge bonus for Lane County.

I whole-heartedly recommend that elected, appointed, and senior employees of government take this training for a better understanding of what it is their first responders do, as well as show them the benefits of CDP training. I feel more prepared, and I believe it all starts at the top. If senior management places priority in certain areas then so will the entire organization. Emergency management, planning and preparedness, is very important. The more prepared Lane County can be for any type of incident, the better off we all will be. I am better prepared thanks to my CDP training, and encourage more government leadership to attend the wonderful training environment that is the Center for Domestic Preparedness. Thank you CDP and FEMA!

training next to fire engine

CAPTION: Anniston, Ala., Oct. 25, 2012 -- Liane Richardson (front left), Lane County, Oregon, county administrator, simulates the initial decontamination of a disaster survivor at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Ala. recently. Richardson attended the Technical Emergency Response Training for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive Incidents (TERT) course.

A subway to nowhere teaches first response training

At FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, there is now a new venue where first responders can receive invaluable, hands-on training: a subway. The subway features four full size cars complete with lighting, smoke, seating, video capability, and even realistic commercial signage that is common in subways.

subway train at center for domestic preparedness

CAPTION: The CDP created a rail system that uses four cars. One car features a tunnel collapse scene, while another is damaged by an improvised explosive device. The subway system requires a response by emergency personnel to triage and extricate survivors, and mitigate the scene from hazardous chemicals or biological materials.

During training, emergency responders will have the opportunity to enter one car breached by falling concrete and threatened by simulated electrical hazards, and given the task of properly triaging survivors and transporting them to the appropriate medical personnel. They will also be required to find the source of any contamination that may be present and mitigate that threat so law enforcement, rescue, and emergency medical services can assist survivors.

damaged subway car for training

CAPTION: A subway car displays results from a simulated tunnel collapse that will require the triage and extrication of survivors.  The subway system gives training personnel the option to also include lighting malfunctions, smoke, and realistic sounds depicting the chaos expected in an actual event.

smokey subway car used for first responder training
CAPTION: Smoke fills the room in a railcar during a simulated subway accident at the CDP. The CDP created a subway system, complete with full size railcars, lighting, seating, and even the commercial signage common on subways.

Here’s what Chuck Medley, CDP branch chief for training management, had to say:

We created the subway system based on the actual size of passenger transportation systems found in the United States. It provides us an opportunity to present hazards that responders may encounter when responding to a mass casualty incident associated with public transportation systems.  In addition to the tunnel collapse and explosion, we can also simulate potential chemical and biological threats.

The CDP develops training based on potential threats, and the threat to our cities’ public transportation systems is real. This venue, while simulating a subway, also replicates the complexity of response to other public transportation modes including busses, trains, and even street cars. This training will increase the edge for emergency responders to successfully respond.

For first responders, practicing in simulated environments like those at the CDP can mean a faster, more efficient response to a real-world event.  If you’re an emergency response provider, emergency manager, or healthcare professional, check out cdp.dhs.gov for training courses that can lead to on-the-ground results if an emergency should strike.  If you’ve attended CDP training in the past, share your experience and leave a comment below.

An Inside View of Bio Training for First Responders

Author: 
A few months ago, we highlighted the introduction of biological materials into first responder training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, in Anniston, Ala. Since the first group of responders went through this enhanced training on Feb. 8, a total of 270 responders from more than 30 different states have now trained with nonpathogenic strains of anthrax and ricin inside our Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological Training Facility.

Here’s a short video giving a glimpse into the training:



We initially piloted two courses—Technical Emergency Response Training for CBRNE Incidents and Hazard Assessment and Response Management for CBRNE Incidents, and as we continue to expand our program, we will eventually include biological materials in three additional courses over the next year.

Anniston, Ala., Feb. 17, 2012 -- The Center for Domestic Preparedness created scenarios similar to scenes where biological agents may be deployed by fashioning its training bays into a restaurant environment (pictured above) and a post office scene. The training bays provide a realistic, safe and secure location for first responders to analyze the biological materials and demonstrate the appropriate response.Anniston, Ala., Feb. 17, 2012 -- The Center for Domestic Preparedness created scenarios similar to scenes where biological agents may be deployed by fashioning its training bays into a restaurant environment (pictured above) and a post office scene. The training bays provide a realistic, safe and secure location for first responders to analyze the biological materials and demonstrate the appropriate response.

Anniston, Ala., Feb. 17, 2012 -- First responders are given a unique opportunity to use detection equipment distinctive to biological materials. The Center for Domestic Preparedness is the only place where civilian first responders can now train using both biological materials and toxic chemical agents.
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 17, 2012 -- First responders are given a unique opportunity to use detection equipment distinctive to biological materials. The Center for Domestic Preparedness is the only place where civilian first responders can now train using both biological materials and toxic chemical agents.

Training That Matches the Real Thing

Posted by: Jason McNamara, Chief of Staff

Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) observes Robi Mobley, Human Patient Simulator (HPS) specialist, administer medication to an HPS commonly used in healthcare training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP).
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) observes Robi Mobley, Human Patient Simulator (HPS) specialist, administer medication to an HPS commonly used in healthcare training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). FEMA/Derek Jensen


One of the challenges we often face in preparing for disasters is providing training that matches the realism of an actual event. I observed training Wednesday in a newly-renovated FEMA facility that is about as realistic as it gets without actually going through a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The training scenario was the first exercise held inside the newly remodeled Noble Training Facility Emergency Department at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). Located in Anniston, Ala., the CDP's Noble Training Facility is the only hospital facility in the nation dedicated solely to preparing the healthcare, public health, and environmental health communities for mass casualty events related to terrorism or natural disasters.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony I observed the first training exercise in the newly renovated Emergency Department, where doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and others were forced to deal with patient surges, contamination issues, the flow of patients and the management of resources. The training scenario was chaotic, noisy and stressful and very reminiscent of the potential scene at a hospital following a real disaster.

It's also the kind of training that will benefit communities all over the country. CDP has provided this unique hospital training to our nations’ emergency receivers since 2007. Prior to the remodeling project, CDP had been running training scenarios out of a small Emergency Department that hadn’t been updated since it was built in the 1970s.

The new enhancements unveiled yesterday included an expanded trauma bay, state -of-the-art treatment area, new ambulance entrance, isolation rooms for contaminated patients, computer-generated sound and visual effects, video recording capabilities, and hi-tech patient simulators that breath, bleed, talk, respond to treatment and do everything but walk away. The new enhancements mean an expanded capability at the CDP and a chance for local, state and tribal personnel from across the country to avail themselves of federally funded training in a modern hospital venue. And most importantly, our nation’s emergency receivers now have a place where they can prepare their own communities for acts of terrorism and natural disasters in an environment that’s hopefully as close to the real thing as they’ll ever have to deal with.


Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- Students attending the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course treat a simulated explosion survivor during the first exercise following the opening of the new emergency department at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. FEMA/Derek Jensen
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- Students attending the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course treat a simulated explosion survivor during the first exercise following the opening of the new emergency department at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. FEMA/Derek Jensen


Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) and Center for Domestic Preparedness Superintendent Dr. Christopher T. Jones cut the ribbon opening the renovated emergency department inside the Noble Training Facility (NTF).
Anniston, Ala., Feb. 1, 2012 -- FEMA Chief of Staff Jason McNamara (Left) and Center for Domestic Preparedness Superintendent Dr. Christopher T. Jones cut the ribbon opening the renovated emergency department inside the Noble Training Facility (NTF). FEMA/Derek Jensen
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