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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

FEMA Think Tank Takes Off with 650 Participants

On behalf of the entire FEMA team, I want to thank everyone who participated in the first FEMA Think Tank conference call last Thursday, January 26, from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee (UWM). As you may know, nearly 650 people from state, local and tribal governments, the private sector, disability community, volunteer community and the public joined us on the call, and I was incredibly pleased that our conversation was so productive and engaging.

I began the Think Tank last year after hearing from a number of people – including emergency managers and college students – who had formed smaller groups to discuss innovative ways for improving the emergency management system. Among these groups was one started through the volunteer efforts of two UWM students – Stephanie Sikinger and Andrew Boese – with the help of their former intern supervisor, Desiree Matel-Anderson. I met Stephanie, Andrew, and Desiree last summer and was impressed by their work and enthusiasm. And that's why I asked UWM to partner with us and host the very first Think Tank conference call.

The Think Tank is meant to serve as a forum for disaster survivors, emergency managers, first responders, and others concerned about protecting and helping our communities during an emergency, to discuss innovative ideas on how we can improve the way we do business. The exchange of ideas on the online forum has demonstrated the innovation and perspectives the whole community can offer.
 


As I announced during the conference call, FEMA is in the process of implementing a few of the ideas that were submitted to the online forum. In particular, we are developing a Federal Disaster Externship Program as was suggested by Marya Domnik and Shai Cooper suggested, as well as Coffee Break Training Program, suggested by Nick Sloan.

The three ideas discussed during the conference highlighted the importance of the emergency management community regularly sharing information and best practices. I want to thank the three conference call presenters, Maggie Myers, Steve Swazee, and Anjana Dayal de Prewitt, for sharing their creative ideas on community mapping, incorporating preparedness in school curriculums, and the National Grid System. My hope is to continue identifying key actions items that can be brought back to FEMA and incorporated or developed into our programs. In fact, several of the ideas discussed in the Think Tank have already caught the attention of key FEMA leadership, including the U.S. National Grid System.

The next conference call will be held on February 17, and it will focus on the use of technology and social media in emergency management. I encourage everyone to continue to participate in the FEMA Think Tank by posting and commenting on ideas on the online forum, calling into the monthly conference calls, and following the conversation on Twitter at #femathinktank.

As I said during the call, the Think Tank isn't just a FEMA project -- it's a tool for us all to use to better serve the American public.

Again, thank you to all who participated in last week's call. I look forward to continuing our conversation, as we work together to better serve disaster survivors.

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