By Shannon Arledge
Known for offering extensive hands-on training in a mass casualty response, the Emergency Medical Operations for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Incidents course provides first response personnel, serving in a variety of positions, necessary skills to perform during an emergency or catastrophic event. FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, located in Anniston, Ala., focuses its training on incident management and mass casualty response to manmade or natural disasters.
The Emergency Medical Operations course was established in 2005 and provides healthcare emergency personnel, as well as fire fighters, law enforcement, and other responders who may share a healthcare incident, the knowledge, confidence, and specialized skills to respond during a mass casualty emergency. EMO is designed to simulate a hazardous materials response, including treatment of multiple survivors exposed to potential chemical, biological, or radiological hazards.
“It is very informative and interactive,” said Beth Fletcher, emergency medical technician. “I didn’t know anything about hazardous material medical response until I came here. I know a lot more now and I am more comfortable and feel confident in what I’m doing.”
“I figured I had seen it all and done it all,” said Dan Bledsoe, a fire captain with 27 years of service, wasn’t sure what to expect from the course. “After the first day of training I found I was very much wrong. In one week here you can pick up so much knowledge and I feel this will benefit a person’s career. I enjoyed the team aspect. We were overwhelmed with patients and this course provided us all an opportunity to work with total strangers. It gave some a chance to practice leadership and others a chance to be a functioning member of a team—with people you have never worked with before.”
The Center for Domestic Preparedness recently initiated the Integrated Capstone Event into training. This event is currently conducted once a quarter and allows courses, like Emergency Medical Operations, to integrate with other training during a large-scale, end-of-week, exercise combining multiple courses.
The Center for Domestic Preparedness training staff has enhanced several programs to include the Emergency Medical Operations. The course now offers students an opportunity to experience multiple scenarios in lifelike settings and environments depicting common, and the not-so-common, emergencies found in a variety of jurisdictions.
“We have the ability to bring responders from all different disciplines and demonstrate how vital the EMS role is during an emergency event,” said Richard Barrett, healthcare instructor. “We are able to demonstrate to first responders what they can expect in the field. We also show the smallest EMS department, up to the largest EMS department, how we all work together to accomplish the end goal of getting survivors from the scene all the way to the hospital.”