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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


The chaos before the storm

Author: Ron Miller, Director, National Disaster Medical System
Published Date: 1/20/2016 3:57:00 PM
Category: Exercises & Trainings; Public Health Preparedness;

Anniston, Alabama, recently became the scene of controlled chaos: waves of patients needing urgent medical care, a steady rotation of helicopters performing medical evacuations, and medical personnel scrambling to decontaminate people affected by an incident. This time the patients were actors, but this degree of realism is what drives ASPR to send National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) personnel to train at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston. At CDP, the nation’s premier, all-hazards training facility, members of the National Disaster Medical System become better prepared to respond to real-life disasters.

Image of two people practicing emergency care on a mannequin 

Nearly 5,000 medical, public health, and emergency management professionals from across the country comprise the NDMS, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s (ASPR) Office of Emergency Management (OEM). These professionals have the necessary medical training and credentials to treat the types of injuries they might see during a disaster. However, disasters present challenges that can be quite different from what these experts encounter during a normal day in their non-federal professional occupations.

To make the training as realistic as possible, NDMS teams participate in hands-on mass casualty exercises at the CDP in which actors and sophisticated patient simulators are the disaster survivors triaged and treated by NDMS personnel. During the week-long training sessions, responders operate medical facilities similar to field hospitals and effectively manage medical needs arising from the disaster scenario. These scenarios can range from mock nuclear incidents to natural disasters, and the teams don’t know what scenario they’ll face until they encounter and treat their “patients.”

The training is intense, much like what they would face in the field when called into service.

ASPR/OEM launched its full training program at the CDP for NDMS team members in 2014, and approximately 600 members are slated to train there in 2016.

The intensive training helps them hone their triage skills; become more familiar with equipment they would use during disaster responses, and establish working relationships with NDMS members they may not have met but with whom they could be working in a disaster.

When disasters and public health emergencies overwhelm state and local resources, ASPR/OEM looks to the expertise within NDMS teams across the nation to help with the medical response. Through ASPR/OEM’s partnership with FEMA’s CDP, we are making sure NDMS team members have the most realistic training available to ensure the best possible response for those who need medical care in a disaster.

CDP’s emergency response training is low-cost for state and local agencies and health care coalitions. It’s worth checking out.


Great Program

We recently had approximately 120 members representing several disciplines and organizations within our healthcare coalition (Region 6 in Michigan) attend the CDP. The response from these members was overwhelmingly positive. Thank you for supporting this program, there is no education like it to strengthen a disaster response within your organization / community.
1/25/2016 8:18:25 AM

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