Ten hospitals in Northeast Tennessee are one step closer to establishing mobile decontamination teams thanks to training they recently completed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), in Anniston, AL. The 10 facilities sent 37 employees to the CDP’s Hospital Emergency Response Training for Mass Casualty Incidents (HERT) course. The HERT course is designed to prepare hospitals to conduct safe and effective emergency medical response to a mass casualty incident.
The training these 37 employees received will be the basis for forming regional response teams that will be trained to provide mobile decontamination at each of the 10 hospitals in the healthcare region.
“In the event of a disaster our hospitals may need the assistance of other sister hospitals,” said Brenda Greene, hospital coordinator for Northeast Tennessee. “Our Regional Response Teams will assist and provide a reserve of trained personnel. This training is exactly what we need to be more prepared.”
According to Greene, their hospitals have found that staff attrition causes vulnerabilities and weaknesses in personnel continuity. Internal control measures identified the need to increase the number of trained personnel on decontamination teams.
“Among our group this week are physicians, nurses, corporate directors, safety and security personnel,” Greene said. “When we form our decontamination teams, everyone will be involved, not just those directly related to healthcare. Hospitals need to include everyone like housekeeping, administrative staff and even nutritionists when they form response teams—we all have a role.”
The HERT course requires hospital employees—anyone on staff—to become familiar with decontamination procedures. These procedures not only protect the employees and patients, but also prevent a hospital from the cross-contamination that occurs when disaster survivors enter a hospital before decontamination.
“The HERT class has changed my view from a firsthand experience,” said Rob Adams, director of safety, security and emergency management for Mountain States Health Alliance. “The hands-on training is incredible. Talking about it is one thing, but dressing in decontamination suits and actually functioning in high temperatures for more than two hours is another. I can take this knowledge back and speak from experience—this is how you do it, this is why you do it, and this is how it can save your life and the lives of others.”
The CDP training focuses on incident management, mass casualty response, and emergency response to a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist act. Healthcare courses are provided at the Noble Training Facility (NTF). The former U.S. Army hospital was converted into a training site for health and medical education in disasters and mass casualty events. It serves as the only hospital in the U.S. dedicated solely to training. CDP training for state, local, and tribal responders is fully funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Shannon Arledge works for the Center for Domestic Preparedness' Public Affairs Office.