Today’s continual terrorist threat makes WMD training imperative for EMS providers. EMS providers should receive regular high quality training to ensure confidence in responding to these and other CBRNE incidents. The Department of Homeland Security training consortium provides high quality WMD training at no cost to our nation’s first responders. The covered costs include travel accommodations, lodging and a meal per diem. The DHS training consortium consists of the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL, the Energetic Materials and Research Testing Center (EMRTC) at New Mexico Tech (NMT), Louisiana State University (LSU) National Center for Biomedical Research and Training (NCBRT), Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), U.S. Department of Energy’s Nevada Test Site, and the Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) in Colorado.5 Each location within the consortium teaches a different aspect of WMD emergency response. Many of these training programs offer a mobile training team capable of traveling throughout the country to provide valuable training to first responders. The mobile training teams also provide training in preparation for high profile or national special security events (NSSE), such as the Republican and Democratic national conventions.6 Additionally, online training programs are also available free of charge to our first responders.
The Energetic Materials and Research Testing Center at New Mexico Tech educates first responders in terrorist use of explosives. The Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings (IRTB) class provided by EMRTC has trained approximately 420,000 first responders at both the awareness and performance levels. The awareness class is a four-hour course that orients first responders to the basics of improvised explosive device (IED) recognition. The performance level takes place in Socorro, NM, and offers an in-depth recognition of improvised, commercial and military explosives with daily field exercises.7 This program does not maintain statistics regarding participant’s primary job function.8 Although it is unclear how many EMS professionals are taking advantage of this course, it is an important resource to EMS training. EMRTC also offers a two day Medical Preparedness and Response for Bombing Incidents (MPRBI) class. This class, provided throughout the country, prepares healthcare professionals to effectively manage a terrorist bombing incident.9
The Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, AL, provides first responders with hands on training in CBRNE weapons. Additionally, the CDP trains healthcare professionals at the Noble Training Facility (NTF), which is the only hospital facility in the U.S. dedicated to training healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness and response.10 One class offered by the CDP designed for EMS and healthcare providers is Program Y: Emergency Medical Operations (EMO) for CBRNE Incidents and Hands-On Training (HOT-I) for CBRNE Incidents. The EMO provides three days of lectures, hands-on training and practical exercises, covering treatment of victims, ability to perform triage in personal protective equipment (PPE), decontamination procedures and treatment protocols. The class concludes on day three with a practical exercise covering material learned during the course. The HOT-I is a one-day course teaching first responders from any discipline to respond to a CBRNE incident. The HOT-I class provides students with practical exercises to improve knowledge and skills promoting a safe CBRNE response. HOT-I graduates are able to utilize PPE, radiological and chemical sampling and monitoring equipment, and conduct MCI operations in PPE.11
Despite the availability of high quality WMD training provided by the CDP, EMS participation represents a very small percentage of the student population in resident training programs. EMS participation in non-resident training represents a significantly smaller percentage of the student population. Resident training consists of hands-on training conducted at the CDP facilities in Alabama. Non-resident courses conducted throughout the country include courses taught by mobile training teams. The tables below depict the percentage of students claiming EMS as their primary profession from fiscal years 2005 through 2012. The first table depicts the percentage in resident training while the second depicts the percentage in nonresident training. The CDP training staff averages approximately 90,000 students a year through resident, non-resident and indirect training programs. Approximately 12,000 of these students receive training at the CDP’s Alabama facility.6
Today’s increasing threat of terrorism in the United States requires regular, effective and high quality WMD training. This allows America’s first responders to safely respond and manage CBRNE incidents. Regular, safe and effective WMD training remains essential to any EMS training and continuing education program. The DHS training consortium offers beneficial cost effective WMD training opportunities for first responders from any discipline. Program graduates are educated to recognize indicators of a potential terrorist attack and provide a safer, more effective response in the event of an actual CBRNE incident. A safe and effective response comes from thorough preparation. As EMS professionals—paid or volunteer—we must take advantage of this invaluable training.