The Center for Domestic Preparedness gained a little more international flare last week when the Center’s staff hosted two members of the Turkish Ministry of Health who had sought out the CDP as a partner to share ideas and best practices for a training and simulation center they are establishing in Turkey.

The CDP hosted Dr. Muzaffer Akkoca, Department President Emergency Health Services Directorate General, and Dr. Hassan Odabasioglu, the Director of Disaster Medicine Department, Izmir Provincial Healthcare Directorate, along with representatives from the U.S. State Department.

As part of the Urla Emergency and Disaster Training and Simulation Center, the Turkish Ministry of Health is developing what they refer to as a “simulation hospital,” a facility similar to the CDP’s Noble Training Facility (NTF) in that it will serve as a training venue that has the functionality of a hospital. The NTF is the only hospital in the United States that is dedicated to training hospital and healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness and response.

The “UrlaSim,” as it’s called, opened last year. It’s located 24 miles from Izmir, Turkey. Much like the CDP, the center specializes in training emergency response personnel on teamwork and patient safety using scenario-based simulation training programs. Where the CDP focuses on primarily training U.S. responders, however, the UrlaSim trains responders from Turkey and countries in the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and the Caucasus.

“Dr. Odabasioglu first came up with idea of reaching out to the CDP. He’s the genius behind all of this,” noted Dr. Ted Thurn, one of the State Department organizers, when explaining how the idea of visiting the CDP first came about. Odabasioglu said he learned about the CDP from a FEMA instructor he knew. “We were looking for a model,” Odabasioglu explained. “I discussed this with him and asked if he could please help me find a role model for a simulation hospital. He emailed me a week later. That was about two years ago.”

Thurn had been speaking with the CDP’s Director of Mission Readiness Integration, Rick Dickson since November about a possible visit.

“We were looking to leverage CDP’s expertise as a regional partner and have them understand and become aware of the Turkish vision and goals for their center; to try to find overlapping objectives and missions; and identify very concrete activities that we could do,” Thurn said. “I think we have been very successful in that.”

In May, when Thurn last visited Odabasioglu and Akkoca in Turkey, they set everything in motion for their visit to the CDP, along with other sites during their trip to the United States.

“The Turkish Ministry of Health selected the CDP as an organization they believe could provide them strategic guidance and mentoring as they develop their Center which is a great honor,” Dickson said. “Hopefully, we will gain mutual benefit as the relationship matures. My experience has been no one entity has all the answers; we only get better when we collaborate.”

The visitors spent a day and a half touring the CDP and speaking with members of the CDP staff.

“This visit absolutely met our expectations,” said Akkoca. He said he was very impressed with the NTF’s emergency operations center that is used by healthcare personnel and other emergency responders during training. The 4,500-square foot EOC includes three command areas, a conference room, two private offices and a break room. It serves as the hospital’s central command and control during student training exercises.

“We were very impressed by the simulation stations and the simulation hospital in general,” said Akkoca, speaking of the NTF’s emergency department where the center employs human patient simulators (sophisticated, robotic mannequins) to enhance the training experience. The students use the complex simulators during training. Some of the simulators can be intubated and receive IVs, while others can be used to practice life-saving procedures. Akkoca continued, “We would like to increase our collaboration going forward and establish the same set-up [for our center] going forward.”

Akkoca and Odabasioglu both stated that they were impressed at how well all CDP training was planned, with nothing left to chance. Odabasioglu was also very complimentary of the CDP staff. In describing the CDP, he used a Turkish expression that translates to “everything smelled like success,” explaining that it was obvious that long and successful experience was engrained in everything that the CDP staff does.

“This visit reaffirmed the need for the emergency response community to build partnerships and institute best practices and lessons learned,” Dickson said. “A partnership of this nature will always provide new techniques, tactics and technologies for us to consider implementing in our training or operations.”

The CDP currently has standing partnerships with agencies within the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as well as the Veterans Health Administration and the United Kingdom’s Hazardous Area Response Teams. These partnerships are always beneficial to both parties, Dickson said.

“I and everyone involved with the visit were very impressed with the Turkish Ministry of Health’s Urla International Emergency, Disaster, Training and Simulation Center [UrlaSim] and their vision for its expansion,” said CDP Superintendent, Mike King. “We look forward to sharing ideas and best practices to the benefit of both the Urla Sim Center and the CDP. As with our other domestic and international partnerships, we value the experience and innovation of other training programs and believe these collaborations result in increased effectiveness and efficiency of both training operations. The obvious intent is to identify ways both organizations can increase the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the emergency responders we train.”

Next steps in the partnership could include having the Turkish Ministry of Health send a few staff members to the CDP for a couple of weeks to observe operations or potentially attend CDP courses. “The goal of this exchange would be for their team to become familiar with our operations and begin to identify what aligns with their strategic path,” Dickson said. “As with our other partnerships, we know that their experience and innovation will help us to improve CDP training.”

The CDP provides unique, hands-on training to more than 45,000 emergency responders a year from local, state, territorial, and tribal agencies. It’s training that most responders cannot get at their home agencies. The center is the only training facility in the country where civilian responders train in a toxic-agent environment. The center is also home to the Noble Training Facility, the only hospital training facility dedicated solely to preparing heatlthcare, public health and environmental health professionals for mass-casualty events related to terrorism or natural disasters.