Four employees from the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) received the Unity of Effort Award for Ebola Worldwide Response from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Nov. 4.

The four-member team from the CDP’s Training and Education Directorate was recognized for their unprecedented work in designing and developing “just-in-time” training just days after the first Ebola patient was diagnosed in the United States. That patient, a Liberian citizen who had traveled to Dallas, died Oct. 8, 2014, while being treated at a Dallas hospital. Adding to the tragedy, two of the nurses who had attended the patient had contracted Ebola.

On the afternoon of Oct. 14, the team – Jeremy Guthrie, Babbette Harmon, Jamie Johnson and Mallory Lowe – received the mission to develop a course on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment by emergency responders operating in an infectious disease environment. For their efforts, the team received the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Unity of Effort Award.

“The intent was to quickly design, develop and deliver just-in-time training for the range of personnel that may be involved in transporting or treating Ebola patients. The primary training objective was to appropriately don and doff personal protective equipment in a manner that reduced the potential for contracting the disease,” said the CDP’s Director of Training and Education, Denis Campeau.

The team, all members of Training and Education’s Curriculum Department, immediately consulted with subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who were on the CDP’s campus delivering similar training in a three-day resident course. They also consulted internal subject matter experts, according to Assistant Director of Curriculum Development and Evaluation, Bernice Zaidel.

“We knew it would be a mobile non-resident course and the target audience would be first responders and other staff who could potentially have contact with infectious disease patients,” Zaidel said. “We also knew the just-in-time training had to be held to no more than eight hours.” The CDP team had a very tight deadline. The course had to be completed, piloted and ready for delivery the following week.

The team quickly set to their tasks. Lowe led the team, Johnson was the lead writer, Harman the lead editor, and Guthrie developed all the job aids and videos.

In three days the team designed and developed the eight-hour Personal Protective Measures for Biological Events (PPMB) course, an undertaking that usually takes 160 hours, according to Zaidel. The following Monday, Oct. 20, the CDP piloted the course on the CDP campus. Just three days later, CDP instructors delivered the first PPMB course in Dallas Texas.

“The development of the PPMB course was critical in meeting the needs of first responders and healthcare workers, as well as protecting them. The [proper] use of personal protective equipment for these individuals allowed them to continue to work effectively and safety,” Harman said.

The course was very successful and the demand for training quickly outpaced the CDP’s ability to deliver enough courses. To address the high demand for the training, the team subsequently partnered with other members of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium to deliver training across the country.

“I am very proud that the hard work of these members of the CDP’s staff was recognized by the Secretary and they received this award. They are representative of the entire CDP staff who routinely perform their duties with unmatched commitment and professionalism,” said CDP Superintendent Mike King. “Through their work, the CDP provides the Nation’s emergency responders the absolute highest quality training, support services and campus services.”

In all, the CDP’s instructors alone trained 1,678 responders on PPMB in 36 cities across the country. The team’s efforts made a notable impact on the Nation’s Ebola response, according to King.

“The combination of Secretary Johnson’s recognition and knowing that we potentially saved lives made all the exhausting, intense and sometimes frustrating moments worth every minute of it,” said Jamie Johnson, speaking of the long hours he and the other team members put into developing the course. “I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”

The CDP’s primary mission is to train state, local tribal and territorial emergency response providers, as well as the Federal government, foreign governments, and private entities, as available. A popular aspect of CDP courses is the hands-on training with a multi-disciplined audience. In addition, the CDP is the only civilian facility that trains with toxic chemical and live biological agents. The center also has the only hospital facility in the United States dedicated solely to training hospital and healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness and response.

The center offers more than 50 courses covering 10 different disciplines of emergency response. All CDP courses are fully funded for state, local and tribal responders, including travel, lodging and meals. CDP training is also open to emergency responders working in private industry in the U.S. and other countries on a fee-for-service basis. Contact the CDP by calling 866-213-9553 or clicking http://cdp.dhs.gov. You can also connect with the CDP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.