In 1998, when the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) opened its doors, the CDP was only expected to train as many as 10,000 emergency responders a year. Now, 15 years later, the CDP averages 60,000 emergency response personnel a year. June 1st marked a milestone for the CDP and more than 350 guests, employees and students gathered to celebrate its anniversary, June 3rd.
"The CDP has a rich history of training America's best for response to disastrous events," said Mike King, acting CDP Superintendent. "Over the past 15 years we have made a difference in the response capabilities all over the nation… That was very evident from the comments made by today's speakers. Our entire staff should be proud of the job they do for our country, in particular the emergency responders who keep our jurisdictions safe and prepared."
The CDP was first established under the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1998. It wasn't until 2003 it transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Four years later, the training facility would fall under the leadership of FEMA. Since then, the CDP has evolved, adding into its training repertoire the nation's only hospital solely dedicated to training as well as training with biological materials, anthrax and ricin.
Fifteen years ago, the CDP offered two courses. Now, the center teaches more than 40 different courses-and delivers an average of seven per week. The CDP campus has grown from the original 15 buildings to the current campus of 32 buildings occupying 124 acres.
In 2012, the CDP supported 109 important National Special Security Event courses, teaching 6,045 students. These courses supported: the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Program, the Democratic National Convention, the Republic National Convention, and G-8 and NATO Summits.
The anniversary celebration included comments from the first CDP superintendent, L.Z. Johnson, recorded comments from Administrator Craig Fugate and Deputy Administrator for the National Preparedness Directorate Tim Manning. A highlight of the ceremony was comments from former students who said their training made a difference in response to real-world events in their jurisdictions.
Steve Graves, a retired Battalion Chief for the Washington, D.C. Fire Department, and CDP alumni, spoke of Sept. 11, 2001, and how it marked the importance of training.
"At 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, we were in class here at the CDP," said Graves. "That day changed our profile and the way we operate. It changed the way we looked at training. As soon as we learned an aircraft had crashed into the Pentagon we tried to arrange flights home, but that did not happen. All 20 of us from DCFD boarded a bus arranged by the CDP and received police escort from Alabama to D.C. State police met us at each state line. After 9/11 we continued to train here and the training is taken serious-we have seen the results of training. CDP training is responsible for new techniques and procedures used by D.C. Fire."
Haskey Bryant from the Jefferson County Department of Health in Birmingham, Ala., spoke about the environmental response to the 2011 tornadoes and more recent Alabama disasters where she used her CDP training; Patrick Conroy, from the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) in Aurora, Colo., spoke about his hospital's response to the theater shooting in 2012; and Police Officer Michael Connolly of the Boston Police Department Crime Scene Response Unit, recounted his CDP training as his team responded following the Boston Marathon bombing.
"My training here was put to good use within a year of completing the Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER) course,” said Bryant. “The 2011 Alabama tornadoes destroyed 6,000 square miles and claimed 248 lives. During a disaster normal operations change and I was pulled for tasks outside my normal duties, but were covered during my CDP training. The training gave me the confidence and knowledge to step up and do my part to protect public health in an extremely difficult situation. EHTER brought the big picture together, and without the course I simply would not have been confident in my abilities and as capable."
"In my 30 years plus as a paramedic, fire fighter, and emergency manager before working at [UCH] I experienced my share of significant events," said Conroy. "All of those experiences paled by comparison to what we saw and experienced [July 20, 2012]. I had trained here twice before. At 1:38 a.m. it was a normal night-we were incredibly busy-the 50 bed emergency department was already full, no inpatient beds were available. At 1:39 a.m. all the statistics, staffing, and capacity issues became irrelevant. The ensuing hours were unlike anything we could plan for. In a very, very short period of time 23 patients arrived. Most had multiple gunshot wounds to the head, chest, abdomen, and extremities. In the past five years 31 of our leadership team have attended the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course. That night 11 HCL graduates were part of the initial response to our Hospital Command Center. All of us benefited from the training and remained calm and effective. The training here prepares you for events just like this. The leadership and guidance displayed was brought home from training here. This was the most extraordinary response I had ever witnessed. It was reported that no ED in the history of the state of Colorado had ever seen this number of critically injured victims in such a short period of time."
"What was a happy, fun, family event quickly turned into a battlefield of chaos and carnage," said Connolly. "Setting aside our feelings, it was painfully apparent that we had a crime scene to process, and my unit, the FBI, ATF, and State Police worked together. Less than a year ago, several of us from Boston PD attended training at the CDP. We took the training here in an effort to create a [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives response] Crime Scene Response Unit. Because of our training we knew that a safe, calculated and systematic approach to the bomb site was required. The skills we learned here made us able to proceed with knowledge and confidence-our two main takeaways. The knowledge and confidence allowed us to talk a common language with other first responders and proceed in a biologically contaminated site. We were able to process the crime scene and preserve evidence safely. I can't express the importance of the availability of CDP training."
CDP training focuses on incident management, mass casualty response and emergency response to catastrophic natural disasters or terrorist acts. To date, the CDP has trained more than 775,000 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories. The CDP has also provided training to emergency responders from 15 countries.