Six doctoral students, including three international students, in the Jacksonville State University (JSU) Emergency Management program took a field trip to the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), Aug. 21, to explore possible research topics and learn more about employment opportunities in government, education and training.

Through a formal agreement with the CDP, doctoral students at JSU may become research fellows at the CDP.

“This visit provides them access to the Nation’s premier institute for first responder training,” explained Dr. Jeff Ryan, Association Professor and Head of JSU’s Department of Emergency Management, Ryan explained. “Doctoral student research must be conducted on meaningful and relevant topics, where theory informs practice,” Ryan said.

The CDP and JSU have a formal agreement that allows JSU doctoral students to become research fellows at the CDP, Ryan said. The formal partnerships are important because it gives the JSU Emergency Management program a direct connection with an important National asset that trains the same audience the university seeks to educate: first responders, emergency managers and healthcare professionals. In addition, JSU’s Emergency Management doctoral students have a need to demonstrate their ability to plan and conduct rigorous research that contributes to the body of professional knowledge, Ryan said.

The students gain access to a real-world training facility and credit for their doctoral program requirements. At the same time, the CDP gains valuable research data that can be used to improve curriculum, training and support CDP facility enhancements that would further improve training, according to CDP’s Assistant Director for Curriculum Development and Evaluation, Bernice Zaidel.

“This is a great opportunity for the CDP and for JSU,” Zaidel said. “The CDP gains valuable research that will benefit our training, so responders across the country will benefit. And, the JSU students have the opportunity to conduct research. In fact, one JSU doctoral student is conducting research for his dissertation here now. Furthermore, the doctoral students gain practical experience for possible future employment with the government, a university or in other education or training fields.”

“The challenging, realistic and dynamic training venues at the CDP are unlike any other in the world,” Ryan said. “Many of our doctoral students are awestruck by all that the CDP has to offer and what important applied research projects they would like to have our help with.”

During their visit, the doctoral candidates, including international students from Denmark, Canada and Nigeria, toured the center’s unique training venues. The 176-acre campus includes the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological Training Facility (COBRATF), the only facility where civilian responders train in a toxic agent environment; the Advanced Responder Training Complex (ARTC) which includes an indoor street scene, a four-car subway and a remodeled industrial park complex with simulated office space; and the Noble Training Facility, a former Army hospital that is the only hospital facility in the United States dedicated to training hospital and healthcare professionals in disaster preparedness and response.

Student Thomas A. Reimann of Denmark participated in the CDP tour. Reimann is researching operational communications and how to use data technology to track infectious diseases. He is very interested in the use of mobile phone apps being used to track infectious diseases and modeling data that will enable responders to redistribute their resources as needed during a response.

“I was very impressed with the Center,” Reimann said. “The [COBRA] training facility is obviously beyond anything I have seen before. I have seen other training facilities where they have tried to simulate and they have gotten pretty imaginative. I was very impressed that facility where they have to put their [personal protective equipment] on and really test their confidence.

“I was also very impressed with the hospital setting. A specific issue that is difficult for hospitals to handle is patients coming in with infectious diseases. It’s something that you can train and train in a table top exercise, but to have a physical facility to see that you handle the patient correctly and can trace the possible infection is imperative. The biggest threat is the infectious disease patient sitting in the ER for how many hours and people going back and forth before you identify what the disease is. It’s incredibly difficult to nurture that environment at a table-top exercise, but with the staff and facility, I’m sure they make that a very lively and good learning experience for those [students].”

Manpreet Jaiswal of Canada is another of the doctoral candidates who toured the center. She is focused on preparedness and response issues in emergency management and is looking forward to receiving more training in the Incident Command System.

“I would love to train here! I was surprised by how realistic the blood was on the ‘Legs’ simulator,” Jaiswal said, referring to one of the CDP’s most popular healthcare training aids. “Legs” is a prosthetic torso and amputated legs the CDP uses in its healthcare exercises. A live role player – usually screaming in pain – lies on a gurney. His lower body is tucked into a recess in the specially made gurney so that the prosthetic lower torso and bloody amputated legs are displayed. The “legs” are capable of spraying blood from the “fresh wounds” and the bleeding can be stopped when tourniquets are applied above the wounds.

“I was surprised by how realistic everything looked, not just the [human patient simulators], but also the backdrops, which I think just lends itself to making sure people are even more prepared for real-life scenarios,” she said. “As a fellow emergency manager in a different type of setting, I usually work with the Public Service. So I’m usually in an Operations Center,” Jaiswal said. “It’s good to know that my other colleagues who are doing emergency management, regardless of what their niche is, are being trained properly and taken care of. So that when they are helping other people, they’re also able to take care of themselves.

“I wish we had something like this back home. I think I can take some lessons learned back with me. Keeping in mind Canada is a different setting when it comes to emergency management. We’re not exactly in the same boat, but there some good information in the community of practice that I can take back.”

John Fenn, a Continuity Manager at FEMA Region IV in Atlanta, is currently pursuing his Doctor of Science in Emergency Management degree with JSU. Fenn is conducting a pilot study at the CDP’s COBRA Training Facility to determine if training at the COBRATF increases responders’ confidence in the use of their personal protective equipment in a contaminated environment, as well as increasing their abilities to perform their duties in a contaminated environment.

“The staff of the CDP has been great! Their professionalism and dedication to training first responders was extremely impressive,” said Fenn. Fenn said the CDP tour was not available when he started his doctoral program in 2011, but he wished it had been.

The tour has become an annual event with this being the third year the doctoral students have toured the CDP.

JSU’s main campus is located in Jacksonville, Ala., the neighboring community and has a satellite campus on the former Fort McClellan in Anniston, the home of the CDP campus.