The South Central Kansas Healthcare Coalition reinforced bonds and tested its ability to respond during an emergency recently. The coalition attended training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Ala., practicing with multiple counties and multiple hospitals from the Sunflower State.

More than 50 healthcare professionals from nine counties, representing 10 different hospitals, three public health departments and other health and medical agencies merged together at the CDP for the Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) course. The 32-hour course lasts four days and includes both classroom instruction and realistic scenario-based exercises—complete with the expected chaos, noise, power failures, media briefs, and even victims from a mass casualty event.

“The benefits of all these people coming to the training not only include receiving the information delivered in a classroom, but also the ability to apply it in a simulated setting,” said Charlie Keeton, South Central Kansas Hospital preparedness coordinator. “Because hospitals are 24/7 operations it is impossible to recreate this type of exercise within a working hospital. Coming to Anniston gives us the opportunity to apply what we learned in a realistic setting.”

“The first two days focused on lectures and discussion,” said Janet Kaiser, chief nursing officer at the Kansas Medical Center in Andover, Kan. “The course progressed and got very serious; we experienced a full disaster. The exercise was very realistic , using moulaged patient role players, state of the art manikins simulating medical emergencies, and a fully functional hospital command center—it was a challenging experience!”

Healthcare training takes place at the CDP’s Noble Training Facility (NTF). The NTF is the only hospital in the nation solely dedicated to training healthcare professionals for mass-casualty response. The former U.S. Army Noble Hospital was converted into a training site for health and medical education in disasters and mass casualty events, in 1999. Years later, and after several changes in operational responsibility, the full potential of this facility was realized and the official name changed from the Noble Training Center to the Noble Training Facility (NTF). The CDP has operated the NTF since 2007, and completely funds all training—to include travel, meals and lodging for state, local and tribal emergency responders.

“It is okay to read about [response], but in order to really be ready you have to put [response] into practice,” said Adrienne Byrne-Lutz, interim director, Sedgwick County Public Health. “We learn from mistakes and this training makes us more ready to respond.”

Altogether, the South Central Kansas Healthcare Coalition encompasses 19 counties, 32 hospitals and 3 public health regions. Twelve of those Emergency Support Function Eight (ESF-8) disciplines were represented during training. The Kansas healthcare team encompassed everyone from hospital care and public health to mortuary services and long term care.

During training, the students were required to activate the hospital’s command center and effectively provide a medical response to a simulated mass-casualty incident. Instructors come from a variety of backgrounds, including emergency room physicians and nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and public health professionals.

“Coming to Anniston allows the members of the coalition to strengthen working relationships beyond bi-monthly meetings at home,” said Keeton. “To me, relationship building is the most valuable part of the trip.”

“I know that if the state of Kansas was impacted by a disaster this team would come together and we would function in an emergency,” said Kaiser. “Practice makes perfect and in a disaster you want to know everyone can respond effectively.”

The CDP builds realistic exercise scenarios into its courses. The scenarios involve real people with serious injuries and wounds. The instructors also incorporate the use of modern equipment and procedures emergency responders use in emergency situations. Each scenario focuses on the foundations of CDP training—incident management, mass-casualty response and emergency response to a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist act.

CDP training is fully funded for tribal, state, and local response personnel. Round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging, and meals are provided at no cost to responders or their agency or jurisdiction. The CDP plays a leading role in preparing state, local and tribal responders to prepare for and respond to manmade events or major accidents involving mass casualties. To learn more about the Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit http://cdp.dhs.gov or call 866-213-9553. Visit the CDP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn