In the wake of natural disasters or other events that create the need for emergency response, organizations across the United States continually review response plans and improve training. FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) is committed to training and preparing response groups for mass-casualty events related to disasters or other catastrophic events.

Approximately 50 healthcare professionals from New Hampshire Hospitals spent a week training at the CDP recently. These healthcare workers represented 17 hospitals in 17 different communities across the state. All participate in the NH Hospital Mutual Aid Network.

“The training here simulated a large-scale disaster that could happen in any community,” said Mike Melody, director of safety and emergency preparedness, of Concord Hospital, Concord, N.H. “This put into practice our efforts to be consistent with our coalition hospitals. Practice makes permanent and everybody got to practice the same way and learn identical information.”

“This training was initiated following the recommendation from another state,” said Deb Yeager, director of emergency preparedness, New Hampshire Hospital Association. “A colleague in Pennsylvania said the CDP was the best training they had ever received.”

In April 2013 more than 140 Pennsylvania emergency managers, physicians, nurses, public health officials and emergency medical services attended CDP courses. “I thought it [our training] was very challenging and extremely fast paced,” said Yeager.

These New Hampshire employees attended the Hospital Emergency Response Training (HERT) and Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) courses. They joined students from 12 other states who took healthcare training at the Noble Training Facility (NTF) the same week. The NTF is the only hospital in the nation solely dedicated to training healthcare professionals for mass casualty response.

“If we don’t train, we’re not going to be prepared,” said Amy Matthews, director of critical care and emergency services, for Cheshire Medical Center, Keene, N.H. “We were able to highlight problems in our own facilities, and initiate or change plans for a real event. We learned from each other and shared ideas. I have a face to a name and will work more closely with my coalition hospitals to plan, problem solve and hopefully work together in a joint exercise in the future.”

“The end-of-course exercise reinforced the learning previously in the week,” said Melody. “This was a big confidence boost and gave us a chance to interface with many of the people we work with on regular basis. We also had the chance to learn from other hospitals across the U.S. and discuss best practices.”

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, to include the activation of a hospital’s Emergency Operations Center. 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.

“We work hard to standardize what we do and have not been able to fully meet that goal,” said Yeager. “Training to this scale provided the opportunity to learn together, get a common picture and spend time strengthening our professional relationships.”

“This resembled a real event,” said Matthews. “I have a better perspective of working with the entire hospital and community. This training was valuable.”

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