The Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Ala., trains thousands of students every year, often by grouping students in cohorts that allow responders from one location or region to train together. The CDP reached a milestone in cohort training by hosting 50 responders from a spectrum of emergency management disciplines all from the state of Utah, in hopes it’s the first of many such groups from around the Nation.

“We might have a cohort from a particular hospital, law enforcement office or fire department,” explained David Hall, the Western Region training coordinator at the CDP. “The principle of training in cohorts is to give responders who work together the same training experience. When a real –world event occurs, that similar training experience is going to be apparent, and could really make a difference in saving lives.”

Art Deyo, deputy fire marshal for the state of Utah, led the massive coordination effort to bring the Utah cohort during the performance of his duties across the state.

“I’ve been here several times and each time I trained with professionals from all over,” Deyo explained. “But I thought it would be great to try to assemble a large group of responders from the same area who would have to work together in a real response event.”

All 50 of these students attended the Technical Emergency Response Training for CBRNE Incidents (TERT) course, a four-day training course that provides responders with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive (CBRNE)-specific and all-hazards response skills enabling them to respond safely to either event. The TERT course concludes with the performance of acquired skills and tasks in a toxic environment of chemical and biological materials at the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological Training Facility.

“All 50 of us are from Utah’s Region 1, which is a six-county area ranging from Salt Lake City to the Idaho border,” Deyo explained. “Many from this group would be working together, directly or indirectly, should a mass casualty event take place. It makes total sense that they should be here training together.”

Deyo said Region 1 encompasses oil refineries, chemical plants, widespread agriculture and other industries, so the need for a broad spectrum of response training is significant. Deyo and Hall worked together for eight months to coordinate the cohort training at the CDP.

“Art was concerned with the lack of participation [in CDP training] by the responders in Utah and wanted to generate a higher attendance,” Hall said.

“I got a training date [from Hall] and started marketing,” Deyo said. “I passed out flyers everywhere I went. I used social media to generate interest. I talked to fire chiefs and hazmat teams. I was busy, but it was well worth it.”

The cohort included fire fighters, health department workers, emergency room personnel and even a few members of the Utah National Guard. Many participants were senior leaders in their respective disciplines, and, Deyo said, the purpose behind their attendance was multifold.

“I think the training is invaluable to senior leaders in many ways,” Deyo said. “It’s important for us to know what junior responders are experiencing in training.”

Deyo also said updated training helps keep senior leaders attuned to the needs of those in the field, and creates a networking environment that’s hard to match.

“My hope is that these senior leaders recognize, as I have, the value of this training opportunity at the CDP, and they will go back and send more personnel here to train.”

“Art and I have continued to develop additional plans to assist in meeting their respective training goals and objectives,” Hall said. “We have discussed bringing additional personnel to participate in another TERT course and a HT (Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents) course.”

Hall said the ultimate goal is to host Utah-specific training events that could include the gamut of emergency response disciplines, culminating in an Integrated Capstone Event conducted entirely by Utah students – all focused on maximizing the state’s readiness.

“I’m excited,” said Deyo. “I hope we create the momentum to get the entire state involved, and hopefully other states will follow suit.”

CDP training for state, local, tribal and territorial responders is fully funded by DHS, to include travel, lodging and meals. For more information on TERT, HT and other upcoming courses, go to http://cdp.dhs.gov.