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Hazard Assessment and Response Management (HARM) students drive training procedures

The Center for Domestic Preparedness’ (CDP) emergency responders attending the Hazard Assessment and Response Management (HARM) course decontaminate response personnel after leaving a contaminated building during a training exercise.

The HARM course allows students to set the pace, determine the focus and drive the tempo of the course. The responders receive the situation and determine their response, including selecting required equipment, personal protective levels and decontamination procedures. This is the first course of its kind at the CDP, located in Anniston, Ala., that allows students to make all decisions and meet with either success or failure in the learning process of response and recovery.

As the citizens of Haiti witnessed firsthand the horrific effects of a devastating earthquake, countries throughout the world united a response effort to assist Haiti in recovering from this major disaster. Courses provided at the CDP focus on response and recovery and prepare emergency response providers for both small- and large-scale disasters. The training is cost-free for state, local and tribal response personnel. Hands-on training that provides both mental and physical challenges to emergency responders is difficult to duplicate. Few training courses require students to demonstrate solid response skills while providing parameters and developing plans for a hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) response.

“All CDP courses have instructors directly involved with training,” explained Rick Dickson, assistant director of training delivery. “In HARM, our instructors step back and let the students make the decisions. Sometimes the students meet with difficulty; other times they succeed immediately. Ultimately, the information and learning tools they gain are invaluable,” he added. “This course is about as real as it gets for WMD or hazardous materials training.”

Course prerequisites include ICS 100 and 200, as well as successful completion of one of the following CDP courses in the previous 36 months: WMD Technical Emergency Response Training, WMD HazMat Technician, or WMD Hands-On Training (eight- or 16-hour). The goal of the HARM course is to provide responders with a realistic operational WMD environment in which the students operate within the incident command system and decide procedures, equipment and tactical approach to an emergency event.

“We were forced to work in a unified command,” said Sue McManus, Memphis, Tenn., Fire Department. “If we had a real incident, we would work with multiple agencies and jurisdictions,” she added. “Most agencies do not practice like this, and should. Any real event will be similar to this experience.”

This three-day course consists of up to 45 responders from multiple disciplines and multiple jurisdictions, with different levels of training and experience. The students appoint their incident commander and determine response elements based on the number of students and the response background of each person.

Day One:

The teams choose their equipment, determine their level of competency, and conduct individual and collective refresher training in preparation for their mission. “This was a great learning event,” said LeLand Hopkins, Memphis, Tenn., Fire Department. “There were students who knew more than others, but that worked to our advantage,” he added. “Some people’s strengths can plug holes in other’s weaknesses. Today was an excellent blend.”

Day Two:

The response element must conduct life safety actions, determine the toxicity within the complex, mitigate the threat, and identify and contain any toxic spills. “We came here with general knowledge from previous courses,” said James Johnson, Arlington, Va., hazardous materials technician. “We had to put into play what we have learned, both here at the CDP and from our technical knowledge based on our occupation,” he stressed. “We were able to demonstrate our competency and show we could respond to a disastrous event.”

Day Three:

The teams mitigate and contain CBRNE material consisting of nerve agents. The HARM course incorporates the CDP’s toxic agent facility which allows for hands-on training using actual nerve agents. “This was a great training experience,” said Hector Cintron, Portsmouth, Va., U.S. Coast Guard. “I’m better prepared. You never know when you’ll be in a hazardous situation and possibly required to collect evidence or work on a decontamination line. This course has increased my versatility.” “The final day of training allows the students to continue mitigation and hazardous materials containment at our toxic agent facility,” said Dickson. “These responders have a familiarity from previous nerve agent training, but today they make entry into a toxic agent environment, locate the threat using the tools they have chosen and render the location safe. All the while, our instructors maintain a comfortable distance, note observations, provide critical feedback and ensure the student responders operate safely.”

CDP courses range from one to five days in length and feature interdisciplinary resident and nonresident training courses that promote greater understanding among 10 diverse responder disciplines: Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Service, Governmental Administrative, Hazardous Materials, Healthcare, Law Enforcement, Public Health, Public Safety Communications and Public Works. The CDP is a component of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Preparedness Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security. The Anniston training center is the nation’s only federally chartered Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) training facility for civilian responders. FEMA’s mission is to support its citizens and first responders to ensure that, as a nation, we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2010

Rating : 10.0

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