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Successful partnership to provide critical environmental health response training to practitioners.

Editor's Note: This is the first of two columns this month about the Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER) Awareness Level course. NEHA strives to provide up-to-date and relevant information on environmental health and to build partnerships in the profession. In pursuit of these goals, we feature a column from the Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal.

In this column, EHSB and guest authors from across CDC will highlight a variety of concerns, opportunities, challenges, and successes that we all share in environmental public health. EHSB's objective is to strengthen the role of state, local, and national environmental health programs and professionals to anticipate, identify, and respond to adverse environmental exposures and the consequences of these exposures for human health. The services being developed through EHSB include access to topical, relevant, and scientific information; consultation; and assistance to environmental health specialists, sanitarians, and environmental health professionals and practitioners.

The conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shannon Arledge is a public affairs specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama. A retired Marine gunnery sergeant, he served in numerous public affairs/public information assignments during his 20 years on active duty. He deployed twice to the Persian Gulf as a public affairs chief.

Emergency responders face a variety of threats. Man-made or accidental hazardous events not only require the protection of human life, they require the sustainment of a safe operation to protect themselves over an extended period of time. Responders and commanders have many factors to consider, and the health and well-being of the community and response force must not be overlooked--that's when public health comes in.

In early 2009, the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama, partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta to deliver the Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER) Awareness Level course at CDP. CDP is the perfect training setting because its chartered mission is to train state, local, and tribal response personnel facing today's natural or man-made threats. The center provides funding for state, local, and tribal emergency responders.

EHTER: First Step

EHTER is the first step toward a standardized preparedness training program for environmental health specialists. A more uniform training program will better prepare environmental health practitioners to meet the needs of affected communities. For more information about EHTER, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ ehs/Workforce_Development/EHTER.htm.

"Environmental hazards are part of all disasters," said Tim Darnell, director for the Mississippi State Office of Environmental Health and a recent EHTER graduate. He added, "This course provides awareness to emergency response personnel and allows them to take adequate precautions to protect themselves and their colleagues and recognize situations where intervention is needed to mitigate these hazards."

"Environmental health [EH] is a broad discipline," added Darnell. He continued, "Consequently, most environmental health specialists do not work in all areas of EH, but are often required to do so in emergency response situations. This course provides EH response training in all areas, and provides an opportunity to network with other EH specialists from across the country, and share best practices and lessons learned from their experiences. The EHTER course also educates emergency response personnel about the importance of involving environmental health specialists in all phases of disaster response, including planning, response, and recovery."

The EHTER course consists of four days that include presentations, group activities/ exercises, and demonstration components by experienced staff. CDC assures course curriculum and quality, and continues to expand the class, in partnership with CDP.

"Our partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a wonderful success story," said Mike Aguilar, CDP training specialist. "Blending the expertise and dedication of the CDC and CDP has enabled the environmental health community to receive much-needed training that will enhance their ability to respond to future disasters. The [CDC-CDP] partnership will grow stronger as we continue to support the preparedness needs of the environmental health community."

"Environmental health practitioners are vital to the response effort," said Bernice Zaidel, assistant director of curriculum development and evaluation. "The EHTER course meets the needs of the environmental health professional and unlocks the door for other response disciplines to broaden their knowledge regarding the environmental health response. To put it simply, environmental health preparedness training ensures a more comprehensive and safer response."

Unique CDP Courses and Facility

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, CDP's training program features more than 40 unique courses that offer emergency responders everything from public health and incident response training to pandemic influenza and health care emergency management.

CDP is also home to the nation's only toxic chemical training facility for emergency responders. The faculty and students refer to the training site as the "COBRATF," which stands for Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological Training Facility. The COBRATF features civilian training exercises in a true toxic environment, using chemical agents.

In 2007, the CDP welcomed the Noble Training Facility into its training venue. The former Army Noble Hospital was converted into a training site for health and medical education in disasters and mass-casualty events. It serves as the only operational hospital in the U.S. dedicated to training.

Fully Funded Training

CDP training for state, local, and tribal responders is fully funded by FEMA, a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Round-trip air and ground transportation, lodging, and meals are provided at no cost to responders, their agency, or jurisdiction.

CDP is a vital artery for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Preparedness Directorate's national readiness in the Department of Homeland Security. Learn more about CDP at http://cdp.dhs.gov.

Corresponding Author: Shannon Arledge, Public Affairs Specialist, Center for Domestic Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, P.O. Box 5100, 61 Responder Dr., Anniston, AL 36205. E-mail: arledges@cdpemail.dhs.gov.
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Title Annotation:DIRECT FROM CDC: ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SERVICES BRANCH
Author:Arledge, Shannon
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Date:May 27, 2010
Words:1007
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