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In June 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) established a terrorism training center for emergency responders, the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP). CDP's mission is to "Operate a public training center to prepare emergency first responders, emergency management officials and state and local officials to respond to terrorist acts involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear (COBRA), and handle incidents involving hazardous materials."
Photo Courtesy of Center for Domestic Preparedness
Emergency responders extract a "victim" during live-agent training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The center’s WMD Toxic Agent Training Facility is the only site in the country that lets response personnel work in a live-agent environment with Sarin (GB) and VX nerve agents.
Since we last detailed its operations four years ago (Hazmat Studies, "Terrorism Response Training: An Inside Look," September 1999), CDP has made many innovative changes to its training programs and facilities. While CDP began as a part of the Justice Department, it has since been transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security under the Office of Border and Transportation Security. The current curriculum includes resident and field programs that can be tailored to the needs of the hosting organization or community.
As of July 2003, over 34,000 emergency responders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories have received resident training at the CDP facility. An additional 100,000 responders have been trained through CDP field programs. Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the major student population was about 43% firefighters and 32% law enforcement. Since 9/11, the percentages have changed, almost in the opposite direction. The average student is 40 years old with 15 years of on-the-job experience; 57% are trainers. One group that has not had much representation at CDP is dispatchers and 911 operators. CDP would like to see more participation by dispatchers and 911 operators to enhance their capabilities to provide more effective assistance to emergency responders during WMD incidents.
The original Advanced Operations and Operations Incident Command courses have been revised based on input from the emergency response community. Several courses have been developed from the initial two to better meet the needs of response personnel and community leaders.
WMD Technical Emergency Response Training Course (COBRA) is a four-day program designed to provide emergency responders operational level instruction on responding to and operating in a WMD environment. The course covers chemical, ordnance/explosive, biological and radiological/nuclear threats; the current domestic and international terrorist threat; managing a WMD scene; determining the breadth of a WMD incident area; and dealing with the media at a WMD incident. Twenty hours of the training also provides hands-on familiarization with specialized protective clothing and equipment, chemical detection and identification equipment, decontamination, triage, and ordnance/explosive recognition and response. The course ends with a multi-task, hands-on performance-oriented training in the WMD Toxic Agent (COBRA) Training Facility. This course is designed for those emergency responders who have completed WMD awareness level training. This course is not for hazmat technicians.
Photo by Robert Burke
Students take part in a decontamination evolution in "Responder City, Alabama," a mock community of 20 commercial and residential buildings. The urban training environment allows exercises to be conducted with a level of realism above any most response personnel have been previously exposed.