RAD Operations Training Improves Radiological Response

The recent earthquakes and subsequent radiological impacts in Japan have increased the awareness and interest in how communities respond to radioactive incidents. Despite the recent increased attention on radiological hazards, training for such a potential incident has been happening at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) for the past four years.

The CDP, located in Anniston, Ala., in coordination with the Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP) office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), offers five courses focusing on radiological preparedness in communities across the United States. 

The radiological courses prepare first responders to deal with all types of radiological incidents, according to Bernice Zaidel, CDP assistant director for curriculum development and evaluation. Depending on the course, students learn basic

fundamentals to advanced techniques.  Each course ties in the response to a potential mass casualty event involving radiological material. “CDP radiological training provides a safe environment where first responders learn how to protect themselves, their equipment, and the general public if a radiological event were to occur in their community,” Zaidel said.  “Our training is designed to advance what they already know, and provide solid guidance to improve current plans, processes, and practices.”

Denise White, senior health and safety specialist for the Bureau of Radiation Control, located in Orlando, Fla., recently completed the Radiological Emergency Response Operations (RERO) course at the CDP.  “There are so many reasons to take this training,” White said.  “The training was as real as it gets.  I feel better prepared, and confident in my ability to respond.  A person in this field does not completely understand all the threats until they attend this training—a fantastic experience.”

Many first responders live in the vicinity, between 10 and 50 miles, of a nuclear power plant.  Responders in these areas are required to remain current, rehearse emergency plans, and attend training and exercises mandated by FEMA and the REPP program, Zaidel said.

“This training prepares emergency responders to know the radiological hazards that face their communities” Zaidel said. “With training, responders know how best to protect themselves from the exposure and contamination risk of a radiological event.”

The radiological courses provided by the CDP are performance-based and students focus on the response and management of a radiological event.  More advanced-level training is designed to improve skills and center on response plans and procedures for complex incidents such as a terrorist or mass casualty event.

“We try to make the scenarios and equipment available, as realistic as possible for the students,” said Candice Gilliland, CDP radiological training course manager. “We utilize live radiation sources as well as electronic equipment to simulate radiation contamination and exposure.  The CDP provides different types of equipment from the most basic to cutting edge.  It is important to vary the instruments students use, because not all jurisdictions are the same.  Regardless of how small or large their jurisdiction is, they will find the instruments we provide suitable for their area of response.”

Indirect training courses are also offered through the Indirect Authorized Training Program (IATP).  The IATP prepares CDP graduates to train first responders using authorized Train-the-Trainer programs in their home jurisdiction. To link the CDP radiological curriculum tracks locate Programs TWW, and XX on the CDP web site http://cdp.dhs.gov.

The CDP develops and delivers advanced training for emergency response providers, emergency managers, and other government officials from state, local, and tribal governments.  The CDP offers 55 training courses at its resident campus in Anniston, Ala. focusing on incident management, mass casualty response, and emergency response to a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist act.  Training at the CDP campus is federally funded at no cost to state, local, and tribal emergency response professionals or their agency. 

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. 

For more information, contact: Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) News Desk Phone: 256-847-2316



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