(NAPA, California) Twenty-three Napa County public health, health care and first responder professionals spent five days training together in January on how to respond to a mass casualty incident, including activating emergency response plans, triaging and treating injured people, alerting the community to dangers and resources, and more, all designed to build skills and relationships that will enable the health care community to respond effectively to a community disaster.
The Health Care Leadership (HCL) disaster training and exercises were offered by the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Ala., the week of Jan. 13. The Center is operated by the US Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and covered all expenses associated with travel and training.
The Napa County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program recruited participants through the local Hospital Preparedness Program Coalition and first responder agencies. The agencies represented included 23 staff from Napa County Office of Emergencies Services (1), Napa County Public Health Division (4), Queen of the Valley Medical Center (3), St. Helena Hospital (4), Napa State Hospital (4), Veteran’s Home Yountville (1), American Medical Response (2), Napa City Fire (2), Napa City Police (1), and Napa Valley College (1).
After she completed the HCL course in July 2013, Napa County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith returned to Napa with a vision of local emergency preparedness and response professionals working together in the CDP’s unique learning environment.
“My training experience at the FEMA facility in Anniston was outstanding.” said Smith, “There was no question in my mind that a group of responders from Napa County taking the training together would return with both enhanced skills and stronger partnerships.”
“The Napa City Fire Department was glad to be a part of this cross-country trip to Center for Domestic Preparedness with the other Napa County representatives,” said Napa City Fire Captain Ty Becerra, “The training was great, as it sharpened our skills as emergency responders and helped us be better prepared for a disaster of any kind in our county.”
The CDP is located at the former Fort McClellan in Anniston, Alabama and includes the Noble Training Facility (NFT), a former army hospital converted to a training site for health and medical education in disasters, including terrorism and natural disasters. The NTF is the only hospital in the nation solely dedicated to training healthcare professionals for mass casualty response. The Napa County contingent was part of around 100 healthcare professionals, fire fighters, law enforcement and other students from around the United States, who prepared during the week for the final exercise on Friday.
In the four-hour exercise, students were assigned roles according to their skills in the fictional “Liberty County” Public Health Department, first responder agencies (EMS, fire, law), Hospital Emergency Operations Center and other response teams.
More than 30 role player/actors and dozens of interactive teaching mannequins were used as survivors during the exercise, adding to the realism of the event. At the graduation ceremony after the exercise , two students out of nearly 100 were recognized for their outstanding achievement during the exercise, including Napa County Health Education Specialist Cara Mae McGarry for her role as the Public Health Department Public Information Officer, in which she conducted on-camera media briefings and interviews broadcast live throughout the NTF.
Nancy Hiteshew, a registered nurse at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, worked in the Emergency Department during the exercise and said, “I learned who my community partners are and how to coordinate everyone's role during a disaster. We can do this! We need to review our Emergency Operations Plans, make sure everyone knows what to do during a disaster and continue to work with our community partners in disaster trainings and exercises.”
The Napa County HCL participants are not done preparing, training and exercising for disasters in our community. Napa County Public Health will continue to work closely with health care and first responder partners utilizing the relationships built and level of interest for continued preparedness trainings and exercises among the HCL students inspired by their time at the CDP.
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