A unique training program is preparing public health workers, physicians, hospital administrators and emergency responders to effectively respond to a bioterrorism incident.
The Texas Training Initiative for Emergency Response (T-TIER) is based on 14 benchmarks for bioterrorism planning and preparedness identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program, which began in 2003, is the first of its kind in the state.
The weeklong course is offered by the School of Rural Public Health, part of the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, through a partnership with TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC).
“The purpose of the course is to get public health entities more integrated in the response community,” said Gary Meaney, project manager with NERRTC. “Public health officials may have to take the lead in a terrorist incident, especially a biological incident such as smallpox or anthrax release. Through this training, they are positioned to understand the resources they need to do their job. Plus, the course gives the first responder a greater understanding of public health issues.
“We include the incident command system as a part of the course, and we teach both sides how to work together,” Meaney added.
While the course focuses on bioterrorism planning, preparedness and response, it also has application for infectious disease outbreaks and other public health threats and emergencies.
The course culminates with an “all-hazards exercise” that is as close to a real-life scenario as possible, said Doug Rapé, director for the NERRTC exercise program. NERRTC conducts a daylong, tabletop disaster drill based on a bioterrorist event involving an infectious disease.
“The goal is to foster a closer relationship between public health workers and the rest of the response community, so they can act in an orchestrated fashion in an emergency,” said Rapé.
Participants in the program receive continuing education units (CEUs) from the School of Rural Public Health.