Disaster Medicine and Management students participate in week-long series of disaster training drills and lectures

Students in the Disaster Medicine and Management program are participating in a week-long series of training exercises, disaster drills and expert lectures July 12-17 as part of the innovative master’s degree program.

On Thursday, July 16, the students and faculty members will practice their hands-on skills at the Montgomery County Fire Academy in Conshohocken, Pa., where they will work with local emergency officials on urban search and rescue operations, which could include rescuing survivors or recovering bodies from, say, a collapsed building.  The day’s training also will include a decontamination exercise, as well as practicing the deployment of medical resources in an emergency or disaster setting.

The week’s packed schedule also includes lectures by experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security and Department of Health. 

Officials from ARAMARK, which catered the 2008 Beijing Olympics, spoke about the security procedures they employed during that event, and Lt. Col. Itay Peleg discussed Israeli home front security command issues. 

On Friday, July 17, Dr. Steve Alles from the Philadelphia Department of Health will address issues relating to pandemics and, in particular this year, the swine flu threat.

The innovative master’s degree program was one of the first in the country to focus on educating and training disaster management leaders, with a focus on medical issues.  Once they have completed at least half of the academic courses, which are offered on-line, students in the program must participate in a week-long program of on-site training drills, disaster exercises and lectures offered during the summer.

“This week on campus offers the opportunity to integrate all the academic learning they’ve done with the practical experiences they need,” said Program Director Jean Bail, Ed.D., R.N., EMT-P.   “And on the faculty side, we can make sure we’re doing what we need to do, assessing program delivery and competencies.”

In addition to the hands-on skills training this week, it’s important for the students to gain experience working together and in live-action situations, Bail said.  “Their ability to work as a team is critical,” she said.

This summer, 23 graduate students hailing from states such as Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Virginia, Indiana, Texas and Toronto met on campus July 12 to start the week’s comprehensive schedule of activities.  One student who didn’t travel too far is Jeff Baird, PhilaU’s director of safety and security, who started the master’s program last summer to enhance his credentials.  “The disaster management concepts are translatable skills to campus disaster management, which is part of my responsibility at Philadelphia University,” Baird said.

The Disaster Medicine and Management program was started in August 2006, and the first on-campus week of drills and exercises took place in July of the following year.  Last summer, the program hosted a full-scale disaster drill involving hundreds of Philadelphia and other regional police, emergency and medical personnel.

The Disaster Medicine and Management Program includes 12 academic courses, which most students complete in 18 months to two years, Bail said. There currently are about 70 students in the program, many of them in fields such as security, healthcare, hospital emergency management, EMT and paramedic fields, and social work.

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