As recent devastating disasters have shown, the need for highly trained disaster responders to manage rescue and relief efforts is crucial. But how do people prepare for unexpected crises? They practice.
The annual week-long on-campus session for Philadelphia University’s Disaster Medicine and Management (DMM) program gives students from around the globe the skills they need to protect and save lives in the event of an emergency. DMM students participated in a week-long series of disaster preparation and response activities starting July 15, responding to several fictional scenarios and utilizing their knowledge from coursework to find solutions to the simulated disasters.
The week-long on-campus session brought together all 21 students within the program for the first time in the otherwise online degree program. The students came to Philadelphia University from all over the globe with individuals from Japan, Canada and Israel to California, Arizona and North Carolina. Some of these students currently work as nurses, doctors and health-care providers; others work for the Red Cross and Federal Agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Philadelphia University’s M.S. in Disaster Medicine and Management (DMM) trains students across the globe to prepare for all manners of disasters. The program encompasses the study of terrorism, hazardous materials, natural disasters, psychological aspects of disasters, public-health considerations of disasters, research methods and disaster planning and risk management and assessment.
“The reason I am pursuing this degree is because someone has to do it,” said Ed Tyczkowski, DMM student and program Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware. “The management skills we will all take away from this program help in any industry or profession.”
The week of disaster training started on PhilaU’s campus in Tuttleman Auditorium with the sixth Annual Emergency Preparedness Seminar. The seminar featured Ambassador Daniel Biran, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Captain (Res.) Maor Waldman, Israeli Defense Forces. Ambassador Biran spoke on the challenges of Haiti, providing an eyewitness account of the challenges Haiti faced after a devastating earthquake in 2010. Biran led emergency rescue efforts after the quake and managed the first field hospital to respond in Haiti. Captain Waldman utilized case studies and various protocols to discuss the use of tactical combat casualty care.
The next morning students were presented with disaster tabletop exercises that classmates had created. This simulated role-playing disaster crisis gave the students hands-on experience of managing a disaster as a team. After lunch the students headed off-site to the new Montgomery Hospital, part of the Einstein Healthcare Network of Hospitals. At the new facility the students created a hazard vulnerability assessment document, which is the document to be used once the hospital begins daily operations.
On July 17 and 18 the students visited the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency on their way to Hershey, Pa. At Hershey the students participated in an exercise involving Hershey Park, Chocolate World and Hershey’s Corporate Headquarters. The students heard from Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Paul K. Carlton, M.D., whose speech was entitled, “How to Deal with Those Things You Do Not Even Wish to Think About.” Dr. Carlton is a retired Air Force Surgeon General and currently serves as the Director of the Office of Homeland Security for the Texas A&M University Health Science Center.
The students also conducted an exercise with the programs partners from Einstein Hospital on July 19, and the final day of the week-long program featured local speakers discussing various aspects of disaster planning for critical infrastructure, regulatory compliance and a talk by a recent graduate on improvised nuclear device detonation.
“This program effectively blends theory with real-life hands-on training,” said Dr. Jean Bail, director of DMM. “You can never anticipate catastrophic disasters. The appearance of such events no longer is an ‘if’ as it is a ‘when’ and we want to prepare students for exactly that.”
“This event presents us with an invaluable opportunity to all come together and work with each other to solve problems,” said Jeff McDonald, a Federal Law Enforcement Officer. “So far this week has been extremely positive and has helped me form a solid foundation for dealing with rapidly changing situations within my profession.”