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Paramedic Steven Vannatta, UnityPoint Health - Marshalltown EMS manager, recently completed Healthcare Leadership for Mass Casualty Incidents (HCL) training offered by the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama.
The CDP—operated by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency—is the only federally-chartered Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) training facility in the nation. The HCL training is a four-day course that addresses disaster preparedness at the facility and system level, preparing professionals for any incident that results in multiple casualties, including mass shootings.
And if recent years prove to be any indication, attending the training was a wise decision.
So far this year, 294 individuals are dead and 743 injured due to mass shootings, according to Mass Shooting Tracker. Last year’s total, meanwhile, was higher than any in of the previous three years for each category. Each year since 2013 has experienced a steady stream of shootings.
Vannatta says it’s essential that healthcare providers prepare for the worst—even in a city like Marshalltown.
“One of the worst mass shootings in the history of the U.S. happened in Newtown, Connecticut, which has a population of 28,000, that’s the same as Marshalltown,” said Vannatta, a 28-year veteran EMS provider who holds numerous certifications through FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security including mass causality preparedness. “What we see almost daily through our media outlets is not just a ‘big city’ problem, it is an ‘any city’ problem and the people on the front lines— law enforcement, EMS, fire—all need to be on the same page with regards to training and how we approach a mass casualty situation.”
The HCL training is a four-day course that addresses disaster preparedness at the facility and system level, preparing professionals for any incident that results in multiple casualties. Apart from mass shootings, this can be the result of a natural disaster, an accidental or intentional release of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosives (CBRNE) hazard, or a disease outbreak that results in an epidemic or pandemic.
The course focused on preparing healthcare leaders to make critical decisions in all disaster emergency preparedness activities, as responders learned essential disaster-planning response and recovery functions.
“Disasters are going to happen, we have no control over that,” Vannatta said. “But through continued preparedness efforts, our counties’ responders will be able to handle any situation that is presented to them, whether it is a response requiring a single resource or a multidisciplinary response requiring multiple agencies.”
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 more than 40 training courses 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.
“Training has always been a vital component not only to my profession, but to me personally,” Vannatta said. “Knowledge is power, but that knowledge needs to also be passed on to others to empower them to be the best that they can in order to benefit those in their time of need.”