First responders train for public health hazards

Includes mass casualties, disease treatments
Posted at 12:10 PM, Jun 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-14 13:20:07-04

Local first responders are training for public health hazards, ranging from biological diseases to handling surges at hospitals, should a catastrophic event happen in the metro.

On Tuesday, nearly 100 emergency responders attended the training hosted by the Center for Preparedness Education, a collaborative imitative between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University Medical Center.

Long after the Oklahoma City bombing, Hurricane Katrina, and the shootings at Von Maur, first responders are re-examining history inside the Scott Conference Center at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

 “Truly what we look for are the after action reports afterward. Where they bring a collaboration of experts to discuss how they responded to the incident and lessons learned,” says Elayne Saejung, assistant director at the center.

Constant training for emergency crews is crucial, Saejun says, and that is why the center hosts its annual Preparedness Symposium.

 “We've brought in people to learn from experience from drought, from shooting, with flooding [and] ice storms,” says Dr. Phil Smith, co-director at the center. “Every year we have several people who have gone through this that share their experience with us."

Mass casualties will be another topic – one planned long before the shooting inside Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, but timely.

“It's easy for us to think that won't happen here and it won't happen to me and then when it does happen – no one is prepared,” says Roger Glick, a preparedness expert  and consultant for the Carilion Clinic of  Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Virginia. 

But it can and it does, Glick says, and mass casualties present challenges early on.

The expert will use the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island from 2003 as a case study during his presentation.

“Often times, at the very early stages of a disaster, there aren't enough responders there,” he says. “So you have to mobilize the citizens to help.”

Other issues include resource management, patient tracking, accurate information and who to call when doctors and staff are overwhelmed and need help.

“The time for disaster is not the time to be, 'Who do I call for behavioral health or who do I call for medical advice,'” says Smith. “You need to know where these people are and have their numbers ready.”