Successful Partnership to Provide Critical Environmental Health Response Training to Practitioners

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: This is the first of two columns this month about the Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER) Awareness Level course. NEHA strives to provide up-to-date and relevant information on environmental health and to build partnerships in the profession. In pursuit of these goals, we feature a column from the Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal.

In this column, EHSB and guest authors from across CDC will highlight a variety of concerns, opportunities, challenges, and successes that we all share in environmental public health. EHSB's objective is to strengthen the role of state, local, and national environmental health programs and professionals to anticipate, identify, and respond to adverse environmental exposures and the consequences of these exposures for human health. The services being developed through EHSB include access to topical, relevant, and scientific information; consultation; and assistance to environmental health specialists, sanitarians, and environmental health professionals and practitioners.

The conclusions in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shannon Arledge is a public affairs specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama. A retired Marine gunnery sergeant, he served in numerous public affairs/public information assignments during his 20 years on active duty. He deployed twice to the Persian Gulf as a public affairs chief.

Emergency responders face a variety of threats. Man-made or accidental hazardous events not only require the protection of human life, they require the sustainment of a safe operation to protect themselves over an extended period of time. Responders and commanders have many factors to consider, and the health and well-being of the community and response force must not be overlooked--that's when public health comes in.

In early 2009, the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama, partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta to deliver the Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER) Awareness Level course at CDP. CDP is the perfect training setting because its chartered mission is to train state, local, and tribal response personnel facing today's natural or man-made threats. The center provides funding for state, local, and tribal emergency responders.

EHTER: First Step

EHTER is the first step toward a standardized preparedness training program for environmental health specialists. A more uniform training program will better prepare environmental health practitioners to meet the needs of affected communities. For more information about EHTER, visit ehs/Workforce_Development/EHTER.htm.

"Environmental hazards are part of all disasters," said Tim Darnell, director for the Mississippi State Office of Environmental Health and a recent EHTER graduate. He added, "This course provides awareness to emergency response personnel and allows them to take adequate precautions to protect themselves and their colleagues and recognize situations where intervention is needed to mitigate these hazards."

"Environmental health [EH] is a broad discipline," added Darnell. He continued, "Consequently, most environmental health specialists do not work in all areas of EH, but are often required to do so in emergency response situations. …