National plan to ensure disaster medicine training is funded

A national plan to ensure disaster medicine training meets the needs of everyone working the front lines is underway, say recipients of a federal grant to fund the initiative.

The plan brings the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of EMS Physicians and the National Association for EMTs to the table with course developers at the Medical College of Georgia to ensure courses provide the information their members need.

The one-year, $428,000 grant to MCG from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration also will be used to help Georgia, Ohio, Maryland, and Texas develop state-specific plans to ensure providers there are prepared for disasters they are most likely to encounter.

“The opportunity to receive input from stakeholders that will receive this training has been a goal since we started developing these courses,” said Dr. Richard Schwartz, chair of the MCG Department of Emergency Medicine. “This gives us the funding to make that a reality.”

National Disaster Life Support Courses™ were developed collaboratively by MCG, the University of Georgia, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, the University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health, the American Medical Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Although the lineup is continually expanding and being updated, some of the fundamental courses are older than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, says Dr. Phillip Coule, director of the MCG Center of Operational Medicine. “This gives us a framework to do major revisions with valuable input from multiple disciplines and stakeholders.”

The long-term goal is to make the National Disaster Life Support Courses™ a national standard, much like Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Advanced Trauma Life Support, Dr. Coule says. To date, courses have been taught in nearly every state and there are more than 47 training sites are established nationally.

This summer the first international site was established in the United Arab Emirates. That center already is being expanded including plans for putting MCG instructors on-site to train the country’s military.

Some of the most extensive training has taken place in Georgia, Ohio, Maryland and Texas, where the first state-tailored programs will be developed over the next year. “We’ll identify the most likely disasters to occur in each of these states and emphasize those disasters in the training,” says Dr. Coule.

Georgia, for example, could be impacted by most any type disaster, he says. “We have a coastline. When snowstorms hit they are a disaster. Terrorism is a considerable threat that already has occurred in Atlanta and we have a nuclear power plant. There is not really much we escape, so our courses need to be very broad-based.”

“We want a more integrated approach with hospitals, public health, emergency medicine and other groups working together to promote a unified plan for training,” says Dr. Schwartz. “This will enable us to increase the number of people trained and focus the training on the needs of the state.”

The NDLS lineup includes Core Disaster Life Support™, a four-hour awareness course focusing on medical first responders, but also helpful to firefighters, hospital administrators, security personnel and other non-medical providers who likely would have a role in managing a major disaster. NDLS – Decontamination™ is a 12-hour program during which primarily non-medical, hospital-based personnel don protective gear and set up decontamination shelters.

Basic Disaster Life Support® focuses on giving hospital-based and frontline medical providers the essentials of disaster management – including natural disasters such as tsunamis and hurricanes as well as manmade explosions and nuclear attacks – that establish a common knowledge and language.

Advanced Disaster Life Support® expands that base, giving students a day of hands-on practice triaging large numbers of patients and using high-end mannequins to recognize and treat chemical and biological exposures.


The Fundamentals of Mass Casualty Care Program, a short overview of some of the most important concepts of the courses, is available online at An electronic version of the Core Disaster Life Support program will soon be available at the same site.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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