ANNISTON, Ala. (WBRC) - Almost any disaster or catastrophe response in the U.S. may very well have ties to Anniston.
The Center for Domestic Preparedness is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They’ve trained first responders on disasters ranging from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, firefighters were rushed with police escort from Anniston to Washington, D.C., to last spring’s crash of a B-17 bomber in Hartford, Connecticut.
Friday, the media was allowed to tour the Noble Training Facility, a former Fort McClellan military hospital now used as a teaching center. The CDP’s main campus was once the Fort’s chemical school.
Friday we saw a drill in which a convention was marred by an earthquake, and the outbreak of the ebola virus.
First responders from throughout the country, all 50 states plus territories, train here. Andy Richey, a vice-president in the University of Colorado's Medical System based in Colorado Springs, was training in the exercise command center when we met him.
“We have a commitment to preparedness from our executive level, all the way to our front-line staff,” Richey said. “So to have a resource where we can bring all levels of organization to be better prepared for disasters across all hazards, whether it’s a mass casualty incident, some sort of infectious disease process, it’s a really, really big deal for us.”
Many of the patients in the scenarios were role-playing actors, but a few are mannequins that can blink, and even bleed.
"We push the student as best as possible, to relate a critical incident they would be dealing with, almost to the point of failure. But we don't let them fail," says Charles Reneau, facility manager at Noble Training Facility. "We reach out and we grab 'em and we bring 'em back in, and we regroup, we reteach, we give them some possible solutions, that they could implement to make a realistic decision."
The 1950s military hospital was remodeled to represent a modern hospital, complete with a trauma unit and an emergency room complete with cashier. There's even a person who teaches people how to handle the media, including conducting news conferences, giving interviews, and writing news releases and public service announcements.
The Center trains as many as 50,000 first responders each year. Last year they trained 30 ,000.
They are preparing to train people who will work security for both major party conventions next year, the Super Bowl in Miami and the World Games in Birmingham.