Responding Through Training

The threats faced by the nation’s emergency responders are diverse, deadly, and complex. There is growing concern that chemical, biological, explosive, radiological, and other hazardous materials will become our enemy’s weapons of choice.

The Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) opened its doors as a training center for the nation’s emergency responders in June of 1998. Since that time, more than 390,000 emergency responders have participated in the multi-disciplinary training courses offered by the training center.

The CDP is a vital artery for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Preparedness Directorate’s national readiness in the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Anniston, Alabama, the CDP’s training program features more than 30 unique courses that offer emergency responders everything from radiation contamination and incident response training to Pandemic Influenza and healthcare emergency management.

Another unique feature of CDP training is that the majority of the resident and non- resident training courses are interdisciplinary, promoting greater understanding among diverse responder disciplines: Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Service, Governmental Administrative, Hazardous Materials, Healthcare, Law Enforcement, Public Health, Public Safety Communications, and Public Works.

As threats against the nation’s security have increased, the size and scope of the CDP have increased, to meet the challenge.

“There has been substantial growth in the last nine years,” commented Donnie Belser, course manager for the Incident Command courses. “Our success says a lot about the commitment from everyone who works here. It is one team that contributes to CDP excellence.”

“The CDP is the best training facility in the U.S.,” continued Belser. “Because of what we teach emergency responders, there is no substitute. Our training instills confidence in the equipment they use, and gives them the tools they need to perform during a disaster—manmade or accidental.”

The center is home to the nation’s only toxic chemical training facility for emergency responders. The faculty and students refer to the training site as the “COBRATF”, which stands for Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological Training Facility. The COBRATF features civilian training exercises in a true toxic environment, using chemical agents. The advanced hands-on training enables responders to effectively prevent, respond to, and recover from real-world incidents involving acts of terrorism and other hazardous materials.

“The COBRA training facility was out of this world,” said John Williamson, a firefighter and emergency medical technician from Ohio. “This was the best training I have ever had in my 20 years of serving in the public safety field.”

“We don’t just teach from a manual,” said Mellione Richards, course manager for three core courses involving hazardous materials. To coin a phrase, the students ‘train like they fight’, using the proper equipment and procedures. Times are changing and our students want this training in order to be more prepared and to save lives.”

Although practical application with toxic agents is a highlight of some courses, classroom instruction offers expert advice from instructors and students alike who have served on the frontlines day after day in hometown America. The CDP uses the latest techniques and procedures and some of the best equipment available during the instruction.

Instructors at the CDP each have a minimum of 10 years of required emergency responder experience before they are even considered for a position. Each instructor is carefully selected, based on experience, knowledge of the national response elements, and ability to teach.

“We want to make sure our emergency responders who train here have all they need to protect their communities and feel confident and prepared,” said Richards. “It’s a matter of life and death and our instructors understand the world we live in. We all want the nation’s emergency responders to have the capability to protect their cities, counties and communities.”

The cost to attend CDP training courses is minimal for qualified responders, as the Department of Homeland Security picks up the tab for travel, meals, and lodging. The devotion of time and attention is asked in return.

“During my career, I have attended over 50 advanced police-related training courses and this was the best presented,” said Sgt. Frank Nunez, a CDP student, from the Orlando, Florida Police Department. “The staff was superb in presenting the material and also ensured every student understood what was presented.”

The CDP provides America’s emergency responders with skills for response to potential terrorism, making America a safer place. Preparing a nation capable of protecting itself and responding to critical emergencies are among the many accomplishments realized each week at the Alabama training center.

To learn more about the Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit or call 866-213-9553.

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