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NH hospital personnel to train for disasters

A team of 50 administrators, doctors and emergency technicians affiliated with hospitals across New Hampshire are traveling to Alabama today to take part in a weeklong training session in disaster response.The group is scheduled to fly out of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport this morning, headed for five days of classes and presentations, culminating in a full-scale disaster response simulation at a former military hospital. Participants include staffers from Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, Parkland Medical Center in Derry, Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Lakes Region General Hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, Concord Hospital and others.The trip is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and is part of the work being done in New Hampshire for the Hospital Preparedness Program. Coordination of this effort is part of an ongoing partnership between the New Hampshire Hospital Association (NHHA), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Safety."It's a unique situation," said Capt. Bob Pragoff of the state's Department of Safety, Division of Fire Standards & Training and EMS, who helped organize this week's training session. "We've sent individuals down to Alabama before for training sessions, but a group of this size, all traveling, learning and training together, this is the first time we've done anything like this."The classes, held at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, focus on response at the operational level and decision-making and incident command at the managerial level.

"We already have built a strong coalition of hospital emergency preparedness here in New Hampshire, but training together at this level will be of immeasurable value to our increased readiness statewide," said Deborah Yeager, director of Emergency Preparedness at NHHA, who will join in the training. "We work in partnership to respond to events that come our way, so this training will further strengthen the depth of our common knowledge and experience."At the end of the week, participants will take part in a full-scale disaster response exercise.

"You are only as good as what you drill for," said Ray Leblanc, emergency preparedness and safety coordinator at Exeter Hospital."A few years ago, we came back from training about a week before the H1N1 outbreak," said Mike Melody, director of safety and emergency preparedness at Concord Hospital. "Completely on the fly, we remodeled our incident command center to be like the one we trained in. We smoothly transitioned into crisis response mode.''The group will attend training sessions on hospital emergency response training and health care leadership during mass casualty incidents. The cost of the training, and all travel expenses associated with attending a session, is covered by FEMA.

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