Waxahachie Daily Light
by Kelsey Poynor
September 28, 2016
WAXAHACHIE — Navarro College is now the first and only college in the State of Texas to offer first responders FEMA training courses for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive [CBRNE] incidents.
Navarro College instructor, Billy Whitson, along with 14 Navarro College Paramedic students, visited the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama, where they received week-long FEMA training course, July 17-23.
Whitson is a three-year CBRNE Instructor, teaching emergency medical operations, at the same center in Alabama.
“There are several national schools for first responders and there are four live agent training schools. Where I teach in Alabama, we practice live chemical and biological response. Our students get to work with live agents such as mustard gas, sarin gas, anthrax and ricin,” Whitson explained.
As well as a CBRNE Instructor, Whitson is a Navarro College instructor for hazmat training in the fire academy and paramedic school.
“I am also a firefighter Richardson. I specialize in chemical and biological warfare as a hazmat technician for the city of Richardson. I started teaching paramedic school at Navarro four years ago as a part-time job. With teaching in Alabama and here we were able to work this program out for our students,” Whitson said.
He explained that giving these students this training boosted students confidence.
“If take a student into an environment that was totally encapsulated in chemicals and let them start testing on a live agent, it gives them a certain level of confidence in their performance. They believe that they can really do this if it were to happen,” Whitson said.
The training facility is located at Fort Mcclellan in Anniston, Alabama.
“It is where the US Army manufactured CBRNE products. After the 1966 Peace Treaty, chemical warfare was outlawed leaving this huge facility where they were training soldiers response to these nerve agents. That’s where the idea of training firefighters, police officers, and paramedics here because they will be the first ones on a scene,” Whitson said.
During emergency medical operations for a mass casualty, paramedics must use the triage, treatment and transport system which is three step system in which first responders follow when accessing the damage of a situation.
According to Fireengineering.com, “the word triage was originally used on the battlefield and is now the word for the management of mass casualties that determine the priority order in which patients will receive medical care.”
Once the triage step is complete, responders can begin treatment and transportation.
“In a CBRNE incident, because a patient is contaminated with a chemical or biological matter, decontamination must take place. We usually work in a patient’s decontamination between the triage and treatment,” Whitson explained. “If you had to treat that patient, you can’t do it in a chemical protective suit. Therefore, you have to clean the patient so they can be treated by a responder in their regular uniform. That’s what we teach and what we do.”
After a Monday through Thursday training course, Whitson’s students had the opportunity to experience situations in which live agents were present.
“They visited the Cobra Facility where they got to work with anthrax and sarin gas,” Whitson said.
Whitson also noted that this will now be an annual training in which paramedics from Navarro College with attend.
“The curriculum of the class itself is coordinated through Jacksonville State University, so students receive college credit for it as well. We would like to take our operations week here and plan it to be there,” Whitson said.
Whitson said that the equipment and experiences the students get to use are phenomenal.
“There are 400 dummies with injuries, and a student delivered a dummy baby. They bring real amputees and make it as if their arm was just exploded off and it’s just amazing resources. We couldn’t do that here,” Whitson said.
Navarro students who attended the training, Hope Gonzales, Kelly Sisneros and Kaitlyn Griffith all described the training experience as amazing. The three students will all graduate from the Navarro College Paramedic School in March of 2017.
“Within this field, I believe we all needed that training and it opened our eyes completely to things we didn’t see before,” Gonzales said. “Being aware of the situation and environment I’m working in and knowing how to handle situations from the perspective I had before the trip versus now, has made me feel much more prepared.”
As a first aid and EMT for the Globe Life Park in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers, Sisneros has already implemented some of her training.
“We learned so much and I’ve already used so much of the knowledge I gained there on mass casualties and hazardous material events at work to start implementing new plans in case something happens at work,” Sisneros said. “I told them about my trip and explained to them what I learned and since there are 40,000 people at the stadium at any given time. I was able to figure out their emergency plan and then tell them what I learned to incorporate into their plan.”
Sisneros and Gonzalez both shared how they aspire to a career as a firefighter paramedic. Griffith, on the other hand, has a different plan.
“I am going to work as a paramedic for a while after graduation and try to bridge into nursing. I want to be a flight nurse or labor and delivery nurse,” Griffith said.
She as well had all good things to say about her time at training.
“I feel like I can take away so much from the experience. From the way we communicate to managing high-stress situations, while also taking into consideration the safety aspects of Emergency Medical Response,” Griffith said. “I felt like the instructors were top of the line and did such an amazing job conveying what they needed to help us as responders understand better.”
Whitson told that he has heard many students claim that the training that is offered is the best training they have yet to receive.
“Eric Keller went as a student in the class. He was then trained to teach the course and is now an instructor here,” Whitson said. “You can’t find that training just anywhere. Until a student actually goes and works in a real live agent situation, they won’t have that real experience.”
SOURCE: Waxahachie Daily Light