Toxic chemicals? Hazmat suits? Just another day of training for AAMC staff at the Center for Domestic Preparedness.

Toxic chemicals? Hazmat suits? Just another day of training for AAMC staff at the Center for Domestic Preparedness.


One of the only places to relax at the CDP was an area called “The Recovery Zone.” The ceiling tiles had been decorated and signed by various people and organizations from around the country. I knew this was something that I had to do!

Preparing for the future can be a scary and daunting task. However, not being prepared can be far more terrifying. 

Recently, I joined fellow AAMC employees Patty Sherman, Emergency Management Coordinator, Mark Page, Ortho Tech, Denise Matteson, Clinical Educator, Edwards Surgical Pavilion, and Jennifer Harrington, Vice President for Support and Clinical Services, at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama, where we learned how to manage mass casualty incidents.   

The CDP is the only congressionally-chartered Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) training center open to civilians. It operates the nation’s only toxic chemical agent training facility and has a fully scoped hospital used for training mass casualty incident management to healthcare and public health professionals.

Out of a total of 240 emergency responders, a total of 130 from the state of Maryland participated at this particular training event. Leading the final exercise on Friday was the Baltimore Regional Incident Management Team (IMT) — including emergency management, healthcare, fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical services and hazardous materials. During the week we networked with those various disciplines and learned what their role would be in a disaster situation and how we could collaborate with each other.

Mark, Denise and I were in the Hospital Emergency Response Training, and what we learned was invaluable: we were taught how to don and work in higher level Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), how to set up the tents that we would use for decontamination, the triaging of mass casualty pateints, and what our roles would be through the various stations. We were then taught how to break down those very same tents and put them back the way that they were found!

We practiced for a few days before we had to do it all on our own during a Capstone event on Friday – and Mother Nature decided to add into the excitement by generating tornado warnings!

This was a trip of a lifetime. I can’t wait to continue my education and training and pass on all the wonderful information we learned back here at AAMC. -Rachel Sienkiewich, RN (Emergency Department)


Left: Mark Page. Right: Jennifer Harrington, Denise Matteson, Patty Sherman, and Rachel Sienkiewich

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