In fall 2017, San Diego County, with assistance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), presented three sessions of the Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response Operations (EHTER Ops) course in a novel 2-day version. Until then, EHTER Ops had been offered exclusively at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama, as a 4-day resident course. EHTER Ops is a course that prepares participants to assess disaster-related environmental health conditions and perform tasks in a hands-on and field team focused approach. The course emphasizes the use of field equipment and instrumentation, including personal protective equipment (PPE), under disaster conditions. EHTER Ops is a companion to the EHTER Awareness Level course.
California has a decade of experience with the EHTER Awareness Level course. A 2-day, state-specific version of EHTER Awareness has been provided through a partnership between CDPH and host counties since 2008. To date, nearly 2,000 environmental health and other responders have been trained through 36 EHTER Awareness sessions. Success of the California EHTER Awareness Level course is due to a large registered environmental health specialist (REHS) workforce who have been eager for this type of training. Nationwide, thousands of environmental health professionals and other responders have successfully completed EHTER Awareness and Operations Level courses through various delivery mechanisms (i.e., resident/classroom-based, independent study/online trainings) offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FEMA/CDP
A California version of EHTER Ops began taking shape in summer 2017 when CDPH arranged for more than two dozen state agency and local jurisdiction representatives to attend a CDP train-the-trainer version of the course. That cohort included San Diego County Department of Environmental Health representatives who had already incorporated EHTER Awareness Level course concepts into their staff development program. After the train-the trainer experience and many months of planning, three 2-day EHTER Ops pilot sessions were presented in October 2017 using an earthquake as the disaster scenario.
Some adjustments and innovations were made to the original EHTER Ops format: less time in the classroom, more time with equipment at skill building stations (Photo 1), the addition of a departmental operations center that...