A $4.5 million federal grant to Medical College of Georgia could turn 24,000 front-line providers in Georgia into a disaster response force.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., announced the "massive" grant in a press release Wednesday. It will further efforts under way at the Center for Operational Medicine at MCG to train more first-responders throughout the state. Earlier this month, the center received nearly $400,000 from the state to teach disaster life support courses in all eight Georgia Emergency Management Agency districts.
"It's a giant step forward toward fulfilling our original vision for the Center for Operational Medicine, and when it's coupled with state funding that the center has also received for health professional training, it really will bring Georgia to be among the best prepared states in the nation," MCG President Daniel W. Rahn said.
The three-year grant will support training on several levels, with some basic disaster training being done through Web-based programs, said Phillip Coule, the director of the center at MCG.
The training is intended for nearly everyone who would have to respond to a disaster, said Richard Schwartz, the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at MCG, which houses the center, and a principal investigator on the grant.
"There's still a large number of untrained people out there, and our intent is really to make Georgia the best prepared state in the nation for disaster preparedness," Dr. Schwartz said. "That's the intent, to try to get as many of the physicians, nurses, paramedics, EMTs trained across the state as possible."
Some of it might only involve teaching all of the elements of disaster preparedness and response, Dr. Coule said.
"If you look at the recent events in New Orleans, you see every one of those aspects of that" preparedness, he said. "If you could fix all of them, you wouldn't have had a problem."
While the grant is meant to prepare for bioterrorism response, the training teaches principles that apply to all disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, Dr. Schwartz said.
"Recent events have shown that natural disasters can be every bit as or even more devastating than man-made disasters," he said.
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