Ariz. paramedic students receive FEMA certification after week-long exercise

Fifteen Northland Pioneer College (NPC) paramedic students recently received FEMA certification to treat patients exposed to biological, chemical or radiological agents.

The students traveled from Arizona to Anniston, Ala., to participate in a week of training hosted by FEMA at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), WMIcentral.com reports.

The paramedics represented 12 regional fire and emergency medical agencies in Northeastern Arizona. They were joined by other local first responders and medical professionals in the training, according to WMIcentral.com.

Paramedics and EMTs primarily focused on how to work within hazardous environments, while hospital staff were trained to respond in the event of a serious attack. Both groups participated in a simulated attack on the final day at the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological Training Facility, the only place in the country for civilians to participate in exercises using real chemical agents.

The exercise used actors to exhibit symptoms of exposure to certain biological or chemical agents.

"Having the role players here during the exercise is fantastic," NPC instructor Brian Gardner said, WMIcentral.com reports. "When you are trying to make believe in any other environment, it's hard for students to be engaged. The more life-like it is, the easier it is for students to push themselves and make an effort."

The CDP is federally-funded, and provides interdisciplinary terrorism response training to first responders around the U.S. There are currently 11 million emergency responders in the country, according to WMIcentral.com.