U of M simulation training helps first responders deal with nerve agent exposure

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A $3.4 million grant for the University of Minnesota’s SimPORTAL will fund a new research project designed to develop an optimal training protocol for military first responders that could also be used for civilian emergency personnel who may be called to a mass casualty site in the wake of nerve agent exposure.

The project provides participating first responders with state-of-the-art training for recognizing the signs of nerve agent exposure, as well as the knowledge and skills necessary to provide exposed patients with accurate clinical treatment.

“With the recent activities in Syria, the use of chemical weapons has generated increased attention globally,” said Pamela Andreatta, Ed.D., an associate professor at SimPORTAL  and lead investigator of the latest project. “Training our first responders to treat nerve agent exposure as soon as possible, meaning before transport, and equipping them with the treatment kits needed to do so, will go a long way towards defending against the same type of mass casualties that are occurring in Syria if a chemical weapon is deployed domestically.”

With the help of this research project, the U.S. military is taking steps to assure that all military personnel receive the best training possible for managing the potential occurrence of a mass casualty chemical exposure. This will serve our military personnel and the civilian populations in which they are deployed.

Civilian first responders in the Twin Cities are voluntarily participating in the research that will determine the best training methods and will be trained to the same standard as the U.S. military in the event of a chemical casualty situation. 

“We believe this training provides a unique opportunity for civilian first responders to learn and practice the types of clinical treatments that no one hopes they will ever need, but in the event they do, they will have the training and confidence to know how to take action and help others,” said Andreatta.

The grant was made possible by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Command with a special recognition to the City of Plymouth Fire Department for being a partner in implementing the project.