Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the CDP at McClellan provides the hands-on training that most law-enforcement and emergency-response professions require their personnel to experience before and during their employment.
It provides that training for free, meaning approximately 12,000 law-enforcement and public-safety officials from across the country flock to Anniston each year to participate in the week-long courses.
CDP officials say their facility’s nationwide appeal starts right here in Calhoun County: Over the past three years, more than 1,000 first-responders from various agencies across the county have received specialized training from the CDP.
“It’s a unique opportunity to prepare and simulate potential disasters; this gives us something to draw on and reflect on,” said Christie Shelton, director of Jacksonville State University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.
Shelton and 28 of her nursing students spent most of the day Thursday participating in a CDP lecture course on various types of health care emergencies and how to respond to them. Shelton and her students plan to return to McClellan next month to visit the CDP’s training hospital to observe and participate in a simulated mass-casualty event.
The JSU nursing program is just one of several law-enforcement and emergency-response agencies in Calhoun County which benefits from having the CDP nearby.
Rick Dickson, the CDP’s assistant training director, said that, compared with other communities and states similar in size to Calhoun County and Alabama, the federally funded facility recruits more people locally than anywhere else.
“I think they have taken great advantage of us over the last three years,” said Dickson, who’s worked at the CDP since its inception in 1998.
Officials with county public safety agencies point to the large variety of all-hazards training courses and the CDP’s unique hospital and COBRA facilities that provide real-life simulations of mass-casualty events — not to mention introduction to real chemical nerve agents.
Caleb Dulaney, field operations supervisor for Anniston EMS, said several officers on the EMS disaster response team have participated in those mass-casualty simulations and courses at the CDP.
“It is something we encourage because it is in your backyard,” Dulaney said.
Calhoun County Emergency Management employees spend time each year training at the CDP as a way for the EMA to ensure it’s in compliance with federal emergency-response standards, EMA spokeswoman Marissa Brimer said.
Jacksonville fire Chief Wade Buckner said most of his firefighters receive their emergency training during daily, two-hour, in-house sessions, but he hopes to take advantage of training opportunities available at the CDP sometime in the future.
All Anniston patrol officers, on the other hand, are required to attend the CDP’s training on protest events and riot control at some time during their service. Anniston police Chief Layton McGrady said department administrators have also used the CDP’s management training courses to educate themselves on their roles in a countywide disaster or emergency.
And Calhoun County responders who attend the CDP’s resident, weeklong courses spend those training hours with public safety officials from across the country who come to the McClellan facility each week to benefit from training they can’t get anywhere else, Dickson said.
“It’s important to have this training. I’ve seen a lot of the nation’s best responders come through here and leave with confidence,” he said.
And Brimer said EMA officials and other county responders are lucky to have such a high-level training facility so close to home.
“Absolutely; it’s a great source of training,” she said.
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.