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This image shows emergency vehicles in a response situation.

Preparedness training and education cover a huge breadth of topic areas, ranging from hazardous materials incident response to crisis communications message development to Emergency Operations Center planning to shelter management protocols.  In general, training pertains to courses or activities that teach a particular skill, while education refers to an in-depth pursuit of knowledge and understanding of a given topic.

The Emergency Management Institute educational system divides all training topics into four principle levels of training: fundamental, specialized, administrative, and strategic. Other training systems, such as the National Training and Education Division, divide trainings into three mission areas: prevent, protect, and respond.  Still other training systems may use Core Capabilities (formerly Target Capabilities List) to organize training topics.  According to the Presidential Policy Directive 8, Core Capabilities will be defined in the forthcoming National Preparedness Goal.

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Training and education may be delivered through a variety of methods.

Web-based: Web-based, or online, courses provide the ability to rapidly distribute a variety of course materials and topics to a wide audience at very low or no cost to the student. While the depth of course material that can be covered in an online format is limited, the strengths of an online course include the rapid dissemination of information and the self-paced instruction. For those without internet access, online courses are often also available in a CD format.

Classroom: Classroom courses can be conducted either in residence, meaning at a central training site, or indirectly, meaning at satellite locations using mobile trainers and materials.  Classroom-based courses are often limited in the number of people that they can accommodate at any one time; however, the courses can deliver a deeper insight into the details about a certain topic and students benefit from the interactions among other peers in the classroom setting.

Drills and Exercises: Drills and exercises are the most costly training methods; however, they often deliver the highest dividends in terms of depth of training and experience gleaned by the participants.  Exercises are time- and resource-intensive, often requiring months of planning before execution.  The benefits of exercises come from the ability of participants to gain a hands-on understanding of the area of exercise as well as capitalize on the networking opportunities to increase interoperability and cooperation among agencies.  While a well-executed exercise will always be cost-effective in the long run, exercises can become more financially feasible in the short-term if the burden of planning and resource allocation is distributed among several different coordinated agencies.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) National Preparedness Directorate (NPD) organizes and executes approved course offerings through its National Training and Education Division (NTED).  Three course catalogs, the NTED Course Catalog, the Federal-Sponsored Course Catalog, and the State-Sponsored Course Catalog, provide listings of state- and federal-sponsored courses that fall within the NPD mission scope and have been approved through the NTED Course Review and Approval Process. All NTED-approved courses qualify for support from Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) funds.  For more on funding training and education opportunities, see Where Can I Find Training and How Do I Pay for It? (Section 3).

Several broad categories of additional courses will automatically qualify for support HSGP funds and, as they become identified, will be included in the catalogs of approved training not provided by NTED.  Examples of these broad categories are as follows:

  • All NIMS training approved by the Incident Management Systems Division (IMSD)
  • All Incident Command System (ICS) training offered through the National Fire Academy (NFA) and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI)
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