FAIRBORN, Ohio -- The National Center for Medical Readiness at Calamityville became fully operational this week with the launch of the site's first training course and first technical training zone.
About 20 U.S. Air Force medics and civilian paramedics participated in the inaugural three-day course, which on Friday required a number of them to wade through waist-high water to rescue trapped passengers drowning in a rolled-over, submerged armored vehicle.
"Our vision here for training is preparing the health care professional for their worst day," said James Gruenberg, Calamityville's deputy director.
Calamityville is a 54-acre site operated by Wright State University at the former CE-MEX plant at 506 E. Xenia Ave. for the training of military and civilian medical personnel in disaster response.
The facility has a projected economic impact of $374 million over a five-year period for the Dayton region, said Stephanie Gottschlich, a spokeswoman for the Wright State Research Institute.
Calamityville in recent months has hired four new full-time staff members, including a former Federal Emergency Management Agency official, with expertise in course development in austere medicine, training delivery systems, and working with federal and state agencies.
Calamity plans to develop a catalog of 45 courses at varying levels of intensity that will be offered on a continual basis.
"We are moving toward training every week of the year as the seasons allow," Gottschlich said.
Additional courses are planned to launch as early as January, she said.
The Sustained Austere Medical Interventions: Complex Vehicles course that launched this week exposed emergency responders to extreme environments and harsh conditions without their normal resources.
"It is a very intense experience for the health care provider, which is really rare and unique," Gruenberg said. "This is not being done around the country to this extent," he said.
The Complex Vehicles area is the first of eight planned training zones. In addition to the submerged Humvee, it also features an overturned school bus perched on the side of a hill, and heavy duty industrial construction vehicles.
The training zone was created for less than $1,000 using donated surplus military vehicles, "which is wise use of taxpayer money," Gruenberg said. "We are trying to be frugal, but at the same time, effective."
Wright State is a public university supported by state of Ohio funds.
Other planned training zones to support Calamityville courses will include an underground confined-space maze, a small airplane crashed into a building, an earthquake village and a hazardous materials scenario.
Friday's training exercise required the medics provide advanced life-saving procedures on two patients trapped in an armored vehicle on its side in a simulated irrigation ditch.
Military troops driving in convoys at night in combat zones often risk running into roadside irrigation ditches, which brings related drowning hazards, Gruenberg said.
Tim Harshman, a paramedic lieutenant for Greenville Twp. Rescue, said the course provided "invaluable" training.
"We run with an ambulance full of supplies," Harshman said. "Out there they give you one pack and you survive on it for maybe a day or two days, until help can arrive in a big disaster like the Xenia tornado."
Gruenberg said pairing military and civilian first responders teaches them how to work with one another. Civilian paramedics are exposed to advanced combat casualty care used in war zones, while military medics learn the methods and equipment used by their civilian counterparts.
Calamityville opened in March 2011, but required clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency to become fully operational.
Gruenberg said all physical environmental cleanup of the site has been completed. "Now we are going through the administrative process with the state to get the appropriate sign-offs," he said.
Environmental cleanup of the Calamityville site cost $3 million and was paid for by a Clean Ohio Fund grant, Wright State and a federal grant.
Calamityville last month received a $500,000 contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory's 711th Human Performance Wing for training and rehearsal for medical and emergency response, disaster preparedness, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance.
Cubic Defense Applications, the defense systems business of Cubic Corp., recently received a two-year contract to deliver live training services to Calamityville. Instruments supplied by Cubic will strengthen the ability to track personnel and vehicles during training exercises, officials said.