Web-based training on weapons of mass destruction response for emergency medical services personnel


  • Robyn R. M. Gershon, MHS, DrPH
  • Allison N. Canton, BA
  • Lori A. Magda, MA
  • Charles DiMaggio, PhD
  • Dario Gonzalez, MD, FACEP
  • Mitchell W. Dul, OD, MS




training, emergency medical services, triage, weapons of mass destruction, eye injuries


Objective: To develop, implement, and assess a web-based simulation training program for emergency medical services (EMS) personnel on recognition and treatment of ocular injuries resulting from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attacks.
Design: The training program consisted of six modules: WMD knowledge and event detection, ocular anatomy, ocular first aid (ie, flushing, cupping, and patching), and three WMD simulations (ie, sarin gas release, anthrax release, and radioactive dispersal device). Pretest, post-test, and 1-month follow-up test and a program evaluation were used to measure knowledge gain and retention and to assess the effectiveness of the program.
Setting: New York State EMS.
Participants: Four hundred and sixty-four individuals participated in the training program and all waves of the testing (86 percent retention rate).
Main Outcome Variables: The effectiveness of the training intervention was measured using pretest and post-test questionnaires and analyzed using dependent t-tests.
Results: Assessment scores for overall knowledge increased from the pretest (mean < 15.7, standard deviation [SD] = 2.1) to the post-test (mean = 17.8, SD = 1.3), p = 0.001, and from pretest (mean = 15.7, SD = 2.1) to 1-month follow-up test (mean = 16.6, SD = 2.0), p < 0.001. Ninety-two percent of respondents indicated that the program reinforced understanding of WMDs.
Conclusions: This training method provides an effective and low-cost approach to educate and evaluate EMS personnel on emergency treatment of eye trauma associated with the use of WMD. Online training should also be supplemented with hands-on practice and refresher trainings.

Author Biographies

Robyn R. M. Gershon, MHS, DrPH

Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Allison N. Canton, BA

Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Lori A. Magda, MA

Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Charles DiMaggio, PhD

Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Dario Gonzalez, MD, FACEP

Office of Medical Affairs, Fire Department City of New York, New York, New York.

Mitchell W. Dul, OD, MS

Department of Clinical Sciences, SUNY State College of Optometry, New York, New York.


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How to Cite

Gershon, MHS, DrPH, R. R. M., A. N. Canton, BA, L. A. Magda, MA, C. DiMaggio, PhD, D. Gonzalez, MD, FACEP, and M. W. Dul, OD, MS. “Web-Based Training on Weapons of Mass Destruction Response for Emergency Medical Services Personnel”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 4, no. 3, May 2009, pp. 153-61, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2009.0024.




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