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The Public

Center for Public Health Preparedness

Personal Safety and Health for Emergency Responders

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As a responder, you put yourself in harm’s way in order to help others. Emergencies can occur at any time, often without warning. While rescue and recovery work can be rewarding, response workers are not immune from the physical and psychological toll of disasters.

In order to respond safely, you must be prepared, and train for your response regularly. If you become sick, injured or are ill prepared during a response, you may actually hinder the rescue effort. If you are a volunteer, you have made a commitment to be ready to respond in an emergency. If you are an employee of a health department, hospital, or clinic, this emergency response may be part of your expectations as an employee.

This course will help the emergency responder understand the types of dangers that may be encountered in a disaster setting, as well as the common injuries and other health impacts that can be sustained during an emergency response. This course will also examine various health and safety preparedness measures a responder may take before, during, and after an emergency.


This course is intended for anyone who might be working or volunteering in disaster response and recovery. This includes volunteer responders such as members of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). It also includes staff members of public health departments, hospitals, and community health clinics. A econdary audience might be first responders such as police, firefighters, and EMS.


Estimated time to complete is 1 hour.


Original course launched August 2010. Updated September 2015

Technical Requirements

This course is built to XHTML 1.1 specifications. A modern web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox is required to view the pages.


After completing this course, the learner will be able to:

  • Identify types of hazards that may be encountered at an emergency scene.
  • Describe common injuries that can be sustained during a disaster including physical injuries, chemical exposures, and infectious diseases.
  • Understand the psychological impacts of disasters.
  • Describe how to prepare and protect oneself before, during and after an emergency response.


Free and open to the public.


This course was written by Kristin Murphy, Web-Based Training Coordinator for the University at Albany, Center for Public Health Preparedness, and Susan Jewell from the University at Albany Professional Development Program. The course is based on materials developed by John L. Silvernail, M.D., MPH, Director, Public Health Emergency Epidemiology, New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Communicable Disease Control and Chief Medical Officer, New York Task Force 2, Department of State, Office of Fire Prevention and Control.


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