Boone County fire officials train Chinese epidemiologists

Friday, June 6, 2008 | 7:12 p.m. CDT; updated 3:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Steve Paulsell, Boone County Fire District chief, and Assistant Chief Scott Olsen, accompanied by a representative of the Centers for Disease Control and the State Fire Marshal’s office, travelled to China at the end of May to instruct Chinese epidemiologists on the emergency management systems used in the United States.

Paulsell, Olsen and Sherril Gladney, state fire mutual aid coordinator, conducted one week of disaster management training, according to a news release from the district. The trip, which lasted 12 days, was sponsored by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and the Chinese Field Epidemiology Training Program.

Between 40 and 50 Chinese epidemiologists attended the training, which included reenactments of recent tragedies in the U.S., namely the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, Hurricane Katrina, the Columbine school shooting and the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse, Paulsell said. Expected attendance at the training was cut in half by the recent earthquakes in Sichuan province, which has required heavy deployment of epidemiologists and emergency management personnel.

Training was not focused on the upcoming Olympics in Beijing but could be applied to a variety of possible biological, chemical and nuclear disasters.

“Rather than just make something up about an attack on the Olympics, we went back to examples from the U.S.,” Paulsell said.

Paulsell and Olsen took vacation time from their jobs at the fire district for the trip, which was independently funded. According to Paulsell, he was paid a small amount for the training.

“I was paid a little bit, but that’s not the public’s business,” he said.

The attendees, most of whom had bachelor’s or master’s degrees, “were really appreciative of what we were doing for them,” Paulsell said.

According to Paulsell, several attendees were about to deploy to the Sichuan province this week to combat the biological hazards that followed the earthquakes.

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