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KNOXVILLE — Emergency response personnel, government officials and representatives of volunteer organizations in East Tennessee will be among the first to take part in a pilot training program this spring sponsored by the University of Tennessee’s Energy, Environment and Resources Center and the Knox County Health Department.

The National Mass Fatalities Institute, based at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will conduct the program. The dates for the program will be announced later.

The institute was established in 2000 to help communities, businesses, industries, government, and disaster-response agencies prepare for, respond to, and recover from catastrophies that result in large loss of life.

The Mass Fatalities Training Course prepares emergency planners and responders of all disaster-related professions to manage mass-fatality events while providing proper care for the fatalities and survivors.

Sheila Webster, director of EERC’s Technology Research and Development Program, coordinates the training course and oversees development of a student manual.

“This program is part of the university’s ongoing effort to respond to the needs of its surrounding community,” Webster said. “Catastrophic events create severe economic, environmental, and emotional impacts on a community. Training emergency personnel to respond quickly and effectively to mass fatality disasters can significantly help the community recover.”

Knox County Executive Mike Ragsdale said Knox County “is pleased to partner with the university in providing this critical training opportunity to our region and state.”

Though NMFI was established prior to September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks reinforced the importance of efficient response in dealing with mass disasters.

“The events of September 11 emphasize the valuable role first responders and government officials play in coordinating a proper response when massive loss of life occurs,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who raised $400,000 in federal funds to create NMFI.

“Sadly, most Americans and government agencies are not prepared to deal with this problem. The National Mass Fatalities Institute is specifically designed to anticipate and meet these needs,” Grassley said.

The NMFI Web site address is

For information or to register for the training course, contact Sheila Webster by telephone at 865-207-2125, or by e-mail at