Terrorism, chemical accidents and major catastrophes - Notre Dame Med Students train for disaster management

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 2-7-2007

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle

Publication Place



All you need to know about terrorism, chemical and biological disasters and trauma management were topics covered at a recent Disaster Management course held at The University of Notre Dame (UNDA), Fremantle.

The Boxing Day Tsunami was the catalyst for the innovative program completed by medical students at Notre Dame’s School of Medicine recently. Talking about the tragedy on the day after the event over two years ago, Professors Jenny McConnell and Bernard Pearn-Rowe realised how vulnerable Western Australia (WA) was to major disasters, accidents or terrorist threats.

“Perth is the most isolated capital in the world,” said Professor Pearn-Rowe.

“If anything major happened here, it would be at least 24 hours before we could expect help from the eastern states.

“One way of overcoming the result of isolation is to train new doctors in managing disaster medicine. Notre Dame will shortly be graduating about 100 new doctors a year – all of whom will have received some training in the special skill of managing major disasters and able to assist in a catastrophe,” explained Professor Pearn-Rowe.

The first such course was run at the end of June by officers of the Department of Health (DOH) WA. Hazel Harley, Manager of the DOH Disaster Preparedness and Management Unit was very impressed by the speed with which students grasped and used the new skills necessary in the event of a major disaster.

“We were delighted with the response of the medical students to the scenarios we had developed for them, which is how we assess their level of understanding and application of disaster management principles to an actual event,” Ms Harley said.

Together with student doctors, the University hopes to educate student nurses in disaster medicine in future years.