Environmental health practitioners may perform critical functions during emergency response and recovery, such as conducting shelter assessments, testing drinking water supplies, performing food safety inspections, and controlling disease-causing vectors.

To help them perform those tasks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a course called, Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response (EHTER).

“EHTER helps prepare environmental health practitioners and other emergency response personnel by providing them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to address the environmental health impacts of emergencies and disasters,” says the CDC.

Participants are required to demonstrate real-world application of the concepts and information learned, improving response and recovery capacities during actual emergencies and disasters such as power outages, a train derailment with release of hazardous materials, tornadoes, and wildfires.

The EHTER courses may be taken in person or online.

EHTER Operations Level (in person) – This new course trains participants to identify problems, hazards, and risks; plan for team response; select appropriate equipment and instrumentation; perform required tasks using environmental health response protocols; and report and participate in follow-up activities as instructed. Most of the course involves hands-on operation practice and response to simulated events. This in-person course is available through a partnership with FEMA (at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama). FEMA covers all training costs (travel, lodging, and meals) for state, local, and tribal responders taking the course. 

EHTER Awareness Level (online) – This awareness level course addresses key environmental health issues and challenges for emergency response and recovery, including disaster management, responder safety and health, safe water, food safety, wastewater management and disposal, building assessment, vectors and pests, solid waste and debris, shelter assessment and sanitation, and radiation. A revamped introductory course developed by CDC and FEMA will be available later this spring through FEMA’s Independent Study Program.

Before EHTER – which is the result of a collaboration between the CDC’s Environmental Health Services Branch (EHSB) and its federal, state, and local public health and environmental health partners -- there was no national, comprehensive, standardized education and training program in this area.

Geoffrey Snyder, Environmental Health Director in Madison County, New York, said the EHTER course helped him during the CSX train derailment in Madison County on March 12, 2007. The incident “served as a prime example of why we need to be prepared for such emergencies.” Snyder said.

Learn more about EHTER in:

Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Joplin, Missouri,


Tunisia, and

The Caribbean.

The CDC is also working with the International Federation of Environmental Health to develop and deliver EHTER-based courses and workshops internationally. For more information, please visit http://www.ifeh.org/ehdm/index.html.

Additional Information

EHTER Awareness Course

EHTER Operations Course

Emergency and Terrorism Preparedness for Environmental Health Practitioners

NCEH Prepares Environmental Health Workers for Emergency Response