USD Students Prepare for the Worst with Annual Disaster Training

Photo of Disaster Day. USD students learn valuable life-saving skills at the annual Disaster Day Training event.

VERMILLION, S.D. – More than 400 students from the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University learned valuable life-saving skills as part of an annual disaster training program hosted at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.

The interprofessional training is a joint venture with the USD Sanford School of Medicine, the USD School of Health Sciences, the South Dakota Department of Health, and the Yankton Rural Area Health Education Center that was started in 2001.

During the course of the day students will learn Core Disaster Life Support curriculum from the National Disaster Life Support Foundation. This training will be supplemented with rotation stations where students learn about responding to anaphylaxis, emergency medicine for children, injections, personal preparedness, point of dispensing, and triage.

Dr. Matthew Owens, a family practice physician in Redfield, South Dakota, who was one of the initial organizers of the event in 2001, said USD is one of the only universities in the United States that does such training on a wide scale with multiple disciplines.

"There are some schools that will do some disaster training every now and again," he said. "Some of the larger emergency medical residencies do have disaster training.  But our program at USD is unique because we offer this annual training to students in their formative years of medical school and also to students during their educational experiences in different health professional programs and disciplines like occupational and physical therapy, nursing and others. We also train students not only from USD, but those who are in health programs at colleges and universities elsewhere in South Dakota. This is truly an effort to provide disaster assistance and preparedness to the entire state of South Dakota."

Clay and Yankton County Emergency Management staff will also be on site for “Rapid Tag registration” of students on the day of the event. This activity will simulate the check in process that would take place for anyone reporting to assist in a disaster in South Dakota.

Bill Chalcraft, the Administrator of the South Dakota Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response said the training helps prepare the state to deal with the aftermath of a large-scale disaster.

“Our primary goal is to have the ability to augment the existing health and medical workforce with skilled workers that may be called upon during disasters, specifically in situations where the workforce is severely diminished due to illness or death or overwhelmed due to the volume of people requiring treatment,” he said. “A secondary goal is to instill preparedness knowledge and skills in our health and medical students that they can take with them into professional practice.”


USD's Sanford School of Medicine is nationally known for excellence. With its award-winning curriculum, the school prepares medical students to practice in all fields of medicine and is particularly recognized and ranked for its reputation in family medicine and rural medicine. In addition to the M.D., it offers graduate degrees in basic biomedical science, sustains a vibrant and forward-looking research agenda, and is home to the interdisciplinary Center for Brain and Behavioral Research.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News