Almost all homeland security professionals at all levels of government are required to receive classroom, practicum and on-the-job training. The majority of this instruction has been refined over the years to help homeland security professionals internalize the most essential principles, procedures and practices found within their area of specialty. Trainers and instructors are usually professionals and academics that have had years of hands-on experience or completed a rigorous course of study.
Training programs may be categorized as pre-employment or in-service. Pre-employment training provides familiarity with the most common procedures employed in the day-to-day operations of the profession as well as a conceptual foundation. Orientation with vernacular, equipment and procedures may be provided through several weeks, or even months, of pre-employment instruction.
In-service training serves two purposes:
- To provide advanced knowledge of new concepts and practices developed after initial training
- To renew familiarity with concepts that may have been lost due to lack of use
Most organizations require that homeland security professionals participate in in-service training at regular intervals throughout their careers because this particular field is undergoing such rapid change.
The lead agency for homeland security at the federal level is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This agency mandates training for personnel at all levels of government, as well as for several critical professions in the private sector. The program responsible for coordinating training is the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC). The NDPC consists of a network of training facilities and programs distributed across the country. These include:
- Center for Domestic Preparedness: This agency provides specialized training to local and state emergency responders tasked with Weapons of Mass Destruction incident management and remediation.
- Energetic Materials and Research Testing Center: This facility provides instruction to bomb teams about explosive device neutralization, removal and analysis.
- National Center for Biomedical Research and Training: The NCBRT offers more than 25 courses to emergency medical responders as well as ten online courses.
- National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center: This program delivers the latest information including prevention and response plans regarding WMD incidents.
- Counter Terrorism Operations Support: This facility is the nation’s most highly reputed radiological and nuclear training program.
- Security and Emergency Response Training Center: Students of this program obtain hands-on training in situations involving hazardous materials.
- National Disaster Preparedness Training Center: This program provides instruction to emergency managers responding to natural disasters in coastal and island communities.
While the federal government may provide training guidelines, equipment and other resources, it is often the individual states that create a specific training regimen for homeland security professionals in the state. These programs must often take into account the particular characteristics of the state including population size, major metropolitan areas, potential targets for terrorist attack and vulnerabilities to natural disaster.
Training programs therefore incorporate the same standards of effectiveness that are required throughout the country, but adapt their training procedures to their particular state environment. The more highly populated states like New York and California have much more rigorous training programs with greater diversity of specialties in order to protect their urban centers from a wider variety of potential threats.
These high profile states must also devote more resources to particular industries that present an attractive target to terrorists. In order to train the homeland security professionals in key industries like nuclear power, airlines, or food production, most states have developed industry-specific training programs. State governments work closely with the consultants and industry professionals that have the greatest understanding of their sector to identify key facilities and sites that require enhanced protections, then they implement specialized training programs for professionals monitoring and guarding them.
At the grassroots level, homeland security professionals must be constantly aware of the latest threats. Law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians and security professionals must possess the training necessary to recognize hazardous materials and suspicious behavior that could threaten their communities.
The training that is provided to these front line professionals is often found through their employers, which are usually municipal and county government agencies. Many of these local governments require their employees to complete industry association training programs, take courses offered by local schools or study materials provided by federal agencies like DHS or the Federal Emergency Management Association.
For most homeland security professionals working at the city or county level, it is vital to attend in-service training, where they may obtain knowledge of the latest threats from terrorist groups.