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CTOS conducts performance-based training through resident courses at the NNSS or by mobile training teams (MTT) at local jurisdictions preparing responders to take immediate, decisive action in preventing or responding to terrorist use of a radiological/nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).


With the exception of awareness-level and online courses, all courses deliver performance-based training, using actual radioactive material. Radioactive sources and classroom activities are controlled and doses to students are monitored to ensure minimal potential dose to class participants (lower than a chest X-ray or a typical round-trip airline flight across the U.S.). However, radiation levels are sufficient to practice techniques needed in a real incident involving much higher levels. All attendees operate radiation detection and measurement instruments throughout each performance-based course.

Attendees practice with radioactive material in the classroom and during drills and exercise scenarios. Each CTOS course has been approved for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 0.1 CEU is offered per contact hour of instruction. CEUs assigned to the courses help the response community maintain their rigorous professional requirements/educational demands.

Prevention Mission Training

The prevention mission is designed to improve the nation’s capability to detect and assess unauthorized attempts to import, possess, store, develop, or transport nuclear or radiological material for use against the nation. Training provided by CTOS is designed to provide first responders with the capability to perform the functions required to fulfill the mission. The primary target audience is the law enforcement community, with the objective of providing them the necessary knowledge and skills to properly employ the varied radiation detection equipment products used in detecting a radiological or nuclear device before it has a chance to be used during a terror incident. The CTOS prevention mission training supports several federally funded regionally executed initiatives and follow-on exercises involving state, local, and tribal jurisdictions and agencies. The prevention curriculum teaches responders to detect and locate the presence of radiation and radiological material, use radiological/nuclear material recognition factors to assist in assessing situations, and utilize technical reachback assistance, via telephone and email, to evaluate instrumentreadings.



Response Mission Training

By providing four tiers of response-level training, first responders progressively learn radiological/nuclear response tasks starting with the Awareness Level, continuing with the Operations Level, Technical Level, and Management and Planning.

  1. Awareness-Level Training is for personnel who, in the course of their normal duties, could encounter an emergency involving radiological/nuclear materials/WMDs and are expected to recognize its presence, protect themselves, call for trained personnel, and secure the scene. The Awareness course focuses on the basics of radiation, possible health effects, hazard identification, proper notification procedures, and the radiological/nuclear threat. Awareness-level courses are also available online as well as through indirect instructor-ledinstruction from responders that have completed an Awareness Train-the-Trainer program.

  2. Operations-Level Training includes both core competencies and mission-specific training for Operations level responders regarding radiological/nuclear WMD incidents. Responders experience hands-on training with radiation sources while learning the basic operation of radiation survey meters and dosimeters. Attendees conduct radiological surveys of personnel, vehicles, facilities, and outdoor areas. Attendees also learn fundamental tenants of contamination protection based on the radioactive threat, perform radiological decontamination, and perform life-saving rescue operations. Operations- level courses are delivered via MTT at the agencies’ jurisdiction.

  3. Technician-Level Training builds on the knowledge and skills developed during the Awareness and Operations level courses. The WMD Radiological/Nuclear Course for Hazardous Materials Technicians provides the attendees additional hands-on experience with elevated radiation fields and includes operational considerations for working in high radiation areas, limiting responder radiation doses, and rescuing contaminated victims. Attendees form operational teams to participate in realistic drills involving the probable terrorist use of radiological material. The course culminates with a final exercise. Technician-level training is conducted at the NNSS.

  4. Command-Level courses are designed for managers who build plans and coordinate the response to high consequence radiological/nuclear events. CTOS is currently developing course materials that will train key leaders in the first-responder communities how to deal with a catastrophic nuclear detonation. When combined with the current curriculum, training for key leaders will enhance the nation’s ability to respond to a radiological or nuclear WMD.



Target Audience

  • State and Local First Responders
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Management Agency
  • Fire Service
  • Government Administrative
  • Hazardous Materials Personnel
  • Law Enforcement
  • Healthcare
  • Public Health
  • Public Safety Communications
  • Public Works
  • Other skilled support personnel
    who provide immediate
    support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations

Training is provided at no cost to eligible participants


U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA/NPD funding is used for: developing and delivering courses, transportation, food, and housing for students attending residence courses.


In recent years, over 13,000 First Responders trained annually.

All CTOS courses are subject to a DHS certification process that utilizes third-party subject matter experts to validate the content of the course materials and ensure that the lessons are meeting industry standards and regulations. In addition to all courses undergoing certification, all CTOS instructors must complete the DHS and NDPC Instructor Certification Programs. Instructors all possess both DHS and NDPC Instructor Certifications, which provides CTOS with a consistent approach to ensuring only highly skilled instructors with both field and classroom experience deliver DHS-sponsored training.