Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
NDMS teams have deployed to help communities across the country in the wake of disasters and emergencies. They have served as part of the response following the flooding in Louisiana; Hurricanes Sandy, Ike and Gustov; the earthquake in Haiti, the Joplin MO tornados, and more.
Similar to the military reserves, NDMS employees have regular jobs, but serve on a rotational on-call schedule and deploy as intermittent federal employees when ASPR activates them in an emergency response or as part of a national security special event. Team members must be committed to staying at the disaster site for up to two weeks.
Natural and man-made disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, major transportation accidents, and terrorist attacks – bring an urgent need for health and medical care and catastrophic loss of life. Some of these disasters result in mass casualties and fatalities. When these disasters overwhelm state, local, tribal or territorial resources, health officials may call on NDMS teams to protect health and save lives.
First, NDMS notifies team members that they have been activated. NDMS then arranges for transportation for the teams and meets them at the disaster site with medical equipment and supplies, mobile “field hospital” style tents, and food and water. Teams need to be self-sustaining for 72 hours, since restocking a team can be challenging in the days following a disaster.
Conditions at the disaster site can be very austere. Hospitals, hotels and restaurants may be destroyed. Power and water may be offline in the community. NDMS team members work together through all of these challenges, providing the best possible care in a fast-paced environment.
The details of a deployment vary widely, depending on the nature of the mission, the type of disaster, and the needs of the community. States often will ask ASPR to station NDMS teams in medical tents outside hospitals to help that hospital when emergency care surges after a disaster. They are often deployed with a federal medical station, providing shelter and temporary medical care for people with special medical needs after a disaster.
NDMS works with a network of hospitals across the US that have agreed to accept patients from hospitals in disaster areas requiring patient evacuation. NDMS teams may help triage and prepare patients for transport.
NDMS supports a number of National Special Security Events (NSSEs), such as Presidential Inaugurations and the recent Papal visit. NSSEs are designated by the President or the Secretary of Homeland Security as events that are of national significance. ASPR coordinates and co-leads the planning and execution for public health and medical surge for NSSEs. NDMS teams often play an important role in that plan and they stand ready to serve in case of a disaster or emergency at some of our nation’s largest and most important events.
NDMS teams may provide health and medical support during NSSEs. Since many NSSEs also are supported by police officers – and their dogs or even horses – NDMS may provide veterinary support as well.
Sometimes, the opportunity to deploy conflicts with the personal or professional life of the team members. If this occurs, team members are afforded the opportunity to decline the deployment.
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