More than 50 healthcare professionals and trainers with the National Disaster Medical System trained at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness recently. The NDMS employed Disaster Medical Assistance Teams from 10 different states to attend the pilot fundamentals course.
“We have 8,000 employees combined into 86 response teams around the country,” said Dr. Andrew Garrett, a physician and director of the NDMS. “Our overall mission for DMATs is to support communities with medical care after a disaster. We have collaboratively developed and are testing a workable mode for training and the CDP provides the perfect location for us to do so. I think we are close to having a turnkey solution to executing a modern and effective training strategy that will serve NDMS and the public very well.”
The goal of the training is to develop capability and consistency within the teams. DMAT teams are located across the United States, so training all of them presents some logistical challenges. Offering a unified training course, attended by multiple professionals from multiple regions will establish an effective, reproducible training standard.
“This is the first baseline course that will prevent 80 different training programs,” said Lou DeGilio, NDMS section chief for training. “It is important we have one national, accredited training program we can validate.”
The NDMS is charged with augmenting the nation’s medical response in support of state and local authorities. To accomplish its mission DMATs have been formed across the U.S. and consists of professional medical personnel, supported by logistics and administrative teams. A major mission of the DMAT teams is to support healthcare facilities during a disaster or other event that overwhelms operations.
“This course is a huge asset to us,” said Keith Lindsay, commander of the Massachusetts-1 DMAT team. “NDMS provides great patient care and learning one standard with the equipment we will deploy with is critical. The different teams we have here are finding one way to operate and are working together as one unit, not 10 different units.”
“The CDP understands our needs and offers a mechanism and facility to train in a single location,” said Garrett. “We also aren’t contracting out a facility, and that saves federal dollars and achieves critical readiness goals.”
“The training here this week is realistic,” stated George Watson, from the Alabama -3 DMAT team. “Normally we train with our regional teams, but during a large deployment we will function with teams from different regions. This is very real, and everyone is learning, especially the new members here, that they may not always deploy with their home team. They are going to have to work together for a common goal.”
The CDP provided classrooms, infrastructure, and field sites to accomplish the NDMS training goal. The NDMS medical personnel were introduced to a realistic training scenario using role players and sophisticated computerized patient simulators.
“This is important to the citizens of our nation,” said Gary Kruschke, commander of the Florida -1 DMAT. “If a disaster causes a hospital overload someone has to care for the citizens and that is exactly what we do. To be prepared we need this training to uncover our strengths and weaknesses.”
The NDMS is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Teams consist of physicians, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, fire fighters, and other emergency response disciplines that would deploy and provide medical care. The CDP training is the result of an agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services.