By Ted Waddell
WOODBOURNE May 23, 2006 A hurricane can really ruin your day.
As the 2006 hurricane season approaches and the nation remembers the Hurricane Katrina debacle, Metro NY-2 DMAT, New York State's only Type-1 Disaster Medical Response Team (DMAT), geared up by staging a two-day simulated hurricane-type scenario at the Woodbourne Volunteer Fire Department's firemen's field during the weekend of May 20-21.
"As one of the first responding teams to Hurricane Katrina, this team knows firsthand that hurricanes present their own unique set of medical and logistic challenges," said David T. Diamond, NY-2 DMAT commander.
"We want to have our people and our equipment prepared to go prior to the start of the [hurricane] season," he added. "These field training exercises give us the chance to work the bugs out before we're called to natural disasters or any other catastrophic situation."
Diamond said Metro NY-2 DMAT turns out for several training exercises every year, "so we act as a cohesive group, because we depend on each other."
The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), under the direction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), fosters the development of volunteer DMATs, which are groups of dedicated professional and paraprofessional medical personnel.
DMATs are supported by a cadre of logistical and administrative staff and are designed to provide emergency medical care in the event of a disaster.
They are primarily designed as a community resource available to support state, regional and/or local authorities but also as a designated federal emergency resource can be federalized to provide interstate assistance.
Since it was established, Metro NY-2 DMAT has responded to seven hurricanes, beginning with Hurricane Lenny that struck North Carolina and, most recently, Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The year 2001 was a busy one for NY-2 DMAT: the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11; the the postal systems anthrax scare; and the American Airlines Flight 587 crash in November.
NY-2 DMAT, a Type-1 team, is comprised of more than 190 members, including a who's who list of medical personnel: physicians (27), physicians assistants (11), nurse practitioners (2), nurses (35), pharmacists (6), respiratory therapists (2), paramedics (40), EMTs (60), communication specialists (2), support staff (5) and an administrator.
It is sponsored by the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.
DMATs deploy to disaster sites with enough equipment and supplies to be self-sufficient in the field for 72 hours while providing medical care at a fixed or temporary site.
In mass casualty incidents, responsibilities include triaging patients, providing austere medical care and preparing patients for evacuation.
In other emergency response scenarios, DMATs provide primary health care and/or may be called upon to augment overloaded local health care facilities.
DMATs are categorized according to their ability to respond to natural or manmade disasters.
A Type-1 DMAT is set up to deploy within six hours of notification and then remain on their own for up to 72 hours with sufficient food, water, shelter and medical supplies to treat about 200 patients every day.
Type-2 DMATs lack the equipment to make them self-sufficient but are able to deploy and replace a Type-1 team, utilizing and supplementing equipment left on-site.
Type-3 DMATs consist of teams under development.
Four county residents serve as members of Metro NY-2 DMAT: Greg and Catherine Tavormina of the Woodbourne VFD First Aid Squad; Paula Hubert-Vooght of the Jeffersonville squad; and regional EMS paramedic Michael Murphy.
"As part of the National Disaster Medical System, we train to make sure we're ready for any kind of disaster that comes our way," said Juan Acosta, Metro NY-2 DMAT's deputy commander and director of emergency medical residency at St. Barnabas Hospital in NYC.