A highly specialized and trained Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) has formed from three rural states (New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine) to provide assistance in the wake of any natural or man-made disaster or national security event.
New Hampshire -1 (NH-1) draws from personnel across New England and is prepared to rapidly deploy and provide on scene medical care or strengthen medical surge capacity for hospital or EMS units in the event of an intentional attack or mass casualty incident in the United States.
NH-1 operates within the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), and is overseen by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The team has staged outside New York City during the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and was deployed to Charlotte, NC during the Democratic National Convention.
Eighteen NH-1 team members were activated with members of Connecticut -1 DMAT within hours after Hurricane Sandy made landfall. The combined teams were the first DMAT assets to arrive in New York. During an eight-day activation they provided medical care to evacuees in the Bronx. The teams also provided support for 911 services in the area to alleviate the strain on hospitals and long-term care facilities that lost power or were unable to maintain their continuity of care.
“I’ve been involved with the National Disaster Medical System since the late 1980s, and the NH-1 team is unique,” said Robert Gougelet, MD, team commander and Assistant Professor of Medicine (Emergency Medicine) at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “We have come together as a core group of people who can work in intense austere environments. If we are called upon, I am confident we will get the job done.”
NH-1 was approved as a development team three years ago by HHS. Dr. Gougelet and Administrative Officer Joshua Frances were asked to move from Massachusetts – 1 DMAT. Recruitment continues as the team fills positions, which not only requires medical expertise in austere medicine, but also includes an extensive background check and clearance criteria.
“It has been extremely rewarding to start a new team from scratch, and to build a cadre of responders that can add to our nation’s medical response,” said Frances, who is Maine Medical Center’s Director of Emergency Management.
The 56-member team has a broad array of expertise in emergency and wilderness medicine, toxicology, pharmacology, EMS, respiratory therapy, orthopedics, trauma and emergency nursing, and radiological protection.
NH-1 includes a Hospital Chief Medical Officer (Dr. Steve Diaz of MaineGeneral Medical Center), a toxicologist with expertise on lethal airborne chemicals (Dr. Tamas Peredy), a wilderness medicine instructor and the team’s training officer (Tony Simpson, physician assistant), a black belt in Aikido who serves as the team’s chief nurse (Barry Worthing, RN), a fire captain (Capt. Steve Fecteau, Franklin Fire Department), and a former concert violinist (Paramedic Talia Audley).
The team also has non-medical command, control, logistics, and support personnel that participate in regular training and educational activities as well as functional exercises and drills.
When activated by HHS, the team works with the support of their employers to leave their everyday jobs and become intermittent federal employees. The NDMS was established in 1983 to provide medical response, patient evacuation and definitive medical care and currently includes 7,000 volunteer members nationwide.
“NDMS relies on the support of our private sector employers,” said Dr. Gougelet, who has deployed for HHS to a number of national and international disasters including the 2001 anthrax attacks in New York, Hurricane Katrina, and the devastating earthquake in Bam, Iran. “They allow us to serve our country on short notice in critical medical roles as we are pulled from hospitals and provider sites. I tell the team, we couldn’t do our job without their support.”
For more information about NDMS, visit phe.gov/ndms and to learn more about the team or to apply for NH-1, visit nh1dmat.org