All hands on deck; multiple agencies practice joint response to natural disasters

National Disaster Medical System

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – It’s called the National Disaster Medical System and it’s a network of multiple agencies that respond when large scale disasters call for an immediate medical response. 

Friday, those agencies came together for a practice round in case the system is activated.The agencies including the United States Army, local hospitals and the SC Forestry Commission coordinated how the teams would work together to respond if disaster strikes. 

First, the call comes across the radio signaling the evacuated patients are in route. The patients then arrive at the hangar serving as an emergency room where they’re examined and treated. 

SSG Christopher Malone is the ambulance platoon sergeant. SSG Malone explained the steps the paramedics take once the patients are brought in. “…we’re going to go ahead and check their vitals and make sure the patient stays stable.”

The NDMS is activated in response to disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. 

“If there’s a disaster somewhere far away and they need to evacuate patients from a broken hospital or one that needs to be emptied out and made available for victims of that accident or incident then we are called upon to receive those patients,” said LTC John Clouse, the chief of medical operations for the Federal Coordination Center at Fort Jackson. 

Military personnel handles the transport and treatment of patients while the forestry commission handles the coordination. 

“We create an incident action plan. It captures all of the responding personnel, puts them in the appropriate working groups so they know who their chain of command is. It provides structure,” explained Jonathan Calore, incident command manager for the SC Forestry Commission. 

The drill is a chance for the agencies to practice a response that isn’t deployed often.

LTC Clouse added, “Plans always look good on paper and if they sit on the shelf and you don’t exercise them you don’t know whether they’re going to work or not.”

The last time the agencies had to respond with the NDMS was in 2017 in response to Hurricane Maria after it devastated Puerto Rico. 

The Federal Coordination Center in Columbia was first rolled out in response to Hurricane Katrina, when large amounts of patients needed to be moved from the gulf. 

The drill will now head to Greenville where patients will be flown into GSP and the same drill is executed. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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