A highly specialized and trained Disaster Medical Assistance Team has formed from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to provide assistance in the wake of any natural or manmade disaster or national security event.
New Hampshire-1, or 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 emergency medical services 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, and is overseen by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The team was staged outside New York City during the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and was deployed to Charlotte, N.C., during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Eighteen NH-1 team members were activated with members of Connecticut-1 DMAT within hours after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012. 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.
NH-1 was approved as a development team three years ago by HHS. 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 nonmedical command, control, logistics and support personnel who participate in regular training and educational activities as well as functional exercises and drills.
When activated by HHS, the team members work with the support of their employers to leave their jobs and become federal employees. The NDMS was established in 1983 to provide medical response, patient evacuation and definitive medical care, and includes 7,000 volunteer members nationwide.