As Hurricane Harvey descended upon south Texas, many ACEP members and other first responders deployed to care for the victims of the record-breaking storm.
Disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs) from 10 states, US Public Health Service (PHS) personnel, and trauma critical care teams (TCCTs) serendipitously billeted close to ACEP headquarters in Irving, Texas, awaiting their mission assignments. Shari Augustin, Minnesota (MN)-1 DMAT administrative officer, ACEP Disaster Preparedness and Response Committee member, and Minnesota Chapter ACEP Executive Director, reached out to ACEP national staff with a request: “Could the teams utilize the ACEP headquarters to conduct just-in-time training to prepare them to effectively deploy?” The answer?
“Absolutely, we would be honored!”
ACEP staff quickly arranged to open the headquarters on Sunday, Aug. 27, and Monday, Aug. 28, to provide space, audio/video equipment, food, and drinks to host more than 250 first responders. The building provided a safe and secure location for group training on electronic medical records technology, interdepartmental communication, family notification procedures, patient transport, equipment cache updates, and special considerations during emergency flood response.
Merle Hillman, MD, FACEP, team leader of MN-1 DMAT, expressed his gratitude, saying, “Our physicians, [advance practice providers], nurses, medics, and pharmacists gained valuable training prior to our departure on our medical missions in response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston. I am very thankful to ACEP for allowing us the opportunity to use their state-of-the-art facility to provide our personnel with training that enabled them to better provide emergency medical care to our patients in need.”
In addition to providing a training location, staff updated the ACEP website with nationally recognized volunteer opportunities and contact information, featured hospital patient-surge information, and provided links to ACEP’s Disaster Hero game (funded through a FEMA grant) for families’ preparedness and response, as well as a disaster toolkit for the elderly and special needs patients.
ACEP’s Disaster Medicine Section list server was activated to respond to several groups requesting volunteer physician support for local and regional medical operations and urban search-and-rescue (USAR) activities. The list server also provided updates on the hurricane status, suspension/augmentation of physician-credentialing laws in Texas, emergency access to medications through pharmaceutical companies, and additional disaster-response information.
“We were glad to do our small part to assist the true heroes, who are the members of DMAT, USAR, and all the other disaster-response teams who volunteer time away from family and friends to train every month so when duty calls, like this storm, they are ready to respond quickly. They leave for days or weeks at a time to help the sick, injured, and needy, sometimes in the worst of conditions. I’m proud ACEP has such a long history of supporting the mission of these various disaster-response teams,” stated Rick Murray, EMT-P, ACEP’s director of EMS and disaster preparedness.