Five New England NDMS Teams Train Together in Rural Maine Three-day austere environment training includes visit by NDMS executive officer
Gilead, ME– Tim Walton, executive officer of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), flew from Florida into Portland , Maine on a freezing Sunday morning (Feb. 12) and drove to the remote Bog Brook Training Facility. Walton met with more than 100 first responders from five teams (NH -1, MA-1, MA-2, CT-1 & RI -1) who trained together for three days on emergency response in an austere winter environment. The event was sanctioned by NDMS, but not funded. He spoke to a classroom filled with volunteer U.S. Health and Human Services frontline disaster response professionals including physicians, nurses and EMTs.
“This is great,” Walton said. “I am happy you are working together here. It means a lot.” Walton asked the group a simple rhetorical question: Why are you here? The consensus answer: To take care of people.
“The expectation of Americans,” Walton said, “is we will do that job.” The event was organized by host NH-1 team members Tony Simpson, PA, and Barry Worthing, RN and represented a collaborative effort of all five team training officers (Tony Paquette CT-1, Cheryl Shaw MA-2, David Kissin MA-1, and Scott Marcotte RI-1).
Teams rotated through stations that included new equipment, intubation, transporting injured, wound care, improvised splinting, and how to treat severe hypothermia and frostbite. Navigation in the wilderness, a pediatric care simulation lab and a vast array of other areas were covered as members worked to share information, ask questions, and test methods of diagnosis, triage and treatment. Simpson, a wilderness medicine specialist, led the discussion on orthopedic emergencies and splinting techniques. “Challenging preconceptions and sharing information is one of the advantages of bringing clinical professionals together in one place to share a bunkhouse and meals and establish connections,” Simpson said.
“We’re here – primarily - to help each other.” Robert Fishwick, a respiratory therapist, challenged groups at his station to rapidly intubate patients with gloves off and hands that stiffened in the cold. David Sargent, a PA who works in neurosurgery and serves with NH-1, showed novices who rotated through his station how to properly suture deep wounds and cuts that involved flaps of skin. Experienced responders worked with clinicians who have never deployed as a member of NDMS. New England teams have worked together at numerous disaster sites during the past two decades. RI-1 (formed in 1990) led by Team
Leader Tom Lawrence, partnered with MA -1 and CT -1 in response to Hurricane Ike in 2008. Ike killed 72 people and was the second costliest hurricane to make landfall in the United States . Medical care included getting patients prepared for a series of air transports out of Galveston , a devastated area along a peninsula. Keith Lindsay, a paramedic who serves as commander of MA-1, has deployed more than 20 times since 1992 and leads a team of 120 members that includes 12 physicians. Lindsay’s team treated more than 300 people in Haiti at Gheskio Field Hospital based next to a tent city, where the team performed surgical procedures and provided critical care.
“Every deployment is unique,” he said. “In Baton Rouge we took care of 290 patients including 35 hospice patients. I tell my people, I will work you like a dog. Sixteen-hour days, sometimes 20-hour days. It can be grueling and you will need to improvise. You will be tired, cranky, your hygiene might be poor and you will see people who have lost everything. But we will get the job done.” Dr. Robert Gougelet, an emergency medicine specialist who commands NH-1, has deployed with NDMS to Iran and with the MA-1 team in response to Hurricane Katrina.
As commander of the host team, Dr. Gougelet said every person he talked with who attended the training said they learned something new. “It speaks volumes how the five teams supported this training and supported each other,” Dr. Gougelet said. “It’s always beneficial to bring together people with varying specialties and strengths and expertise. I hope this is only the beginning of our training together. You don’t want the first time you meet someone you are going to work with under these conditions for two weeks to be at the site of a disaster.”