Tennessee Air National Guard participates in National Disaster Medical System exercise

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  • By Staff Sgt. Robin Olsen
A hurricane devastated Alabama and other states along the Gulf Coast and the Nashville and Memphis Air National Guard units have been called upon to assist with evacuating people and pets from along the border. Many are in need of medical attention and upon landing at one of the bases; they will be taken either by life-flight or driven by Ambulance to a nearby hospital for further treatment.

This incidence did not actually occur, but in the event something like this were to happen in the future, the Tennessee Air National Guard will be ready to respond after having practiced responding to the National Disaster Medical System during a two-day exercise held at the 118th Airlift Wing in Nashville, April 28, and the 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis, April 29.

NDMS can be used between anywhere in the United States at any of the Air Bases. It is important for the Air National Guard to practice using the system, and things become more complicated when people are evacuated from foreign countries. The Haiti earthquake evacuees are one example.

"Evacuees are brought through Guard bases a lot because they are often connected to an international airport," said Lt. Col. Dennis Neal, Deputy Director, J-7, Tennessee Air National Guard.

"The NDMS was designed to provide medical assistance to injured people in another part of the country. It sets a process in place that allows the government to evacuate patients to safe locations," said Neal.

Under the system, the military provides the transportation from the devastated area to a safe location somewhere else in the United States. Once the aircraft arrive, Veterans Affairs takes over and are in charge of delivering injured people to a hospital.

"In a real life emergency, the unit's Aeromeds will triage the patients on the flight back to the base," said Maj. Ted Geasley, 118th AW plans officer for the exercise there. "After landing, they will be handed off to the emergency response personnel, placed in ambulances and taken to a hospital for further treatment if necessary."
Carrying litters off of the plane and switching them to gurneys was part of the exercise.

While only 10 litters were used for the exercise, "The C-130s we have here can be configured to hold up to 74 litters," said Geasley.

"After being loaded into ambulances, the acting victims were taken to hospitals and checked in. The drill stops there," said Jacob Silvensky, Safety Supervisor for the VA. The players were later transported back the base in a bus so they could return home.

For people who are not injured or injured bad enough to need medical attention after landing, the Red Cross and Rover are available on site.

Rover brings a special trailer for pets, just in case. Several people evacuated with their pets during Hurricane Katrina.

The Red Cross provides drinks and snacks for the people.

"We feed the masses and shelter them," said Rob Foye, Logistics Coordinator for the Red Cross. "The Red Cross provides medical and psychological nurses to those in need."
"We can travel to any state and respond to any natural or man-made disaster," he said.

The Red Cross responds to the base with an Emergency Response Vehicle.

"The ERV is primarily a feeding vehicle. There are two in Nashville," said Foye.

The ERVs hold Cambros food carriers specially designed to hold large amounts of food and keep it hot or cold as necessary.

"We start with six large Cambros and 3 small. About 300 steaks will fit in a large one at a time and 150 in a small," he said.

Disaster Trailers, which contain cots, blankets and comfort kits, are another benefit from the Red Cross. "We have three that can accommodate 250 people, one for 150 people, and one for 100 people at a time," said Foye.

"The comfort kits have soap, deodorant, a comb or brush, toothbrushes and toothpaste. For the kids, there are also color books and crayons," he added.
During the exercise, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Emergency Management Supervisor, Paul Christoph, and 118th Aeromedical Squadron Commander, Col. Jacqueline Nave discussed the strengths and weaknesses of system implementation at the base.

"We were looking at the interagency cooperation and coordination, accessibility of assets, safety concerns, and patient tracking while working with state, city and military regulations," said Nave.

"The exercise has better prepared the Guard and those involved for future operations because practicing makes the real thing a more seamless working environment with other agencies and allows us to more finely tune our current operations," she said.

NDMS is essential for a variety of incidences.

"The National response framework utilizes the NDMS to support Federal agencies in the management and coordination of a medical response to major emergencies and federally declared disasters including natural disaster, major transportation accidents, technological disasters and acts of terrorism including weapons of mass destruction events," said Nave.
A real emergency is a serious issue. Training for such is just as serious; however, those preparing for the real thing were still able to make it a light-hearted experience at times.

While waiting for the exercise to begin, Christian Calloway, a photographer with the Red Cross, asked if there was anything inside the C-130 that he should not take a picture of and the response from one of the crew members was "the flux capacitor."