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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medical Assistance

Federal public health medical assistance consists of medical materiel, personnel, and technical assistance. These resources may provide response capability for the triage, treatment, and transportation of victims or persons with special medical needs; evacuation of patients; infection control; mental health screening and counseling; environmental health services; and other emergency response needs. Exhibit 7-1 presents the full range of support available through ESF #8. A variety of Federal public health and medical assets may be provided, including the following:

USPHS Commissioned Corps teams

  • Rapid Deployment Force (RDF): The RDF consists of five pre-identified teams, each with 105 multidisciplinary staff.The teams serve on a rotating call basis, with the on-call team capable of deploying within 12 hours of notification. RDF teams have a built-in command structure and can provide mass care at shelters (including FMSs), and staff Points of Distribution and Casualty Collection Points.The RDF can also conduct community outreach and assessments, among other functions.
  • Applied Public Health Team (APHT): The APHT is composed of experts in applied public health and can function as a “public health department in a box.” An APHT can deploy within 36 hours of notification and provide assistance in public health assessments, environmental health, infrastructure integrity, food safety, vector control, epidemiology, and surveillance.
  • Mental Health Team (MHT): The MHT consists of mental and behavioral health experts who assess stress and suicide risks within the affected population, manage responder stress, and provide therapy, counseling, and crisis intervention.The MHT can deploy within 36 hours of notification.

Learn More about  the USPHS >>

NDMS teams 

The NDMS is a nationwide partnership designed to deliver quality medical care to the victims of, and responders to, a domestic disaster. NDMS provides state-of-the-art medical care under any conditions at a disaster site, in transit from the impacted area, and in participating definitive care facilities. The main NDMS teams consist of the following:

  • Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT): DMATs provide primary and acute care, triage of mass casualties, initial resuscitation and stabilization, advanced life support and preparation of sick or injured for evacuation.The basic deployment configuration of a DMAT consists of 35 persons; it includes physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and ancillary support personnel.They can be mobile within 6 hours of notification and are capable of arriving at a disaster site within 48 hours. They can sustain operations for 72 hours without external support. DMATs are responsible for establishing an initial (electronic) medical record for each patient, including assigning patient unique identifiers in order to facilitate tracking throughout the NDMS.
  • Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT): MORTs work under the guidance of local authorities by providing technical assistance and personnel to recover, identify, and process deceased victims. Teams are composed of funeral directors, medical examiners, coroners, pathologists, forensic anthropologists, medical records technicians and transcribers, fingerprint specialists, forensic odontologists, dental assistants, x-ray technicians, and other personnel. HHS also maintains several Disaster Portable Morgue Units (DPMU) that can be used by DMORTs to establish a stand-alone morgue operation.
  • National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT):  NVRT provides assistance in identifying the need for veterinary services following major disasters, emergencies, public health or other events requiring Federal support and in assessing the extent of disruption to animal and public health infrastructures.  
  • National Medical Response Team (NMRT): NMRTs provide medical care following a nuclear, biological, and/or chemical incident.This team is capable of providing mass casualty decontamination, medical triage, and primary and secondary medical care to stabilize victims for transportation to tertiary care facilities in a hazardous material environment.The basic deployment configuration of an NMRT consists of 50 personnel.

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Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)

The SNS is a national repository of antibiotics, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, life-support medications, IV administration and airway maintenance supplies, and medical/surgical items. The SNS is designed to supplement and re-supply State and local public health agencies in the event of a national emergency anywhere and at anytime within the U.S. or its territories. Learn More >>

Federal Medical Station (FMS)

The FMS is an HHS deployable healthcare platform that can deliver large-scale primary healthcare services anywhere in the U.S. A team of approximately 100 personnel is needed to staff the FMS, with personnel provided primarily by the USPHS. Each FMS contains a three-day supply of medical and pharmaceutical resources to sustain 250 stable primary care-based patients who require bedding services. Additional roles for the FMS may include the following:

  • Mass ambulatory vaccination services (using vaccination inventory from the SNS)
  • Ambulatory prophylactic medication administration (using medication inventory from the SNS)
  • Pre-hospital triage and initial stabilization for up to 250 mass casualty patients.

The FMS must be housed inside a structurally intact building that has roughly 40,000 square feet of space, a 10-person set up team, electricity, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and clean water services. Reduced bed requirements can be accommodated in smaller facilities. Other operational requirements include bathroom and showering facilities, billeting for staff, and contracted support for food, potable water, laundry, ice, medical oxygen filling, and biomedical waste disposal.The FMS requires 48-96 hours from the time of request to delivery inside the continental U.S. and a 12-hour assembly time.

To address primary healthcare service needs far forward in a disaster area, HHS has a community outreach capability (“Go Bag”) that is a rapidly deployable light strike team-based platform. Staffed primarily by the USPHS, each platform has basic medical and pharmaceutical resources to sustain 50 to 100 stable primary care-based ambulatory patients.

Medical Reserve Corps

The MRC is comprised of organized medical and public health professionals who serve as volunteers to respond to natural disasters and emergencies.  The MRC program provides the structure necessary to deploy medical and public health personnel in response to an emergency, as it identifies specific, trained, credentialed personnel available and ready to respond to emergencies.

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Learn More about Medical Surge Capacity Capability (MSCC)

  • This page last reviewed: February 14, 2012