By Karen Fleming-Michael, U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Public AffairsSeptember 14, 2006
FORT DETRICK, Md.-Air Force C-130 pilot Lt. Col. Bryant Qualls offloaded precious cargo at a joint military and civilian emergency response exercise at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
The pilot from Warfield Air National Guard Base in Baltimore flew 20 Civil Air Patrol cadets from the Baltimore area who stood in as wounded Soldiers being evacuated from Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany.
The Airport, Academia, Industry, Military and State Exercise set out to test how local and state entities would work with the Defense Department in response to a patient surge if civilian hospitals were called upon to provide beds for military casualties in civilian hospitals. In addition to actual patients, 140 paper patients were processed as well. Three tabletop exercises preceded the event at the airport.
"We're all trying to build a bond a common language to help our citizens...so that we could respond to a catastrophic disaster," said Lt. Col. Phil Wasylina of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Wasylina serves as Walter Reed Army Medical Center National Disaster Medical System Federal Coordinating Center area coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region III (Maryland) and represents the Baltimore Federal Coordinating Center.
The Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, based at Fort Detrick, provided an Alaska shelter tent, medical equipment and communications from its Operational Assessments System Integration Site, also called OASIS. The center lent its assets to support medical resuscitation and stabilization efforts and provide communications links with local and state responders.
"This helps us figure out where we can help the civilian system until they can take over," said Tony Story of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center.
Participating in a compassionate assembly line, patients were unloaded from the C-130, triaged, treated and taken to local hospitals for further treatment. Soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center's National Disaster Medical System Federal Coordinating Center, Emergency Operational Service and the 2290th U.S. Army Hospital provided medical and administrative medical care in the triage and OASIS shelter areas. Soldiers from the 6th Medical Logistics Management Center from Detrick helped haul and set up the OASIS structure and equipment.
Set up went quickly, Story said. The medical shelter was up in an hour. The communications links-video, Internet and telephone-took two hours to set up, though Larry Markin of TATRC said he can usually put them up in an hour.
The exercise pointed out areas where the Defense Department's advances in medical recordkeeping could assist civilian medical providers, like with electronic medical records.
"They're doing stubby pencil and paper medical records here," Story said. In fact, the breeze from the airfield sent more than one paper record aloft during the exercise.
"We've got electronic medical records that could be incorporated into one of these state-run exercises," Story said. "We've also got IM/IT (information management/information technology) equipment that can assist in keeping track of patients and the care we're providing and moving that information from point A to point B wirelessly."
The exercise also showed gaps between civilian and military communications.
"This exercise is about being able to communicate and optimize our resources within the military and the civilian side. To do that you've got to have a communications system that allows those linkages. In this exercise we don't have that," said Lt. Col. Hon Pak of TATRC. "I think one of the roles we can play is to bring about advance technology that can improve those communications and management of patients."
A video feed was also useful in capturing exercise details.
"The wireless still and moving video feeds provided the command staff with real-time information and considerably reduced radio traffic...where additional information was required," said Col. Edward Griffin the administrative chief of Walter Reed Army Medical Center's National Disaster Medical System. "The roving video feeds could be repositioned by cell phone and provide real-time information and minimize radio traffic-a true disaster site multiplier".
The exercise also gave the OASIS team a chance to show civilian first responders the wares it has tested. The Life Support for Trauma and Transport, a patient litter with built-in monitors that's currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, was part of the medical tent's equipment.
"The folks from fire and rescue like the LSTAT," Story said. "It might be something that they can incorporate into some of their disaster planning."
Story said he hopes the event was just the beginning for TATRC.
"We want to do more," Story said. "I'd like to be a part of this again but not just with the tent. I want to bring something meaningful. We want to bring in advanced technologies to include telemedicine, and I think that's where we can fit in."
For immediate release, July 14, 2006.