What Is A Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT)?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) fosters the development of Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs). A DMAT is a group of professional and para-professional medical personnel (supported by a cadre of logistical and administrative staff) designed to provide medical care during a disaster or other event. Each team has a sponsoring organization, such as a major medical center, public health or safety agency, non-profit, public or private organization that signs a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DHS. The DMAT sponsor organizes the team and recruits members, arranges training, and coordinates the dispatch of the team.
To supplement the standard DMATs, there are highly specialized DMATs that deal with specific medical conditions such as crush injury, burn, and mental health emergencies. Other teams within the NDMS Section include Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams (DMORTs) that provide mortuary services, Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (VMATs) that provide veterinary services, National Nursing Response Teams (NNRTs) that will be available for situations specifically requiring nurses – and not full DMATs. Such a scenario might include assisting with mass chemoprophylaxis (a mass vaccination program,) or a scenario that overwhelms the nation’s supply of nurses in responding to a weapon of mass destruction event. Others teams are the National Pharmacy Response Teams (NPRTs) that will be used in situations such as those described for the NNRTs but where pharmacists, not nurses or DMATs, are needed, and the National Medical Response Teams (NMRTs) that are equipped and trained to provide medical care for potentially contaminated victims of weapons of mass destruction.
DMATs deploy to disaster sites with sufficient supplies and equipment to sustain themselves for a period of 72 hours while providing medical care at a fixed or temporary medical care site. In mass casualty incidents, their responsibilities may include triaging patients, providing high-quality medical care despite the adverse and austere environment often found at a disaster site, and preparing patients for evacuation. In other types of situations, DMATs may provide primary medical care and/or may serve to augment overloaded local health care staffs. Under the rare circumstance that disaster victims are evacuated to a different locale to receive definitive medical care, DMATs may be activated to support patient reception and disposition of patients to hospitals. DMATs are designed to be a rapid-response element to supplement local medical care until other Federal or contract resources can be mobilized, or the situation is resolved.
DMAT members are required to maintain appropriate certifications and licensure within their discipline. When members are activated as Federal employees, licensure and certification is recognized by all States. Additionally, DMAT members are paid while serving as part-time federal employees and have the protection of the Federal Tort Claims Act in which the Federal Government becomes the defendant in the to provide interstate aid. event of a malpractice claim.
DMATs are principally a community resource available to support local, regional, and State requirements. However, as a National resource they can be federalized.
What kinds of Missions will DMATs respond to?
In the event of a significant man-made or natural declared disaster, NDMS can activate individual DMATs, which are locally organized volunteer medical teams, for any of a number of missions for which they train: the establishment and staffing of a Patient Field Treatment site; A Regional Evacuation Point, where patients will be managed as they are prepared for flights to other cities when the ability of the local EMS/hospital system cannot cope with needs; or a Patient Reception Point, where patients who have been flown to another city will be received and examined, by a DMAT in a receiving city, and integrated into the new local EMS System. In addition, if the entire primary care system of an area is destroyed, DMATs can be activated to deliver regional primary care until the local area can restore such a critical function. When hospitals have been severely affected, or damaged, DMATs can respond to perform hospital staff relief, or they can assist in hospital evacuations.