Kentucky Air Guard supports National Disaster Medical System exercise

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Phil Speck
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing supported a full-scale test of the National Disaster Medical System here Sept. 9, providing a training environment for Exercise Bent Horseshoe.

The exercise tested the ability of civilian health care providers to accept and process patients arriving from a disaster site and transport them to local medical facilities for treatment, explained Master Sgt. Carol Davis, emergency manager for the wing.

The wing is the primary Federal Coordinating Center for the NDMS program in Jefferson County, which is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs' Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville.

Using a hangar here and a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft, several dozen civilian providers set up a patient reception area to triage disaster victims arriving by airlift. They also staffed patient reception teams that consisted of doctors, nurses, litter bearers, social workers and chaplains.

According to Debbi Johnson, Louisville area emergency manager for the Veterans Health Administration, Office of Emergency Management, the exercise is accomplished every three years to prepare for real-world disasters.

"We exercise patient reception for NDMS patients that have been evacuated from a disaster area, either patients that were in a hospital in the disaster area, or that were injured in a disaster," Johnson explained.

The NDMS is a federally coordinated system that augments the nation's medical response capability. It consists of several federal organizations that include the Department of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

In a real-world situation, patients would be flown from an area where a disaster has occurred to a safe area with a Federal Coordinating Center. In the meantime, NDMS officials would communicate with area hospitals to secure beds for the patients prior to their arrival.

As patients arrive at an FCC like the Kentucky Air National Guard Base, they would be registered and identified as critical, intermediate or ambulatory before being transported to a local health care facility.

The Kentucky Air National Guard has been supporting the NDMS for several years, Davis said. In 2005, during Hurricane Rita, officials in Beaumont, Texas, sent two flights of patients to Louisville for medical care.

Johnson said the exercise was good practice, but they plan to do more, possibly testing their capabilities every year.

"This is a great opportunity," she said. "It's good to practice every three years, but it's better if we do it more often on a small scale, and get people together so they are part of their own team."

Davis also was pleased with the exercise.

"I think the biggest accomplishment is the networking and community ties we build every time we support the VA or any other civilian or government organization," she said.