Approximately 315 Commissioned Corps officers have been deployed in response to Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey.
Weeks after the winds and water of Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Nation’s east coast, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps officers are still deep in response mode, working to help as many citizens as possible pick up the pieces.
As of November 14th, more than 300 USPHS officers were serving New York and New Jersey in various capacities.
Among the first emergency responders to arrive to the afflicted areas were our Commissioned Corps officers. On Wednesday October 31st, approximately 75 officers from Rapid Deployment Force-2 (RDF-2) arrived in Brooklyn, New York at the Brookdale Hospital and Medical Center to set up and operate a Federal Medical Station. While there, a mixture of health professionals including nurses and physicians, provided medical support to victims. Brookdale, set up as a federal medical needs shelter, has been serving as a place for displaced nursing home patients as well as displaced hospital patients and patients with special needs. On November 13th, Rapid Deployment Force-1 (RDF-1) relieved RDF-2 and has been working toward providing continued care and support to the nursing patients.
Similarly, on Wednesday October 31st, roughly 80 officers from Rapid Deployment Force-3 (RDF-3) deployed to Middlesex Community College in Edison, New Jersey, a designated Federal Medical Station (FMS). This team was also comprised of a mixture of health professionals, including nurses, doctors and pharmacists. While there, they provided care for special needs patients from nursing homes, hospitals, and private residences who could not access the services they need at regular shelters. The team demobilized over the weekend of November 18th.
The Corps has also deployed Service Access Teams (SAT) with the mission to ‘discharge responsibly’. SAT-3, made up of 12 multi-disciplinary officers, was stationed in New Jersey, and traveled to various clinics to help with the discharge of patients and residents back into their houses or to temporary housing. These small but vital teams ensured that those affected by Hurricane Sandy leave the clinics, medical stations, and shelters knowing who to contact and with access to the vital resources they need to go home.
Also deployed to the affected areas were Mental Health Teams (MHT-1, MHT-2, and MHT-3). The MHTs have functioned as strike teams serving state and local requested facilities. Officers assigned to these missions perform force protection for federal staff, patient care for individuals, and advisement for behavioral health officials. MHT-1 deployed to Edison, NJ for patient assessment in a unified command with RDF-3 at the Middlesex FMS and supporting operations in New Jersey, while MHT-2 and MHT-3 served as the strike teams for New York including support at the Brookdale FMS. The MHT teams demobilized along with RDF-3.
Also sent to aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy are numerous incident support officers from the National Incidence Support Teams (NIST) and the Regional Incidence Support Teams (RIST) to provide operations and logistical support where needed and to serve as liaisons between different agencies. While the NIST focuses mainly on Incident Response Coordination Team (IRCT) support, RIST works with regional coordinators to provide planning, operational, and logistical support.