By Jon Bodie
Again and again, in the face of steep odds and often without the luxury of time, BCFS EMD has responded to the call to action with expedience, expertise and an extreme commitment to serving others when resources are stretched to the breaking point.
Similar to many of the programs across the BCFS system, the EMD was founded on the premise of meeting unmet needs in disaster response areas and serving individuals who have been disproportionately impacted, where no one else was able – or willing – to take on the challenge.
During the Branch Davidian incident in early 1993, BCFS began establishing what has become a long, successful track record of providing compassionate, yet skillful emergency services to state and local government agencies. Nineteen children, age 5 months to 12 years, were released from the Branch Davidian compound into the hands of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS). DFPS then turned to BCFS to provide emergency care for these children.
It wasn’t until late in the summer of 2005 that a dedicated program division was conceptualized by BCFS President & CEO Kevin Dinnin. The provision of emergency housing and support for individuals with disabilities, access and functional needs and people with medical conditions who were displaced from their homes was on the minds of officials responsible for mass care planning within the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). The state’s mass care coordinator had inquired about the possibility of BCFS Health and Human Services taking on this important role should a disaster require these types of critical services. No jurisdiction in the U.S. had adequately prepared for or had plans in place to care for this population.
An agreement was made for BCFS Health and Human Services to explore this as a mission capability, with formal plans to follow later in the year. Unfortunately, a year wasn’t the timeframe Mother Nature would abide by – just a few weeks later Hurricane Katrina made landfall. The images of survivors “left behind” plastered across TV screens and newspapers, forever engrained in our minds, spurred the State of Texas to reach out to BCFS – the only organization that could deliver on such a daunting, logistically complex situation that required a delicate balance of compassion and capability.
Over the next few chaotic weeks, as evacuees streamed into Texas, a formal request was issued for BCFS Health and Human Services to facilitate a medical sheltering mission. Less than a month later, Hurricane Rita bore down on Texas as the one-two punch. Long-term planning was not an option, it was time to act! Several months and 1,700 medical shelter guests later, the emergency management division of BCFS came to fruition and was fully operational.
Later that year, medical sheltering plans were developed based on real world experience BCFS Health and Human Services gained during the responses to Katrina and Rita. An in-house, reservist-based Incident Management Team (IMT) was formed, consisting of personnel with multifaceted career experience in fire-rescue, EMS, law enforcement and emergency management disciplines.
In early 2006, BCFS Health and Human Services began offering incident management and medical sheltering expertise to state and local government agencies. In short order, BCFS EMD was on the road to becoming a national leader in the areas of disaster-related health and medical response, consultation and training.
When FEMA required the development of national guidance and training for emergency managers on how to adequately support and care for the disasterrelated needs of individuals with disabilities, the federal agency determined there was no other entity that could rival BCFS EMD’s depth of knowledge and history of success and experience. BCFS Health and Human Services authored FEMA’s Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) in General Population Shelters. Since its publication, BCFS Health and Human Services has trained emergency managers from all 50 states on best practices, legal requirements for integrated all-hazards planning, and methods for coordinating operations with public and private entities to meet the needs of all citizens in preparing for disasters.
HERE & NOW
Fast forward to 2015. BCFS EMD has expanded to a robust team of emergency management professionals and subject matter experts. BCFS EMD’s All Hazards Incident Management Team (IMT) is comprised of more than 200 formally-trained personnel from across the nation, with significant experience in planning and responding to all-hazards domestic and international catastrophic incident responses.
EMD has also formed a Disaster Medical Staffing Team (DMST) comprised of more than 200 healthcare professionals nationwide. This team offers BCFS EMD its own in-house capability in regard to the types of medical services required for effective emergency medical sheltering. Physicians, physician extenders, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, respiratory therapists and pharmacists are all rostered as reservist members of the DMST – available for rapid deployment anywhere in the United States.
BCFS EMD is now also contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response (OHSEPR) to be the sole national provider of immediate case management during disasters. This selfsufficient, self-supporting, scalable model is called an Immediate Disaster Case Management (IDCM) team, and serves to resolve disaster-related unmet needs of people impacted by an incident of national significance. As with the IMT and DMST, the Disaster Case Management Teams (DCMT) were created based on an emergency response need expressed by the government.
When an emergency occurs and a presidential disaster declaration is implemented, FEMA reaches across to OHSEPR to facilitate the humanitarian services needed to get people back on their feet. OHSEPR responds by deploying BCFS EMD’s Disaster Case Management Teams. Over the past decade, BCFS EMD has successfully deployed and supported hundreds of staff rostered into all-hazard field-deployable teams for extended periods during disasters and public health emergencies. BCFS EMD has responded to international incidents, national emergencies and every major incident affecting the State of Texas in the last decade.
BCFS EMD is committed to always doing what is right to help individuals and organizations in need, which is why it sometimes underwrites and provides response resources and assets at no cost to the entities in crisis.
ALWAYS READY, ALWAYS WILLING
BCFS EMD is an all-hazards partner to private healthcare entities, as well as local, state and federal government agencies.
In response to a request from one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, BCFS EMD deployed IMT personnel to provide coordination and communications support, as well as public health and medical experts for procedure development and training during the Ebola crisis. Today, the policies and procedures drafted by BCFS EMD provide employees from coast-to-coast with the step-by-step guidance on handling patients who arrive at one of the healthcare system’s hospitals or urgent care facilities with symptoms of Ebola.
SENIOR HIGH-RISE APARTMENT FIRE
On the morning of Sunday, December 28, a fire broke out in an 11-story, high-rise senior independent living complex in Castle Hills, Texas. The fire resulted in the deaths of six senior citizens and the hasty evacuation of several hundred elderly residents, most of whom were evacuated with only the clothing they were wearing. The following day, the highrise complex was sealed due to air quality concerns and an active fire investigation. Of the 226 senior residents who were displaced, more than 120 required temporary placement services and case management support to facilitate immediate unmet needs, including recovery or re-issuance of identity documentation, housing coordination, food, medical care, and financial assistance.
Within the first week, BCFS EMD IMT personnel were requested by the Castle Hills Unified Command to take over operations as the incident moved into recovery mode. BCFS EMD’s DMST personnel were deployed to provide needed medical assistance, as well as case management tasks that resulted in the successful transition of displaced residents to alternative permanent living arrangements. This deployment of EMD personnel and resources totaled 31 days and was underwritten by BCFS, the parent organization of BCFS Health and Human Services.
CENTRAL TEXAS MASS FLOODING
At the request of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), BCFS EMD deployed equipment resources to Central Texas in response to record flooding that occurred during the Memorial Day weekend. BCFS EMD’s Mobile Command Platform-1, also known as MCP-1, served as the Incident Command Post (ICP) for unified local and state response operations in the Wimberley area. MCP-1, in addition to being the ICP, also provided communication and technology support to incident operations. EMD also deployed Mobile Mast Trailer-1 (MMT-1) to support fail-safe communication requirements of the incident. This deployment of BCFS EMD support personnel and equipment resources was underwritten by BCFS.
CALIFORNIA OIL SPILL
BCFS EMD’s Disaster Medical Staffing Team (DMST) supported the response to the major oil spill along the coast of California when a ruptured pipeline leaked more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil – with at least 21,000 gallons dumped into the ocean – creating a nine mile slick before it could be secured. The DMST provided first aid and medical case management support to the incident. This deployment of DMST personnel and equipment resources totaled 73 days.
The Emergency Management Division of BCFS Health and Human Services stands ready, willing and able to take on any mission task when the welfare and dignity of others are on the line.
When skilled, aggressive, proficient, competent teams are required to enhance the capacities of private healthcare systems, public health emergency response and emergency management agencies, BCFS EMD is ready for the fight.