Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

MTFs plan and prepare to face any emergency or disaster

Hospital personnel surrounding a patient Staff from Madigan Army Medical Center care for victims of an Amtrak derailment that occurred near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington in December 2017. (Photo Credit: John Wayne Liston, Madigan Army Medical Center.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Emergency Preparedness and Response | Disaster Prep Toolkit

For military medical treatment facilities preparing for emergencies and natural disasters, Mark Starnes offers this advice: “Train like you fight.” As the emergency manager at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Starnes and his team begin emergency preparations with routine drills and exercises long before an actual disaster strikes.

“We perform a vulnerability analysis, develop a training plan, have a solid checklist, and prepare for ‘known’ vulnerabilities as early in the season as possible,” said Starnes.

Storm preparations allowed NMCCL staff to continue caring for patients during Hurricane Dorian, a category 2 storm that passed over Eastern North Carolina in September 2019. Contingency measures as part of the medical center’s planning even accounted for the peace of mind of staff, bringing in families and pets of essential personnel during the hurricane. “We think that while on board during an emergency, a person cannot worry about those potentially left at home to evacuate or remain in their house,” Starnes said. “Patients receive better care when the staff is considered a ‘family’ in itself.”

Planning for emergencies is all about mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts, said Craig Williams, emergency manager at Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado. The military base and hospital maintain robust emergency management plans and conduct frequent practice drills and exercises to help build a sense of collaboration. These steps ensure everyone knows what they’re doing in a time of crisis.

In 2018, a fire broke out on the southwest portion of Fort Carson near the hospital and a housing area, resulting in a joint hospital-base response. “We worked closely together, in coordination with local community partners, to ensure everyone’s safety,” Williams said, adding protecting and preventing damage to buildings was also a top priority in their response efforts.

Military hospitals are not an island apart from the civilian community, Starnes added. Collaboration and a unified response to a natural disaster are critical since a community or region will be affected, not just one building.

An Amtrak train derailment near DuPoint, Washington in December 2017, resulted in several passenger cars plunging off an overpass onto the interstate. The staff at Madigan Army Medical Center sprang into action, transporting 19 injured passengers to the hospital. “The proximity of the derailment to Madigan and Joint Base Lewis-McChord facilitated the fastest response times and enabled the most critical casualties to receive lifesaving care more quickly than if they had been transported to local hospitals,” said Bill Llewellyn, Madigan’s senior emergency management coordinator.

As military medical treatment facilities conduct disaster preparations during a global pandemic, Starnes recommends taking COVID-19 patients into account during any emergency. “We have measures in place in coordination with the base to separate COVID-type patients in shelters operated by the Marines with medical oversight and on-station capabilities,” he said. Hospitals should also focus on basics and local needs first. All emergencies are local at one level, he said. A hurricane could result in high wind and road conditions that leave a medical center temporarily isolated. “I definitely want to maintain a well-balanced overall look at all contingencies we may face,” he said.

During Hurricane Dorian, planning for all contingencies included ensuring the safety of high-risk expectant mothers and their immediate families at NMCCL. “A rescue cannot always get to all places in a hurricane or respond to areas in high wind and water,” Starnes said. “Expectant mothers need a little extra attention during a hurricane, and it’s a potential medical emergency we can avoid in advance of a storm.”

Regardless of how great a plan may seem on paper, practice is critical. “Unless the plan is rehearsed and vetted with the military installation and local community partners, there is no assurance that the response will be successful,” said Williams. “Communications, rehearsals, and a realistic response plan are critical to the success of any emergency response.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic can offer valuable lessons on emergency management planning, said Williams. “Be detailed in the planning process, test and evaluate the plan, be flexible, implement changes quickly when necessary, implement improvement plans, reevaluate changes, and update policies and procures for future operations.”

Ultimately, practice drills can’t replicate a real-world disaster that tests plans and assumptions on an entirely different level, added Llewellyn. Post-disaster response evaluation is an important part of emergency planning. After the train derailment in 2017, Madigan revised its policies and procedures based on lessons learned. Leadership created a dedicated emergency operations center with equipment capable of receiving and reporting near real-time situation reports and trained staff accordingly. They also implemented the use of the Incident Command System that provides a common hierarchy of emergency response coordination used by state and local agencies.

“When communication and coordination started moving into JBLM and Madigan, the lines of command and control blurred because Incident Command was unfamiliar causing minor confusion and some delay,” Llewellyn said. “This is a large cultural change for any military organization as it is not a rank-based command and control, but rather training, experience, and job specialty-based.”

Military Health System beneficiaries can also make advance preparations for potential emergencies due to severe weather by visiting TRICARE and signing up for disaster alerts.

You also may be interested in...

COVID-19 Vaccination Card Second Shot

Infographic
5/27/2021
Graphic saying that keeping track of your vaccination card is important. Includes a helpful tips section, a link to www.tricare.mil/covidvaccine, and what to do when you didn’t get your vaccination card or don’t have a copy. The TRICARE logo is on the bottom right of the page.

Keep track of your vaccination card. Tips include keeping your card on you and taking a picture of it as a backup copy.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Costs and Documentation | Coronavirus

Is It Allergies or COVID-19?

Infographic
5/11/2021
Infographic that describes the difference between symptoms of allergies and those related to COVID-19

This Infographic provides a chart that outlines how to tell the difference between COVID-19 and allergy symptoms

Recommended Content:

Symptoms of COVID-19 | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Vaccine: All Adults Eligible MTF Option Screensaver2

Infographic
4/22/2021
A screensaver that encourages individuals to check in at their DOD vaccination sites to see appointment availability. Includes the TRICARE logo on the bottom right and a link at the bottom of the screensaver for individuals to learn more at www.tricare.mil/VaccineAppointments

A screensaver that encourages individuals to check in at their DOD vaccination sites to see appointment availability.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

COVID-19 Vaccine: All Adults Eligible Graphic

Infographic
4/22/2021
A navy and gray graphic stating that all eligible and authorized DOD individuals can make a COVID vaccine appointment. Contains a QR code for individuals to use to sign up for an appointment. TRICARE logo is located at the bottom right corner.

Graphic stating that all eligible and authorized DOD individuals can make a COVID vaccine appointment. Contains sign up instructions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

COVID-19 Vaccine: All Adults Eligible Choices Screensaver

Infographic
4/22/2021
A navy and gray graphic with information on where adults can get the COVID-19 vaccine. Includes a link at the bottom of the graphic for www.tricare.mil/CovidVaccine and also has the TRICARE logo on the bottom right corner.

A screensaver that provides information on where adults can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

VAX Fact Breastfeeding

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact Q and A: Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I'm breastfeeding? It's up to you to decide.  The CDC says COVID-19 vaccines can be offered to pregnant or breastfeeding women.  If you have questions about getting vaccinated, a conversation with your healthcare provider may help but is not required.

An infographic answering the question of whether you can get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're breastfeeding.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Fact Other Medical Conditions

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have other medical conditions? If you have underlying medical conditions, you can choose a COVID-19 vaccine if you have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to any ingredients in the shots. Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age to reduce risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

An infographic answering the question of whether you can get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have underlying medical conditions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Fact Protection Last

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact: How long does a COVID-19 vaccine protect me for? We do not know yet how long protection may last for those who receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  We do know a COVID-19 vaccine may reduce your chances of spreading the illness to others or facing more serious illness, including hospitalization. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice.

An infographic answering the question of how long the COVID-19 vaccine protection lasts.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Fact Currently Pregnant

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact: Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I'm currently pregnant? Talk with your healthcare provider to help you decide if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.  Clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines may offer data and outcomes in the future.  The CDC has a smartphone tool called v-safe.  It offers personalized health check-ins that you can enroll in after a vaccination.

An infographic answering the question of whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're currently pregnant.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Fact Current Infection

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Facts: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I currently have a positive COVID-19 infection: No. People with a COVID-19 positive test result or illness symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they recover and meet the criteria for discontinuing isolation.  This also applies if you get COVID-19 between a first and second vaccine dose.

An infographic answering the question of whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you currently have a positive COVID-19 infection.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Fact Affect Fertility

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact: Does a COVID-19 vaccine affect my fertility? There is currently no evidence of fertility impacts due to COVID-19 vaccines.  If you are trying to conceive or want to get pregnant in the future, you may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available.

An infographic answering the question of whether the COVID-19 vaccine affects a person's fertility.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Is It Your Time to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Infographic
3/5/2021
This graphic informs TRICARE beneficiaries which tier they fall into as their local military treatment facility or clinic offers the vaccine.

This Infographic informs TRICARE beneficiaries which tier they fall into as their local military treatment facility or clinic offers the vaccine.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Genetic sequence data for SARS-CoV-2

Infographic
6/5/2020
Infographic describing how DoD was able to conduct genome sequencing on the COVID-19 virus

Genetic sequence data for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes #COVID19, plays a vital role in force health protection efforts within the DoD. To jumpstart sequencing efforts, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch's Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response applied a collaborative approach to sequencing capabilities. Resulting sequence data will provide critical information about transmission patterns, track diagnostic effectiveness, and guide the development and evaluation of medical countermeasures.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Coronavirus | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance
Showing results 1 - 13 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.