Parmet Deployed for Hurricane Michael Response

October 25, 2018

Parmet Deployed for Hurricane Michael Response

Allen Parmet, M.D., M.P.H., a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association, was recently deployed to Florida to respond to Hurricane Michael.

   He had volunteered for the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) when he retired from active duty over 25 years ago and joined the Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), which functions like the National Guard. He was called in early October as a member of one of many teams called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist with storm recovery. In his own words:

Dr. Parmet stands in the parking lot of
a library where an outreach clinic was
set up.

   Midwest-1 was the first DMAT into Mobile and spent the day of the hurricane preparing to go. Shortly after midnight, we left and headed into the storm zone, along with our ambulance strike teams, urban search and rescue teams, the “Cajun Navy” of small boats, and an entire army of powerline and phone repair technicians and highway maintenance workers. By dawn, our DMAT, designated Task Force 1 ... entered Panama City. It was Katrina-bad. Every street was obstructed by downed trees and powerlines. Every home and building [were] damaged. Both hospitals were out of action and evacuating their patients. We dropped three of our strike teams, a team of one physician, three nurses, two paramedics, and a pharmacist or support person. They set up three emergency rooms and began sending ambulances out to accompany the search and rescue teams.
   Behind us, another DMAT set up a portable hospital in Ft. Walton Beach for evacuees. I pressed on with the two strike teams directly into the heart of the strike zone. We were unable to get to Mexico Beach, ground zero, and we now know it wasn’t there. Instead one strike team got to Apalachicola and set up an ER there. My team went on to Blountstown, the only hospital between Panama City and Tallahassee.
   The eye of the storm passed over Blountstown and the hospital was a wreck. We set up an ER with our ambulance units and went to work. We brought our own supplies and augmented them with what was left of the hospital’s stores, but they had lost power and all their vaccines, refrigerated pharmaceuticals and food. The local personnel were overwhelmed.
Midwest-1, Strike Team 1: Shown are members of the team. Dr. Parmet is second from the left in the front.
   “A day later, a second strike team from Colorado, CO-2 joined us.... Together, our two teams, joined by seven ambulance teams from all over the country (Mississippi, Washington, and California) plus a medivac helicopter from South Carolina, a big generator brought in by FEMA, and a lot of Army paratroops to start cleaning up the debris; we were in business. Food and water were getting out. People were able to travel the roads. We started making “house calls” to small communities, going to churches, fire stations, and libraries to provide onsite medical care, vaccines, medicines (when you lose your home and flee to a shelter, bring your drugs!), food, and water. ...
   The roads were clearing, telephone and power lines were going back up, and cell phone service restored. The hospital people were able to return to work and began taking over their own building again once the Army put a temporary roof on it and FEMA attached a generator. Seems their “emergency generator” could barely keep the lights on in two rooms and not run much of anything. After 2 weeks, the Pennsylvania DMAT arrived to relieve us.

   As a note, NDMS was created to fill the gap when, after the Cold War, the military was downsized and National Guard units traditionally called up to answer civil emergencies were lost. The volunteer physicians, nurses, medics, and support
members of Missouri-1 DMAT form a self-sufficient mobile medical team which can put up 4 emergency rooms in 4 hours and a 50-bed hospital in 24 hours. These units have responded to hurricanes like Katrina, Ike, Harvey, and, this year, Florence and Michael. They were federalized (as Midwest-1, combining Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska) and sent internationally for earthquakes. Dr. Parmet spent weeks in Haiti and, the next year, assisted with the Japanese tsunami recovery. His Midwest-1 DMAT teams spent 6 months rotating in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands last year.
Blountstown, FL: Calhoun-Liberty Hospital, which was used as the base of operations. Supplies were stored in the blue and white striped tent. Clarksville Baptist Church: An outreach clinic in the parking lot of the church. Dr. Parmet is examining a patient who proved to have atrial fibrillation and was transported to Tallahassee. The adjacent church was used to store and hand out food, water, and basic supplies.