Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Scientist Professional Advisory Committee

2016 State of the Union  A RIST-NCR Deployment Experience

By LCDR Jessica Cole

The Regional Incident Support Team-National Capital Region (RIST-NCR) is a Tier 1 deployment team with deployments (~ 2-3 days) in the Washington, DC, metro area.  There are three fixed deployments – State of the Union Address (SOTUA), Peace Officers Memorial, and July 4th Celebrations.  In addition to the planned deployments, the RIST-NCR team supports other activities in the DC area, which have included the Ebola response, Nuclear Summit, and disaster response activities.  For most responses, RIST-NCR members function as part of the Incident Response Coordination Team (IRCT), which coordinates emergency support function (ESF) 8 assets in the field.  The IRCT is composed of civilian first responders, HHS staff, and RIST-NCR members. 

The January 2016 State of the Union address was a planned RIST-NCR deployment.  The deployment began with two days of tabletop exercises and training activities prior to the January 12 presidential address to Congress.  RIST-NCR members were members of the Operations; Administration and Finance; Planning; and Safety Sections, and served as liaisons to the non-ESF8 participating entities.  A total of 13 RIST-NCR officers supported the 2016 SOTUA.  The clinical teams providing medical support to the building were made up of Tier 2-3 PHS officers and civilian emergency responders.  The clinical teams arrived on day 2 for orientation activities, and a total of 8 clinical teams were provided to staff the Capitol and surrounding areas.  The day of activities included transfer of equipment and personnel to the medical sites. 

A unique aspect of this deployment was the simultaneous training activing for one of the Pennsylvania Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT).  The DMATs are self-sufficient medical teams and function similar to the PHS rapid deployment forces (RDF).  The Pennsylvania DMAT was stationed in Frederick, MD, and was conducting a training exercise in the days prior to the SOTUA.  This involved a full simulation to include setting up housing, bathroom, meeting, and patient care tents and to provide support in case of an event during the SOTUA.  On January 12, the DMAT was added to the ESF-8 operational assets available to the IRCT.  LCDR Cole was a group supervisor for the Operations Section and was stationed in Frederick for January 12 activities.  As a group supervisor, LCDR Cole arrived in Frederick around 1300 and was responsible for coordinating the IRCT Operations activities with the DMAT Commander.  She provided several situational awareness briefings to the DMAT leadership as well as a brief to the complete DMAT as part of the DMAT briefing at the start of the operational period.  During the SOTUA, LCDR Cole was in the situation room as part of the multi-agency team, which included Army, Air Force, HHS, DC Department of Halth, and other agencies.  Thankfully, no event occurred and the DMAT team was released at approximately 2330, with the remaining staff were released thereafter. 

DMAT tents set up for the State of the Union Address

The RIST-NCR team is led by CAPT Sally Hu and provides invaluable leadership and deployment opportunities to PHS officers. 

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