Incident Response Coordination Team for 2017 Hurricane Irma/Maria Response
By LT Teresa Wang, PhD, MS
Office of Smoking and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What was the mission of this deployment?
This PHS deployment (3/26/18-4/7/18) was to the Incident Response Coordination Team (IRCT) in Atlanta, GA for the 2017 Hurricane Irma/Maria response.
What was your role during this deployment?
My role was in support of information management operations. I directly worked with 2 other officers to maintain, analyze and disseminate data to provide IRCT with situational awareness to coordinate the care and case management of medically evacuated residents. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to apply some of my database and epidemiology skills to support the mission.
Was this your first deployment?
What was the most important thing you learned during this deployment?
Trust in yourself and your fellow officers to get the job done, and to overcome any challenges that may arise. It can feel daunting to hit the ground running in a dynamic and unfamiliar environment, but remember that many, if not all, of you are connected through the common thread of the Corps, united through a powerful set of values and sense of mission.
What did you enjoy the most about this deployment?
Some of my favorite memories took place during the daily afternoon debriefs with IRCT and SAT Team leads; it was a nice time for people to share their respective accomplishments and challenges, and to say our goodbyes to teammates who were rolling off. It was also very gratifying to share the number of patients and clients who were released from care coordination and returned home safely. I also turned 30 years old during this deployment, so I had friends and family checking in on me via supportive texts, voicemails, etc.
What would you consider to be your major accomplishment stemming from this deployment?
Over the course of 2 weeks, I went from not knowing anything about the information or data management structures to becoming intimately familiar with them. Before leaving, our team had enhanced several processes, pulled together data for multiple reports, and updated the database to host the information for at least 800 medically evaluated residents and non-medical attendees. These data were critical for patient monitoring and case management.
What were some of the challenges that you experienced during this deployment?
Most of the challenges stemmed from the turnover in officers in their respective roles. Given the varied deployment schedules, you were fortunate to have one day or two of overlap with the persons whose roles you were filling. This made it challenging to preserve institutional knowledge and establish best practices. When given the opportunity, I made an effort to absorb as much information as possible and ask plenty of questions.
How did you prepare for the deployment – personally or work-wise?
Tier 3 deployment rosters are distributed well in advance, so I knew I was on-call in March. However, between the time I was tentatively notified and officially approved to deploy, I had Friday afternoon through Sunday to notify my supervisor and set up proxies for my agency duties. I felt very indebted to my team for being so flexible and accommodating. As this was a local deployment for me, there was a lot less I need to prepare because I would drive home every night.
Were there any classes, trainings that you had completed prior to your deployment that helped you in your current deployment?
Prior to deploying, I completed all of the FMRB course requirements. But it's the lessons you learn first-hand while during your deployment that are truly invaluable. So even if your formal training experiences are fairly limited, your willingness to listen and learn will take you far.
How was your post deployment/reintegration experience? Was it smooth to transition back to your daily life as experienced prior to deployment?
This went quite smoothly for me.
Do you have any advice or “pearls of wisdom” for fellow officers who are being deployed/interested in deploying?
Carve out some time to check in with yourself, even if it's just for a few minutes each day. How are you feeling? Practice some self-care and your team can benefit as a whole.
Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding your deployment?
I had a very rewarding experience and look forward to my next PHS deployment.
LT Wang and PHS team.
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