Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) date back to 1984, when the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) established two DMAT prototypes.2 Comprised of volunteer healthcare professionals, team members can be federalized
and deployed by National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to disasters in the United States and its territories. There are currently 61 DMATs in the United States; approximately half of these are Level 1 (fully deployable within 8 h) at this time.
One of the authors [Jobe] flew to Houston, Texas, on Sunday, August 28 as a Medical Officer on DMAT WA-1. Each deployed DMAT is comprised of approximately 35 team members: 3–4 physicians, several mid-level practitioners (physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners), several nurses, and pharmacy, communications, logistics, and safety staff.
DMATs from New Mexico, California and Oklahoma were also deployed to Houston on the same day. These teams’ mission was to provide triage and medical care to an anticipated 2500 patients.Those requiring medical assistance were sent to one of four areas: ‘‘Green Tent,’’ which saw patients with minor problems, ‘‘Yellow Tent,’’ which cared for those with significant but not immediately life-threatening medical problems, or ‘‘Red Tent,’’ which saw people with lifethreatening medical problems. Those believed to be likely to die within 24 h despite medical intervention were sent to an area designated as an expectant area (‘‘Black Tent’’), in which they received nursing care but no medical interventions on the model of hospice care.
DMAT OR-2 was activated on Tuesday, August 30, and arrived at the New Orleans International Airport at 15:00 h on Thursday, September 1. Three of the authors of this paper (Sanford, Jui, and Miller) arrived with DMAT OR-2. The situation at the airport when DMAT OR-2 arrived was one of minimally contained chaos.