Westover Hosts National Disaster Medical System Exercise

  • Published
  • By Rodney B. Furr
  • 439th Airlift Wing

Westover hosted multiple federal and state agencies to stage a mass casualty evacuation exercise on Saturday, May 4.

Exercise Distant Storm 24-01 was a tri-annual event falling under the auspices of the National Disaster Medical System.  NDMS, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides medical teams and equipment to support the initial emergency response, transportation, and definitive care for patients who are at-risk or have become seriously ill or injured as the result of the disaster or emergency.

“Distant Storm demonstrated how Westover serves our community by leveraging collaboration with our state and national partners,” said Colonel Gregory D. Buchanan, 439th Airlift Wing commander.  “This entire event showcased the Patriot Wing providing national defense while being committed to protecting our communities.  In addition, it is yet another way our Citizen Airmen provide rapid global mobility and innovate our installation.”  

The day-long event was supported by more than 100 non-439 AW participants, to include North Hampton VA Medical Center, the Salvation Army, FEMA, American Red Cross, Emergency Management Preparedness Liaison Officer Region 1, a Regional Disaster Health Response Hospital Disaster Medical Team, a Northwest Incident Management Team, elements of Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and Massachusetts Civil Air Patrol.  Participating area hospitals were Baystate Medical Center, Baystate Franklin & Noble, Fairview, North Adams Regional and Mercy Medical Center.  Private Emergency Medical Services included National, Cataldo and AMR.

“The scenario was that Westover was notified of a (simulated) weather-related disaster in Delaware.  439 AW personnel and area partners received approximately 35 patients (a combination of medical mannequins, 439th Airlift Wing Development & Training Flight students and CAP cadets), who arrived on a C-17 Globemaster III transport,” said Robert Perrault, 439 AW Installation Emergency Manager.  “Base fire department personnel performed patient unloading and transfer to the staging area.  439th Aerospace Evacuation Squadron members then triaged and staged for EMS transport off base. 439th Force Support Squadron’s Military & Family Readiness Center activated the Emergency Family Assistance Center to provide moral and spiritual support, and throughout the entire exercise 439th Security Forces Squadron provided area and patient security.”

Westover ARB has hosted multiple NMDS exercises, most recently 2018.  The 2024 edition served as an annual required Emergency Management exercise, in addition addressing patient tracking issues identified in previous exercises. 

NDMS supports state, local, tribal and territorial authorities following disasters and emergencies by supplementing health and medical systems and response capabilities.  Following Hurricane Katrina, the NDMS activated to assist victims in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi; evacuated hundreds of patients from the affected areas and augmented medical staffing levels at hospitals impacted by the evacuations.