Texas EMS prepares rapid response and triage teams to deploy to COVID-19 'hotspots'

The Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force is modeled after strike teams sent to natural disasters such as hurricanes


Athens Daily Review, Texas

TYLER, Texas — The state of Texas is using lessons learned from hurricane response efforts to combat COVID-19, and UT Health EMS crews are training to be part of the state’s solution.

On Thursday, UT Health EMS provided training at its headquarters for their employees and Hopkins County EMS crews, both of whom are part of the state’s Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force.

UT Health EMS and Hopkins County EMS crews are training to be part of Texas' Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force, which will be deployed to COVID-19
UT Health EMS and Hopkins County EMS crews are training to be part of Texas' Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force, which will be deployed to COVID-19 "hotspots" as part of the state's plan to reopen. (Photo/UT Health East Texas)

“The state asked if we would do it and I immediately said, ‘Yes, we’re here to help,’” said John Smith, CEO of UT Health EMS.

The governor’s plan to open Texas, which was released last week, includes the Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force in its recommendations for nursing homes. Aimed at quantifying the extent of infection immediately, it involves deploying teams to provide rapid response and medical triage at facilities across the state if needed.

“They put teams together to go into a facility that has an outbreak, what we call a hotspot. It’s a team effort throughout the whole state,” said Roy Langford, regional director for UT Health EMS, who is part of the response force.

Langford said the idea is a spinoff of the strike teams that were developed after devastating weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which showed the need to have teams at the ready to deploy with necessary medical resources. Langford was among the UT Health EMS strike team activated in response to Hurricane Harvey to help with nursing home patients in the storm’s wake.

“This Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force is a new concept and it was developed because of this virus,” Langford said. “This concept is just that we’re going in to help with the assessment of the situation, do some testing and see if they can get a handle on it through the local department of health.”

Smith said it made perfect sense for his team to be part of state’s solution, since UT Health EMS was trained in infectious disease response after the 2014 Ebola crisis.

“We started training for this after Ebola with infectious disease response units, and then, when they came up with this, it was another way we could put our team to use,” Smith said.

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©2020 the Athens Daily Review (Athens, Texas)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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