Part of Veterans Health Administration’s Vision is to emphasize prevention and population health and contribute to the nation’s well-being through education, research and service in national emergencies.
The Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS) Program is the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) main program for deployment of clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster. THE DEMPS Program may be used for an internal VHA mission, as well as supporting a mission after a Presidential Disaster Declaration under the National Response Framework Emergency Support Function #8 (Public Health and Medical Services).
When disaster (e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, floods) occurs and state and local resources to handle the response/recovery process are overwhelmed, the state in which the disaster occurs may request federal assistance. In this case, a Presidential Disaster Declaration is issued and the National Response Framework (NRF) is activated. Once the damage to the area and the needs have been assessed, and it is determined that medial resources are required, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may task VHA to provide resources. Generally these requests are for medical personnel (e.g. nurses, physicians, and pharmacists), pharmaceutical, or other medical supplies, and/or medical equipment. However, depending on the mission, VHA may deploy non-clinical staff to support the infrastructure of the deployment.
Regardless of the profession and skill set, participation as a DEMPS Volunteer is appreciated by those who need help. Volunteers are the foundation for a successful VHA DEMPS program and managing their information is critical. VHA utilizes a web-based system called VMS to manage the DEMPS program and volunteer information such as deployment qualifications, contact information, positions, and any specialties. VMS provides facility and Network coordinators the ability to manage their volunteers, determine who is in the process of becoming qualified for deployments, and identify those available to deploy.
West Palm Beach VA Medical Center currently has 34 employees that have volunteered to serve as DEMPS volunteers. During Hurricane Katrina, a number of VA staff throughout the country, including those from West Palm Beach, were deployed to assist in recovery efforts.