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Day 1-Deployment and Briefing

After a rather uneventful air flight, we were met by the support and administrative teams from the U.S. Public Health Service Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), who then transported us to an Air Force base 25 miles from the center of Atlanta. There we were greeted by Public Health and Air Force personnel who issued us security badges to enter and leave the base. Security was very tight, as both President Clinton and Vice President Gore and families would soon be landing there.

I was introduced as the leader of my five-member team consisting of an emergency medical technician, a firefighter with 20 years, experience dealing with hazardous waste disasters, a nurse formerly with the Green Berets, and an emergency room nurse with 15 years, experience dealing in a variety of disasters.

We were told we would be on duty 12 hours a day and available by beeper (connected to a special satellite), a cellular telephone with encrypted messages and a two-way radio on special coded channels. We were told that when we were on "Go Team" status we could not leave the hanger for the remainder of our 12-hour duty shift. Should a disaster happen during our shift, we would be the first personnel to be airlifted by helicopter to the disaster site.

They familiarized us with the contents of the backpacks, weighing about 40 lbs. each, which we would be carrying on our shoulders to the flight line, where we would be assigned to either a Huey helicopter (five passengers and three crew) or a Blackhawk helicopter-newer, faster and with greater capacity.

We were told there would be four "Go Teams" available for immediate deployment (we were ready in 1 minute and 45 seconds). There also would be four backup teams and four other teams stationed at remote sites like the FBI and FDA buildings, and two teams at other locations outside Atlanta.

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