Steven Reinhart, DO
Banner – University Medical Center Emergency Medicine
• 00:18 What is the benefit of having teams, like FEMA, trained and ready in different cities throughout the country to respond to emergencies like in Texas?
o It’s important to have a search and rescue team because in the event of a significant disaster the medical infrastructure in an area is totally debilitated. Hospitals and EMS cannot initially function.
o The govt realized this in the 1990s and decided to put together search and rescue teams in the event there was a natural disaster, such as an earthquake in southern California. They were very convinced at some point this would happen and Phoenix would be the most logical place to have someone respond in the event that the whole structure of Southern California was debilitated from the disaster.
o They came to PHX fire and said let’s put together a search and rescue team. I was contacted to be a physician on the team. I agreed to do so, thinking that it would probably never be used in my lifetime
o The following year we got a call because of the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and they sent our team to CA. Fortunately, there was not enough damage at the time and the hospitals in the area were still functional. They didn’t really use us to a great extent. But it did put our team together and give us enough govt funding which gave us the equipment and extra training so that our team was fully functional.
o The team consists of hazardous materials specialists, firefighters, structural engineers, physicians, paramedics, rescue dogs, there are a lot of different specialties on the team.
o The next year, in 1995, they had the OK City Bombing at the Murrow Federal Building. They thought “this is similar to an earthquake, maybe we can send a rescue team to aid in the rescue efforts”
o So our team was mobilize. We were sent the same day as the bombing, got there the same day and served as a rescue and recovery effort to go through the building and find any potential survivors.
o Because the team was so functional in that event, they realized that the FEMA resuce teams could be used for things other than earthquakes. Then they started putting us on standby for various events – such as the Atlanta Olympics and Utah winter Olympics.
o When 9/11 occurred, we went to that event and spent nearly 2 weeks there going through the rubble. And then in Hurricane Katrina we were sent as well.
• 03:53 What is the difference in being a physician here in the community versus triaging out in the different environments
o You think being an emergency room physician is going to be straight across the board the same. Working in a hospital or doing emergency medicine anywhere. But it’s not. And because of that we have to take special training to learn how to care for disaster victims in a special environment.
o They provide training with us in rubble piles – they simulate various disasters where they pipe in dust, smoke, loud noises where victims are lodged in large holes. We have to assist through problems, figure out how we’ll treat them and most importantly package them up and get them out of the disaster safely.
o In some cases, like in Hurricane Katrina, we were compromised by lack of facilities to actually take care of victims because a lot of the hospitals in the area were flooded and couldn’t take care of the patients.
• 05:36 A lot of very detailed training needs to occur before anyone is ready, is that right?
o I found it is very different trying to resuscitate a patient on a rock pile or in a deep hole than being in a sterile environment of an emergency department when you have multiple people helping you and all the equipment and medications that you need.
o It’s a whole different world.
• 06:10 It sounds incredibly challenging, yet you continue now for nearly 20 years. What keeps you coming back to keep doing this?
o The reward comes from the feeling of being able to help people.
o That’s why I’m in this profession [ER], I like helping people. And I found that you can do it in the emergency department and that is one thing. But these are special types of patients that have special needs, and it just brings it to a whole new level.
• 06:45 What advice do you have doctors who want to make a difference in the lives of people not necessarily just in the hospital?
o It’s very rewarding and I would recommend to any physician that has the desire to do it to get involved. There are many organizations, not just FEMA search and rescue teams, but a lot of volunteer organizations that provide special relief to not only disasters but to areas that are compromised in their medical care.
o If you have the desire, the time, the ability to do it – I certainly recommend it. It is very rewarding.
• 07:42 You are not at Harvey as others went, but do you think you’ll be called out? How do you think Harvey will be going?
o There is that possibility. I’ll tell you that my bags and gear are ready in the event that I have to go. I am glad that two new physicians got to go because I think the experience that they are getting at this disaster will be necessary in the coming years and hopefully they can carry on the torch in the coming years because who knows what type of disasters we face.
o I would have never guessed when the team was put together in the early 90s that we would have done the number and types of event disasters that we have.
• 08:42 Walk us through the disasters you’ve been called out to:
o I’ve been to the Northridge earthquake, Oklahoma City Bombing, Atlanta Summer Olympics, Utah Winter Olympics, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
• 09:09 BROLL of Dr. Reinhart looking through photo albums of various disasters he’s responded to begins. Holing photos, flipping through albums, etc.