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Walter Reed Bethesda deployed one of its two new mobile shelter systems recently to Adelphi, Md., as part of training for the medical center's continuous readiness and emergency preparedness mission.

The medical center recently acquired the shelters, capable of deployment to respond to contingencies and emergencies, as part of its Bethesda Hospitals’ Emergency Preparedness Partnership (BHEPP) initiative, explained Christopher Gillette, service chief of Emergency Management (EM) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).

The BHEPP was established following 9/11 based on a need for coordinated collaboration in response to man-made or natural disasters, according to Gillette. The partnership includes the four major health care institutions in Bethesda -- WRNMMC, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Suburban Hospital and National Library of Medicine all located within a couple of miles of each other. He added the institutions recognized the advantages and importance of working together and established the emergency preparedness partnership, which includes shared resources such as the mobile response shelters to enhance surge capacity expansion capabilities.

“Surge capacity is a limited capability throughout the region,” added Melissa Knapp, program manager for EM Plans, Training and Exercises at Walter Reed Bethesda. “The shelters are multi-purpose facilities that are primarily designed for minimal care and medical surgical overflow; however, they can also be used for initial casualty receipt, treatment, and stabilization of patients. They are a tremendous asset for the hospital.”

With the two new mobile response shelters, WRNMMC now has four shelters, all housed on base and capable of deployment within hours, Knapp said.

“Overall, the new shelters offer a more efficient system and deployment [than the two older shelters],” Knapp explained. “There are fewer parts and pieces because lighting and electrical outlets are integrated. Inflation time is faster and there is less manual labor to inflate the [newer] shelters. This saves time on the physical setup of the shelters. The new system also has an integrated oxygen distribution system and removable patient privacy screens.”

Between the new and old shelters, Knapp said the systems are capable of providing up to 100 additional beds as part of the BHEPP surge capacity expansion.

The new, 25-bed multi-purpose facility recently deployed to the Army Research Lab in Adelphi gave EM staff the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the system’s set-up and capabilities, Gillette said. Also onsite was the medical center's incident command vehicle (ICV), capable of providing mobile communication as well as command and control support for deployed military treatment facility resources.

Mark Miller, hospital decontamination program manager, explained the new mobile response shelter can be fully deployed within five to six hours by less than 20 people. He said the new shelter is transported to a deployment site in three trailers. One trailer houses the system’s generator, while the other two trailers store the three sections of the shelter as well as its lighting, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

Once up, the shelter's lighting, electrical and HVAC systems are powered by the 400-gallon diesel-fueled generator capable of continuous service for up to 40 hours before needing to be refueled, Miller added.

“The footprint of a fully deployed system, which includes the three connected shelters and three trailers, is 144 feet long by 75 feet wide,” Knapp said.

The ICV supports the mobile response shelter when the unit is deployed. The command vehicle is used to communicate back with the hospital during deployment, or as a location for command and control in the event of a hospital communication outage. Once set up, it’s a secure environment, Gillette said.

The high-tech, 30-foot long vehicle has internet capability, a virtual private network (VPN), multi-phone lines, fax, video teleconferencing (VTC) capacity, and an enterprise land mobile radio (ELMR) system. It is also equipped with satellite and local air television, a briefing and display system, a weather monitoring system, global positioning system (GPS), a mast camera for visual situational awareness, galley, restroom, and uninterruptable power source (UPS) backup.