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Commander's Corner

David Lipin - Unit Commander


Hello all, and welcome to the April edition of our newsletter. This one was particularly rough to write, as it contains some unpleasant news for us as a team and a system. Well, mixed news really, but I struggled with the unpleasant parts. So here goes:

NDMS Re-alignment

As part of a broader refocusing of the government's budget and resources, NDMS (and OEM more broadly) is going to realign itself to be leaner and more nimble, able to provide smaller footprint, shorter-duration resources to state (and the federal) governments that have diminishing budgets for disaster preparedness and response. This realignment will start soon, but will take months (or even longer, up to 1.5 or 2 years) to complete.

Some of this is not new news. We've been talking for a while now about smaller footprint teams with more limited mission sets, and have even staffed a few of them over the past couple years.

We've also discussed how NDMS is going to evolve away from the "team typing" model to a "single type" model. Under the current model as a Type 1 team, we have to staff a 48-person on-call roster, and you're all aware how much of a struggle that's been because of our inability to hire for the past few years. And you may recall that certain types of teams were preferred over others for certain types of missions.

So for us, that part is actually good news. At some point this year (not March, but maybe June), we will switch from the "team typing" model to the "single type" model and have to roster only 35 people (much like "the old days"). Overall this means we'll reduce our need to backfill, but not completely since we're crtitcally short in a few areas. And we'll continue to provide backfill support to other teams that need it.

And more good news on that front -- NDMS is getting ready to hire again. As intermittants and employees that serve a critical function, we're not impacted by the otherwise government-wide hiring freeze. So we're hoping to soon start to fill our backlog of open positions.

But the "leaner, meaner" approach also means some changes. As we won't have to fill a 48-person deployment roster, we also won't hire to the same bench strength that we used to have. Our total strength will be just above 80 people as opposed to the nearly 120 that we have now (including all unfilled openings).

Further, to simplify the hiring process, NDMS is reducing the variations within positions that we hire to. This means that there will be only one position for each job category (e.g., one physician category, one nurse category, etc). For some members, this will mean an automatic reduction in pay grade (not that any of us do this for the money!). For others, it will mean a pay grade increase. But of course this is the government, so nothing good ever comes for free -- those who are due for pay grade increases will have to apply for them (to document your additional years of experience to qualify for the increases). Some of you will be able to use this opportunity to apply for different positions as a result in your licensure change (e.g., a paramedic who is now a nurse).

As we will now become a "leaner" team, it also means we'll have to become a "meaner" team, with a much stronger focus on meeting the reduced mission set that we're targeting. This means that we're only going to hire into certain positions, and that other positions will be eliminated. It also means that we're going to focus on hiring people who are clinically active, so that we can have fewer people with a broader skills base to meet our mission set.

Much of this will happen with attrition over the coming months, as it's been happening with us over the years. But some of this will ultimately mean that we will eventually have to let some people go, people who are no longer clinically active (we don't yet know what that means), people that aren't in one of the positions on the new team configuration (we don't yet know what those are), and people that don't meet the new health and physical fitness requirements.

We have time to figure this out, possibly a year or more. Some people will be able to work on passing the new health/fitness requirements, and others will be able to move to positions in the new team configuration. But it's not fair to spring this on people, so we're telling everyone now to expect future changes. We estimate that around 80% of our current team will be impacted in some way by these changes, but we don't know for sure because we haven't seen the specifics.

We hope to have the specifics soon, and our command staff will work together to analyze them and the impact on each member. We'll then reach out to each person individually to discuss the specific impacts to them, if any. I also plan on going into much more detail at the May team meeting, so we're going to re-arrange the meeting schedule to allow for extra time to discuss this as a team (assuming that we have sufficient details by then).

I know that change is sometimes hard and I'm certain that we'll have our share of challenges with this as well, but if we think about it in a "bigger picture" way, we've been undergoing this change for years already -- fewer and shorter deployments, more standby/staging missions, and struggles to meet our mission readiness with ever-diminishing budgets. We're now just acknowledging this change and stepping up to meet it head on.

DMAT Advanced Training Sign-ups Re-opened

We are short 1 MD member, 3 MD/PA/NP members, 3 EMT-P members, and 1 Pharmacist for the Advanced DMAT training in Anniston, so we have re-opened sign-ups for this training event. If you fall into one of these categories, I strongly urge you to consider signing up for this event. We're on-call anyway, so you should be setting aside that time regardless. And it's a great opportunity for us to contribute to the design of this new training before it is expanded system-wide next year. Sign-ups and all the details are under Event Signups on the right side of the website when you log in. Please consider this opportunity!

Resetting your NDMS Portal Password

By now all federal team members should have created AMS accounts and logged into the NDMS Portal. For security purposes, you have to log in and change your password every 60 days. If you forget, you'll have to call the AMS Help Desk to get your password reset. Ari Stern, our new CMO, reminded me to tell everyone that you can reach them at (888) 663-3447, option 4; they can help with logon problems as well as resets, but are only open during regular business hours (east coast, of course).

NDMS is working to consolidate as many systems as possible behind a single sign-on, so that team members don't need as many unique sign-ons as they do now: AMS/NDMS Portal, RMS/RHS (Responder Health Statement), and ReL (Responder eLearn). So look for some of those to consolidate over the coming months.

Tax March San Francisco, Apr 15

There's a rally/march event called Tax March San Francisco taking place in San Francisco on the afternoon of April 15th. While our organization remains neutral on the various positions that people have on issues, we do provide support to our local community and encourage our members to do so as well. The coordinators for this particular event are expecting between 8K and 20K people to attend, so they reached out and asked if we could spread the word that they're looking for medical volunteers to help out (and other volunteers -- logistics, HAM operators, etc). As usual, this event is not sponsored or supported by DMAT or CDMSA, but let me know if you're interested and I'll send you the details so you can sign up directly with them.

CAL-MAT Program Launch

We've been talking for a long time about CA EMSA taking over the CAL-MAT program from CDMSA, and they've slowly been working their way towards that. But I'm happy to announce that this is transition is now underway. CDMSA will officially transition the CAL-MAT program over to EMSA before the end of April, and all future medical events and responses will be conducted as a state program (with us as state emergency-hire employees when we're not volunteering). We'll hopefully have a guest speaker from CA EMSA at our May meeting to introduce and explain the new program.

So for several reasons, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at our May meeting!

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