The history of the New Jersey-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (NJ-1 DMAT) dates to 1991, when concern was raised regarding not having the capabilities of a DMAT in the New Jersey area. These concerns were echoed by the U.S. Public Health Service, who oversaw the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), at the time.
The U.S. Public Health Service recognized the lack of a DMAT in New Jersey and acknowledged the increasing threat of coastal storms and industrial accidents. This concern resulted in the creation of the New Jersey-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (NJ-1 DMAT).
NJ-1 DMAT was initially categorized as a Level-3 DMAT (as are virtually all new teams) within the National Disaster Medical System. Level-3 status meant that the team was not provided an equipment cache (commonly called a "basic load"), and the purpose of the team at the Federal level was to provide personnel to help backfill staff from other teams.
As time progressed, NJ-1 members were deployed to a variety of disasters, gaining both experience and recognition. Soon after, the team was promoted to Level-2 status within the NDMS and was issued certain portions of the basic load.
In 2000, NJ-1 DMAT was promoted to a Level-1 team within the NDMS, where it remains today. The team has a roster of individuals trained and capable of deploying to a federally declared disaster, making use of a full basic load of issued equipment. As a Level-1 team, NJ-1 DMAT is on call approximately 3 months a year to be the first team in the eastern half of the United States deployed to a disaster. This responsibility is shared with other Level-1 DMATs from around the country.
In March of 2003, the Department of Homeland Security was established and NDMS was brought under the oversight of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Restructuring again occured in January of 2007, when the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response was established within the Department of Health and Human Services. NDMS now resides within this department with direct reporting to the Assistant Secretary.
During an on call period, team members must submit their availability to respond to a disaster deployment for at least 14 days at a time. Most deployments last 10-14 days. Although members are not mandated to deploy, Public Law 107-188 (H.R. 3448), provides for job protection from their full time employers for team members who are serving their country.
During its history of two decades, the team has participated in numerous events and deployments. Three team members have been selected as national-level training instructors to help train other DMATs. Some members have gained national recognition for their expertise, and are often called upon specifically. The NJ-1 DMAT continues to receive recognition for its work.
Today, the NJ-1 DMAT is stronger then it has ever been before. A dedicated command staff and extraordinary membership help to ensure that the team will continue to have a bright and outstanding future!