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Disaster Convention Confronts the Real Thing With PM-Hurricane Andrew, Bjt

August 25, 1992

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The nation’s top disaster officials gathered in Oklahoma City for a weeklong conference on disaster relief, but Hurricane Andrew turned the talk into action.

By Sunday afternoon, the conference held by the Office of Emergency Preparedness and National Disaster Medical System had turned into the national command post for emergency medical services for Andrew victims.

″We virtually had all the key people from all the federal agencies right here,″ director Thomas Reutershan said Monday. ″Normally we would still be trying to track some of these people down over the phone.″

The system is a network of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and Defense; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and the private sector.

Charged with providing medical care, supplies and evacuation help to disaster areas, the system last was activated when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.

″We’ve been quietly building this system for eight years, but we haven’t had to use it much, fortunately,″ Reutershan said.

Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles asked for two, 35-member teams of nurses, doctors, medical technicians and others on Monday, Reutershan said. Authorities decided later in the day that one team would be enough.

The team is made up of volunteers from the private sector.

A 15-person team also will be sent to Florida to help coordinate relief, while the newly set-up Oklahoma City command post will monitor the hurricane and prepare reports, he said.

Reutershan said the choice of Oklahoma City for the convention was a lucky one. Last year’s conference was in Tampa, Fla.

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