The evaluation of the "Health Response to the Earthquake in Haiti" showed that, as in previous emergencies, although the response was significant and effective medical teams were present and saved many lives, there were also many of them that were not prepared or were event incompetent for the kind of medical care required by the patients.

The publication on the lessons of the health response in Haiti to be learned for future disasters demonstrated the need to develop principles, criteria and standards for medical teams that respond to emergencies and disasters, in line with global processes to improve humanitarian guidelines and standards.

In this context, the Pan American Health Organization convened a meeting of experts in Cuba, from 7-9 December 2010, to, among others, review the "Guidelines for the use of foreign field hospitals in the aftermath of sudden-impact disasters", published by PAHO/WHO in 2003, and streamline the request, acceptance and coordination processes for international medical teams. The purpose was improving the speed of response and efficiency in deployment. The group of experts prepared a report of the meeting, which is the basis of the initiative known today as "Emergency Medical Teams."

PAHO's Directing Council, made up of representatives from Member States, approved the "Plan of Action for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in the Americas", at its 53rd session. The plan considers the implementation in Member States of response procedures and flexible national registration mechanisms for Emergency Medical Teams.


What are Emergency Medical Teams (EMT)?

EMTs are teams of health professionals (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, paramedics, etc.) that provide direct clinical care to people affected by emergencies and disasters, and support local health systems.

EMT can be from both governmental (civil and military teams) and non-governmental organizations and their response can be national or international.

Traditionally, these teams have been focused on the management of trauma and surgical care, but the response to the Ebola outbreak demonstrated the value they can have in other contexts, such as epidemics and complex emergencies.


What are we looking for with the EMT initiative in the Americas?

  • Ensure that well-trained and self-sufficient emergency medical teams can provide a timely response to assist people affected by disasters and emergencies.
  • Have global classification and national registration mechanisms available to facilitate the acceptance and deployment of emergency medical teams that meet the minimum requirements of EMT standards.
  • Deployed government and agency medical teams will be able to prove that they are operating under the EMT system of standards and coordination.
  • The creation of a global and regional EMT community that enables the exchange of knowledge and best practices among emergency medical teams.
  • Have well-trained and self-sufficient national EMTs to ensure a rapid response in their own countries and in the region.

PAHO Support

How does PAHO support the implementation of the EMT initiative in the Americas?

  • Providing technical advice for:
    • The preparation of procedures and tools for requesting, accepting and receiving EMTs;
    • CICOM (Emergency Medical Team Coordination) integration with health EOCs;
    • Design and creation of EMTs at the national level;
    • Development of national registration mechanisms, both for national and international teams;
    • Optimization of immigration, customs and logistics processes to facilitate the deployment of EMTs.
  • Strengthening national EMT capacities in the Americas.
  • Serving as Secretariat for the EMT Regional Group in the Americas.
  • Developing and supporting national workshops for EMT coordination.
  • Organizing regional workshops for EMT coordinators.
  • Maintaining a regional roster of EMT coordinators to be activated by the countries that need them.
  • Supporting the preparation of national logistics cards for the deployment of EMTs.
  • Promoting regional and global exchange of knowledge and good practices.


What is expected from countries in the Americas for the strengthening and implementation of the EMT initiative?

  • Active participation in the American EMT Regional Group.
  • Update national procedures and guidelines for requesting, accepting and receiving Emergency Medical Teams.
  • Encourage the classification of national EMTs.
  • Develop a national mechanism for the registration of national and international Emergency Medical Teams.
  • Develop tools for the information management and coordination of EMTs.
  • Exchange EMT experiences and good practices with the rest of the Region.

For additional information regarding the EMT initiative contact:

Luis de la Fuente Martin This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

EMT Regional Group

The global EMT initiative is implemented through the Global Secretariat and its three Regional Secretariats for Africa, Americas, South-East Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific.

The EMT initiative in the Americas will be implemented through the Pan American Health Organization and will be comprised of the Regional EMT Secretariat, the Regional EMT Group, and the national EMT focal point network. 

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