The state of Missouri signed a contract in November with a consortium of health care professionals and other emergency responders to provide medical care in case of disaster. The team, known as MO-1 MDAT, was formed four years ago to address federally declared disasters. Under the new agreement, it will be able to respond to lesser emergencies within Missouri and in Illinois, as well.

In response to a flood, terrorist attack, collapsed building, New Madrid Fault earthquake or other disaster, members of the 120-member volunteer team can set up a field emergency room anywhere in the state within six hours. "We have everything that it takes to run a hospital- -the only thing we don't bring up is the ground where we set up," says Mark Thorp, chief of the Clayton, Missouri, fire department and MO-1 MDAT unit commander. "We have administrative staff, we have a cook, we have patient accounting, along with the nurses, paramedics and physicians that you normally think about."

The federal government began deploying medical disaster assistance teams several years ago. The Missouri crew and a few others are entering into separate agreements in states because of heightened emergency concerns in the post-September 11 environment. Thorp and his MDAT team all serve on a voluntary basis, compensated and reimbursed for expenses when they are called into action.