Recognizing that all disasters are local, below is some background information that you may find useful in talking with your community. Please feel free to tailor this information to meet your specific situation.

  • All hospitals have plans in place to deal with disasters, whether man-made or natural. Hospitals use a general "all-hazards" plan to provide a framework that can be tailored to meet the specific demands of an incident. In addition, hospitals generally conduct two drills a year -- one focusing on an internal disaster such as a complete power failure, and another focused on an external event, such as a plane crash, oil refinery fire, nuclear plant accident, major highway accident, hurricane, etc., depending upon the local likelihood.

  • As we saw in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia last week, the plans worked well. They worked because of the incredible dedication, compassion and skill of the health care teams involved.

  • The range of incidents that a hospital may face, unfortunately, expanded last week. In response, the nation's hospitals are reviewing their disaster plans with a renewed focus on terrorist attacks.

  • It's important to note that that there will be significant learning from last week's events. Disaster managers use the term "after action analysis" to describe the kind of activities that will be conducted to study (in retrospect) what happened, what worked and what did not.

  • The AHA will work with our members to learn and share the lessons from this experience. However, this will be a delayed activity because those involved in the incidents need time to recover and heal before being asked to review it and share their insights. The AHA is placing a heightened priority on, and more staff resources into, its ongoing effort to address hospitals' preparedness for mass casualties. Below is a listing of Web sites that provide good information on disaster readiness.

Resources: -- Visit the special "Disaster Readiness Resources" section -- the National Disaster Medical System of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- Federal Emergency Management Agency -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  -- Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies

There are a variety of local and state resources that may be useful as well. Please check your state's health department or emergency services or preparedness Web site, or your state, regional and metropolitan hospital association Web sites. If you have questions, please call the AHA at 800-424-4301.


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