Emergency departments serve has some of the first responders to disaster situations like Hurricane Florence last week in the Carolinas. Although your Monday night shift might occasionally feel like a mass casualty event, simply being an emergency physician doesn’t come with complementary emergency preparedness skills and knowledge. Thankfully, there are simple and specific skills that can be applied in a disaster scenario that you may not practice during normal shifts.
Disaster events come in many flavors including infectious outbreaks, acts of mass violence, natural disasters, and large-scale chemical exposure to name a few. It can be challenging to know where to start when training and preparing for this breadth of scenarios. The Arizona Medical Association in partnership with its Disaster Preparedness Task Force has assembled a quick guide to emergency preparedness for physicians.
Top Ten Tips for Disaster Preparedness1
1. Dial 9-1-1 for most emergencies
2. Stay available to patients
3. Remain calm; others will look to you for leadership
4. Stay inside for three days when exposed to radiation. Remove clothing, wash thoroughly and dress in new clothes
5. Wash your hands frequently and wear a face mask if exposed to a biological agent; 80 percent of agents are inhaled
6. Supplies should include a gallon of water per person, per day
7. Keep a portable, hand-crank radio available
8. Prepare your home, practice and patients for an emergency
9. Stay informed
10. Take a CREST (Critical Response and Emergency Systems Training) course
Emergency preparedness includes educating your patients too. Recent campaigns within the Maricopa Health System have focused on the quick and simple action of applying a tourniquet as a powerful way to recruit patients to help in a mass casualty setting. Encouraging your patients to think first to “Stop the Bleed” with tourniquets or improvised devices can save lives. MIHS’s “Stop the Bleed” training is free and available to public organizations, whether it’s a PTA, a company group, or public safety and security officers.2 You can be a leader in your community and practice by advocating for emergency preparedness preparation, drills, and by developing targeted skills. Participating in the “Stop the Bleed” campaign is a great place to start.
1. Arizona Medical Association Disaster Preparedness & Response Task Force. (2008, February). Disaster Preparedness and Awareness Guide for the Arizona Physician. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.azmed.org/resource/resmgr/Publications/ArMA-PhysicianDisasterGuide-.pdf
2. Vail, S., MD. (2017, July 7). Ask a Doc: Stop the bleeding! Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://mihs.org/article/ask-a-doc-stop-the-bleeding