Hospital Disaster Preparedness. 

A large disaster or critical event rendering mass casualties could directly impact on your hospital at any time.You must know how you will be expected to respond should this occur.

In Australia, by far the most likely causes of such events would be natural disasters such as bush-fires, severe storms, floods, tsunami or earthquakes.
Man-made disasters such as bus or train crashes, or industrial accidents are also possibilities.

Unfortunately, the less likely prospect of a terrorist mass casualty or multiple casualty event has also become a ‘present danger’.

Perhaps this is a prudent time for you to ensure you are prepared and forearmed to respond to the activation of your hospitals disaster plan.

Disaster preparedness is a huge topic that is beyond the scope of this short post. Instead I will flag some points to reflect on and explore yourself.

Personal preparedness:

Just as in your response to a medical emergency, your first response in a disaster is to ensure your own personal safety and protection. Disasters may directly impact on your home, family and pets.

ACTION: Think about how you are prepared to respond to a hospital call-in should there be a direct impact or threat to your family or property. It is very difficult to respond to your hospitals disaster plan or deliver focused and sustained care if these things are not sorted and safe.

  • Does your family have a go-to person that will act as contact/information base in the event of a disaster?
  • Do they know how to contact you once you are at work should they need to?
  • Does your family have an agreed meeting place should you become separated or need to evacuate your house?
  • If you were to respond to a hospital call-in do you have someone to take care of your pets?

Professional preparedness:

Contact-ability: Does your manager have an up to date contact number(s) for you?
Do you know other ways the hospital would try to contact you in case of over-congestion or failure of the telephone service?

For example, hospitals might use their Web site homepage or a designated radio station to keep staff informed of response needs.
Hospital disaster plan: Do you know where it is? Have you read it recently (…or ever)?

Disasters rapidly unfold (often without warning) and have a direct and overwhelming impact on all areas of the hospital, not just the emergency department, ICU and theatres.

Hospital response:

Depending on your own hospital response plan there could be significant changes to the normal operations of your ward/unit.


  • Go and find the location your hospitals disaster plan.
  • Read the section(s) relevant to the operation of your own unit/ward.
  • Also look at how your own unit fits within the bigger picture of the whole of hospital response.

Discuss these things amongst your colleagues (informally and formally)

Getting to work:

Physically getting in to work could be a problem during a disaster. Especially if the hospital initiates any lock-down security plans.
ACTIONS: Think about these things and mentally rehearse your response:
Would there be any problems accessing your hospital via usual road routes? What would be your alternative plan?

  • Would parking be an issue? How would you deal with this?
  • If the hospital is in lock-down, what entrance should you use?
  • Who is the first person you should report to once you do arrive in your unit/ward area?

Disaster bug-out bag:

Do you have a small ready-to-go kit or hit-list of items you will want to grab if you are responding to the activation of your hospitals disaster plan?
It might contain such items as:

  • Change of underwear & socks.
  • Mobile phone & charger.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Snacks ( muesli bars/sweets etc)
  • Work ID badge/tag
  • Any medications you normally take.
  • Sanitary products.

Hospital preparedness:

Finally, it is important to make sure your hospital has an up to date, clear, effective and rehearsed disaster response plan.

There should be regular education given to staff on the hospitals disaster plan both at a overall response level and (importantly) at a ward/unit & individual level.

This is of particular importance if you work in the emergency department, critical care areas or theatres.
ACTIONS: If you feel that this is not the case, now is the time to talk to your unit manager or educator to discuss these issues and to plan some information sessions for the staff.

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