Disaster Management by Healthcare Professionals


Mass casualty events are very common and unfortunately, majority of the health care professionals are not familiar with their responsibilities in this event (Gebbie & Merrill, 2009). As a result, this article analyses the roles and responsibilities of both the health care professionals and the community in emergency preparedness.

Mass casualty event

Mass casualty event is an overwhelming situation to both the first responders (firefighters and the medical technicians) and the health care facility (Janice, 2010). Besides, the victims are in a life threatening condition and they require urgent care even though the available resources are inadequate (Janice, 2010). Many kinds of mass casualty events occur and they include bioterrorism, natural calamities like hurricanes, radiation and chemical emergencies (Swain, 2007).

Personal and family preparedness

Creating awareness about mass casualty event will help the family to plan for a disaster (Gebbie & Merrill, 2009).Therefore; the guidelines involve informing the family, planning, developing a disaster kit, practicing and maintaining the plan (Janice, 2010). For instance, the preparations involve creating a kit that contain supplies like food, clothing, blanket and first aid materials like medication (Janice, 2010). Furthermore, the family should have a plan that stipulates a defined meeting place and communication strategies (Janice, 2010). Moreover, the plans need review and regular practice (Gebbie & Merrill, 2009).

America Nurses Association disaster competencies for nurses

These competencies help the nurses to understand their role during an emergency and to teach preparedness to the public (Swain, 2007). To begin with, the nurse should know which role to play during an emergency and it includes recognition of injury in terms of signs and symptoms and secondly, the nurse should identify any unusual presentation and report the case to the public health department (Weiner, 2008). Thirdly, the nurse should offer care that is within the nursing scope and finally, the nurse should allay anxiety by assuring the community (Swain, 2007).

Mass casualty and triage basics

In a mass casualty event, triaging at the scene is the work of emergency medical service and the aim is to group the victims according to the severity of their conditions (Janice, 2010). The emergency medical service uses both simple triage and rapid treatment system, which involves grouping victims according to their ability of talking, walking, breathing or orientation (Swain, 2007). Moreover, victims are color coded with different colors that indicate the urgency of the care (Gebbie & Merrill, 2009).

To begin with, red means the victims are in a critical condition and they require immediate care (Swain, 2007). Secondly, yellow means the victims are stable but they need urgent care because they can easily deteriorate thus they are taken to the hospital within two hours (Weiner, 2008). Finally, green means the victims have minimal injuries and can wait for more than two hours while black means the victims are dead or have no injuries at all (Swain, 2007).

The role of the hospital personnel in hospital triage

The hospital personnel begin by preparing for the arrival of the victims and this is through triaging of the hospitalized patient so that those patients with the lowest acuity go home and leave the beds vacant for the incoming victims (Weiner, 2008). Upon arrival of the victims, administration of treatment is after a repeat triage while treatment of ambulatory victims is according to their specific needs (Weiner, 2008). Subsequently, the hospital personnel give the victims’ relatives the appropriate information and support (Weiner, 2008).

Educational programs for professional development

Various education programs are available for nurses to enhance their knowledge (Weiner, 2008). To begin with, free courses like the National Incidence Management System are available in the FEMA website and they help in improving management of victims in case of a disaster (Janice,2010). Secondly, the American Red Cross offers a course on disaster health care services that prepares someone to volunteer in a disaster response and finally, the community emergency response team is a course that train people how to help themselves in a mass casualty event (Weiner, 2008).

Hospital Disaster Plan

The plan use a model called the Hospital Incident Command System where the roles are defined (Swain, 2007). For instance, the role of the incident commander is to direct all the events while the public information officer give the media information (Swain, 2007). On the other hand, the nurses provide care to the patients (Swain, 2007). Additionally, an exercise that determines the capability of an organization to respond to an emergency is occasionally conducted (Swain, 2007).

American National Association policy white paper

The policy states that an emergency should not change the standard of care, ethics, competence or the professional values (Weiner,2008). Besides, every professional should be ready for an emergency while every organization should plan and practice how to respond to an emergency (Weiner, 2008).

Lesson learnt from the article

Mass casualty events are very common and sometimes it is beyond our control and the way forward is early preparations so that the numbers of deaths reduce. Secondly, nurses play an imperative role in a mass casualty event and further education will increase their competencies. Finally, the triaging done at the scene of the event is important because patients with life threatening situation receive first priority thus survival rate increases.


Although mass casualty event is a common situation, disaster preparedness helps by increasing the number of survivors (Weiner, 2008). As a result, both the community and the health care professionals require training on what to do before and during a disaster.


Gebbie, K., & Merrill, J. (2009). Responding effectively to Disaster and Environmental Health Events. Journal of Disaster Management and Response , 74 (8), 113-117.

Janice, S. (2010). Mass Cassualty Events: Are you Prepared? Journal of Clinical Nurse Specialist , 40 (4), 45.

Swain, G. (2007). Emergency Response: Physician Trainning and Obligation. Jounal of American Family Physician , 3 (75), 401-402.

Weiner, E. (2008). Preparing Nurses Internationally for Emergency Planning and Response. Journal of Issues in Nursing , 34 (5), 49-58.

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