Natural Disasters and Hospital Safety

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During times of meteorological disasters, citizens often make it a point to head to local hospitals in the hopes of finding safety from the storm. After an investigation by Consumer Reports, it has become apparent that flocking to nearby hospitals may not be the safest option, especially when so many people do it. Studies found that most hospitals have out of date generators, which are often placed in poor locations, and many other factors that could lead to complications within the building. These problems are made worse if the natural disaster shuts down the electricity in the region and issues with generators have raised some questions in regards to hospital safety problems during times of natural disaster.

To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Eastern Kentucky University’s online Masters in Safety, Security and Emergency Management.


Infographic on National Disasters and Hospital Safety

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Natural Disasters in the United States of America

The United States recorded and reported 28 storms and other occurrences that fit the description of a natural disaster in 2013 alone. These natural disasters are broken up into three categories, climatological, hydrological and meteorological. In 2013, there were 6 climatological disasters, which included extreme temperature, drought and wild fires. There were 7 Hydrological disasters, including flood and mudslides. Finally, the bulk of the damage done was by the better-known meteorological disasters, storms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, with 15 of these reported in 2013.

The States Most at Risk

The top five states that are at risk for massive amounts of property and life damage are New Jersey, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama. Due to geographical location, states in the middle of America are more likely to be at the forefront of tornadoes. Texas, Tennessee and Missouri are all hot spots for hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Texas reports 23.7 billion dollars of property damage due in part to drought and flash flooding. Between 2006 and 2013, Texas lost 313 people to complications during storms. Tennessee totaled 5.1 billion in damage and 224 deaths between 2006 and 2013. Missouri, during the same time frame, racked up a 5 billion dollar price tag in property damage and the highest death toll, with 346 citizens.

New Jersey, in the meanwhile, has the highest property damage with 26.4 billion dollars and the lowest death toll with 87 people lost. Alabama rounds out the top five states at risk for massive storm damage with 4.9 billion dollars in property damage and 333 people dead over seven years.

Safety Concerns for Hospitals

One of the main challenges for hospitals is the loss of services. Natural disasters can cut off the electricity, water and supply chain in many locations. In most hospitals, generators are more than fifty years old and are found in the basement, where they are not protected from flooding. Many hospitals are unable to foot the bill to move their generators, and the state is not likely to cover the tab. Another issue is the lack of regulation for installing backup generators, and there is no transparency for the public when dealing with hospitals that fail generator tests.

Other issues include the loss of infrastructure, such as electronic records, a shortage of workforce due to transportation loss, or injury, or illness, as well as a drastic increase in the number of patients with severe illnesses or injuries. Even a relocation of care to an alternate location is not enough to help, as it will not be well equipped enough for the influx of patients.

Top 3 Natural Disasters

The United States has already experienced recent problems in the wake of three overwhelming natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina, Super storm Sandy and Hurricane Andrew have all done enough damage to demonstrate the need for better infrastructure and management in the nation’s hospitals. Despite the potential for unmitigated disaster, many hospitals are also taking the steps necessary to outline emergency plans that can help improve survival rates and quality of life during such large storms.

Hospital Emergency Plan

Every hospital plan begins with mitigation, identifying the top three to five biggest hazard vulnerabilities and drafting plans to help understand and manage such risks. From that point on, the appropriate hospital based preparations will need to be made. National incident management systems will need to be put in place to help doctors and other medical professionals perform the appropriate triage procedures to help minimize damage. Regular testing procedures for generators are also an important part of the proposed plans. Appropriate response management is another vital part of these plans, as they can help determine what steps need to be taken to further control damage in regards to the severity of the situation.