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Disaster management - preparation and planning for acute care facilities.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Both human-derived and naturally-occurring disasters stress the surge capacity of health systems and acute care facilities. In this article, we review recent literature related to having a disaster plan, facility planning principles, institutional and team preparedness, the concept of surge capacity, simulation exercises and advantages and disadvantages of each.

RECENT FINDINGS: Evidence suggests that every institution should have a disaster plan and a dedicated team responsible for updating this plan. The disaster plan must be people-oriented and incorporate different perspectives and opinions so that all stakeholders feel included and can contribute to a joint response. Simulation exercises are fundamental for preparation so that the team functions seamlessly in uncommon times when disaster management transitions from a theoretical plan to one that is executed in real time. Notably, however, there are significantly different realities related to disaster management between countries and even within the same country or region. Unfortunately, key stakeholders such as hospital administration, board of directors and investors often do not believe they have any responsibility related to disaster management planning or response. Additionally, while a disaster plan often exists within an institution, it is frequently not well known or understood by many stakeholders. Communication, simple plans and well defined roles are some of the most important characteristics of a successful response. In extreme circumstances, adapting civilian facilities to manage high-volume warfare-related injuries may be adopted, but the consequences of this approach for routine healthcare within a system can be devastating.

SUMMARY: Disaster management requires careful planning with input from multiple stakeholders and a plan that is frequently updated with repeated preparation to ensure the team is ready when a disaster occurs. Close communication as well as clearly defined roles are critical to success when transitioning from preparation to activation and execution of a disaster response.

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