Disaster and Mass Casualty Preparedness: Effective Planning and Complacency Reduction in the Medical-Response Community

Abstract

The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, and other tragedies of the recent past—including the watershed terrorist attack on New York City?s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001—have heightened awareness in the medical community about the critical importance of disaster and mass casualty preparedness. In fact, the risk of mass casualty disaster events is increasing due to a rise in global population density, an upsurge in volatile weather patterns, newly emergent infectious diseases such as the H1N1 influenza virus, improper and careless disposal of hazardous materials, and terrorist activity. This article addresses the principles of planning and preparation for disasters and mass casualty events; the roles and responsibilities of responders; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents and prodromal signs of exposure; and the importance of overcoming complacency to achieve a unified, well-orchestrated and rehearsed, regularly evaluated and updated plan for managing the effects of natural and man-made catastrophes.

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