Emergency preparedness should be exercised at all organizational levels. Office-based physicians (whether they work in a hospital or in a free-standing practice) should understand the role of their office within the context of the communities disaster plan. A written preparedness plan can help practices reduce risks, maintain practice operations, and ensure a medical home for the children in their care. Pediatricians should prepare, regularly update, and practice an office plan that is coordinated with local hospital and community emergency response plans.
Preparedness Checklist for Pediatric Practice
Based on the concepts and information in the Pediatric Preparedness Resource Kit, the Preparedness Checklist for Pediatric Practices offers steps that pediatricians or their practice staff can take to improve office preparedness. Pediatricians need to be ready to provide care for their patients, even when normal operations are disrupted. This checklist will allow for advanced preparedness planning that can mitigate risk, ensure financial stability, strengthen the medical home, and help promote the health of children in the community. The checklist also offers strategies on keeping vaccines safe during an emergency as well as steps to promote professional self-care. For more information, or to request complimentary print copies, please e-mail DisasterReady@aap.org.
Emergency Care Plans
A child-oriented, comprehensive, emergency care system maintains the concept of systematic intervention in response to disasters while also viewing the needs of the child in the context of family and community. This framework is particularly suited to the office-based physician, who brings knowledge about responses and the needs of children involved in disasters and should work across public systems to render effective medical, educational, and community interventions. The objective is to ensure that the biological and psychological needs of children are addressed before, during, and after traumatic situations.
Pediatricians can support preparedness for children with special health care needs by coordinating completion of appropriate Emergency Information Forms and Comprehensive Care Plans.
Mass Casualty Incidents
In mass casualty incidents, including those involving chemical, biological, and radiologic/nuclear agents or blast trauma, casualties could be significant. Because children constitute approximately 25% of the US population, if there is a disaster, it is likely that there will be victims who are children. Pediatricians should assist in preparedness planning to ensure coordinated responses of local hospitals that may have limited pediatric resources. Facilities may be overwhelmed by massive numbers of anxious individuals and families and could be a primary or secondary target themselves. Pediatricians working in or with hospitals can help to ensure enhanced care of the pediatric disaster victim by participating in all levels of disaster preparedness planning, including long-term follow-up and mental health care. An important first step is to work with a local hospital to complete the Guidelines for Care of Children in the Emergency Department.
The Pediatric Preparedness Resource Kit offers strategies to promote collaborative discussions and decision-making among pediatric and public health leaders about pediatric preparedness planning. It is important to encourage individual pediatricians to increase their knowledge in disaster preparedness. Emergency preparedness is important at many levels (personal, family, community, regional, other specialty societies, state, and federal), with the state and federal governments having pivotal roles. A successful response to a disaster requires the interaction of personnel and resources from multiple agencies in an organized and coordinated manner according to a well-formulated plan. Although this planning has increased in recent times, attention to the unique needs of children and the inclusion of pediatric expertise in the planning phases is still lacking, or in many cases, nonexistent. Individual pediatricians can be active champions in advocating for the needs of children as well as pediatric-focused preparedness planning. Pediatricians who wish to increase their involvement can sign up in their state to volunteer in advance and take steps to promote hospital preparedness.
Text adapted from the Pediatric Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness: A Resource for Pediatricians.