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Disaster Preparedness: How Nurses Can Stay Prepared

In every 24-hour news cycle, there is typically one or more stories about a man-made or natural disaster occurring somewhere within the United States. These disasters can include any number of victims from 5 to 10 to 50 or more and as a medical professio
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In a 24-hour news cycle, you are bound to hear about a man-made or natural disaster occurring somewhere within the United States.  These disasters can include any number of victims from 5 to 50 and as a medical professional, nurses have to be prepared for that unwanted call at any time.  The American Red Cross recommends that every family should talk about and prepare a plan for how they will react to a local disaster.  Nurses and other medical professionals have to be ready for that call to action, requiring a totally different level of preparedness.  Let’s take a look at some of the things nurses should consider as part of their personal disaster preparedness plan.

Education is key.  As our country and world-at-large are dealing with a greater frequency of large-scale trauma and disaster situations, it is incumbent upon those in the nursing field to educate themselves on what their role can and will be during a high-level trauma situation.  Many nursing schools and online providers, such as our Supplemental University are increasing their subject offerings in this new area of expertise.  Nurses can also perform their own research on the web, starting with Ready.gov.

Prepare Yourself and Your Family.  In the event of an emergency, as a nurse you are going to be called into action at a moment’s notice.  For you to be able to focus your full attention on those in need, it is important that your family is prepared at home.  Create a family emergency plan, and ensure that each member knows what their role is, and where the emergency supply kit is located.  It is also important to understand what types of emergencies that may arise in your geographic location, for example, weather-related emergencies including tornadoes and hurricanes, etc.  No one wants to spend time talking about things that are stressful and frightening, but it is vital that your loved ones understand the plan, and can carry it out if needed.  Another way nurses can help prepare is by proactively educating friends and neighbors.

Know Your Organization’s Emergency Response Plan.  As a nurse, you have probably already participated in disaster drills conducted by your organization or facility.  These drills are important facets of your training and preparation when disaster suddenly strikes.  In an emergency, stress, chaos, and confusion will all have an impact on you and your team’s response to the situation.  The key is to know the plan and be aware of how to stay informed while the crisis is unfolding.  One item that is often overlooked in a crisis is the chain of command.  Disasters aren’t scheduled so it is important to know the pre-established line of authority and who will be making the critical decisions.

Get Involved.  You became a nurse because you are naturally inclined to help those in need.  During large-scale trauma and disaster situations, you are going to be called upon in ways you may have never imagined.  One way to stay prepared for events of this magnitude is to join the emergency planning team at your facility or in your local community.  By volunteering or accepting an invitation to participate on your hospital’s Emergency Response Team, you will be on a select team of individuals who play a critical role in responding to a disaster incident.  ERT’s receive training for all types of crises and understand all of the details within the Disaster Plan.  There are also many opportunities to help prepare your entire community for disaster situations.  One such effort is the locally coordinated Citizen Corps, a collection of local leaders who come together to plan and prepare for emergencies.  Click here to find a local Citizen Corp Council near you.   If you are unable to find an existing emergency preparedness effort in your community, there are many available resources to guide you in taking a leadership role and establishing one in your locale.

As you can see based on the handful of items discussed here, being prepared to respond effectively to traumas, disasters, and other large-scale casualty situations takes a great amount of self-motivation.  This includes the motivation to put in the effort to take specific courses and gain critical knowledge, the drive to prepare your family, friends and neighbors, and initiative to join special teams where you can receive additional training and play a leadership role in responding to the unexpected.

Are you a member of an emergency response planning team?  Have you received special training or CEs about disaster preparedness?  Tell us your story in the comment section below, or stop by our Facebook page.