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Physician Emergency Preparedness: A National Poll of Physicians

  • Gillian K. SteelFisher (a1), Robert J. Blendon (a1) (a2), Amanda S. Brulé (a1), Keri M. Lubell (a3), Loretta Jackson Brown (a3), Dahna Batts (a3) and Eran Ben-Porath (a4)...



To provide a more comprehensive view than previously available of US physician preparedness for public health emergencies, this study examined physicians’ assessments of their preparedness, training, participation in institutional activities, information practices, and experiences with patient education. Four kinds of public health emergencies were considered: natural disasters, major airborne infections, major foodborne illness outbreaks, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosives (CBRNE) incidents.


Between October 19, 2011, and January 11, 2012, researchers conducted a national poll among 1603 practicing physicians in a range of specialties in hospital and nonhospital settings.


More than one-half of physicians felt prepared to handle a natural disaster, a major outbreak of an airborne infection, or a major foodborne illness outbreak, whereas one-third (34%) felt prepared to handle a CBRNE incident. About one-half of physicians (55%) had participated in training or a conference related to emergencies in the past 2 years. Sizable fractions of physicians were unaware of emergency response tools in their care setting. For example, nearly one-half in hospitals (44%) did not know whether their care setting had an emergency response plan, and less than one-quarter had participated in a drill using such a plan in the past 2 years. Less than one-third (31%) of physicians had signed up to receive alerts in the case of future emergencies. One in 10 reported sharing emergency information with patients at least “sometimes.”


Significant gaps remain in physician preparedness for public health emergencies, as well as in related training and participation in institutional activities. New efforts, with a focus on possible collaborations between public health institutions and health system leaders combined with effective use of online resources, are needed to bring more physicians on board and to develop relevant and useful key tools. New approaches, including those that rely on different types of care providers, may be needed to enhance patient education regarding emergency preparedness. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:666–680)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Gillian K. SteelFisher, PhD, MSc, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02115 (e-mail:


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Physician Emergency Preparedness: A National Poll of Physicians

  • Gillian K. SteelFisher (a1), Robert J. Blendon (a1) (a2), Amanda S. Brulé (a1), Keri M. Lubell (a3), Loretta Jackson Brown (a3), Dahna Batts (a3) and Eran Ben-Porath (a4)...


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