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Primary Care Medical Practices: Are Community Health Care Providers Ready for Disasters?

  • Rachel M. Peters (a1), Thomas J. Hipper (a1) and Esther D. Chernak (a1)



This study seeks to determine the capacity of community primary care practices to meet the needs of patients during public health emergencies and to identify the barriers and resources necessary to participate in a coordinated response with public safety agencies.


The self-administered web-based survey was distributed in January 2014 via e-mail to primary care providers in Pennsylvania using the listservs of several professional societies.


A total of 179 primary care providers participated in the survey. In total, 38% had practice continuity of operations plan in place and 26% reported that they had a plan for patient surge in the outpatient setting. Thirty percent reported that they were registered on the state Health Alert Network and 41% said they were able to communicate with patients during disasters. Only 8% of providers reported that they believed that their patients with special health care needs were prepared for a disaster, although over two-thirds of responding practices felt they could assist these patients with disaster preparedness. Providers indicated that more information regarding government agency plans and community resources, patient education materials, and more time to devote to counseling during patient encounters would improve their ability to prepare their patients with special health care needs for disasters. Providers also reported that they would benefit from partnerships to help the practice during emergencies and communications technology to reach large numbers of patients quickly.


Community-based primary care practices can be useful partners during public health emergencies. Efforts to promote continuity of operations planning, improved coordination with government and community partners, as well as preparedness for patients with special health care needs, would augment their capabilities and contribute to community resilience. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2019;13:128–132).


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Esther D. Chernak, MD, MPH, FACP, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University, Nesbitt Hall, Room 615, 3215 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (e-mail:


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Primary Care Medical Practices: Are Community Health Care Providers Ready for Disasters?

  • Rachel M. Peters (a1), Thomas J. Hipper (a1) and Esther D. Chernak (a1)


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