In the United States, recent large-scale emergencies and disasters display some element of organized medical emergency response, and hospitals have played prominent roles in many of these incidents. These and other well-publicized incidents have captured the attention of government authorities, regulators, and the public. Health care has assumed a more prominent role as an integral component of any community emergency response. This has resulted in increased funding for hospital preparedness, along with a plethora of new preparedness guidance.
Methods to objectively measure the results of these initiatives are only now being developed. It is clear that hospital readiness remains uneven across the United States. Without significant disaster experience, many hospitals remain unprepared for natural disasters. They may be even less ready to accept and care for patient surge from chemical or biological attacks, conventional or nuclear explosive detonations, unusual natural disasters, or novel infectious disease outbreaks.
This article explores potential reasons for inconsistent emergency preparedness across the hospital industry. It identifies and discusses potential motivational factors that encourage effective emergency management and the obstacles that may impede it. Strategies are proposed to promote consistent, reproducible, and objectively measured preparedness across the US health care industry. The article also identifies issues requiring research. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2009;3(Suppl 1):S74–S82)