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Are Tertiary Care Paediatricians Prepared for Disaster Situations?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

Luc J.M. Mortelmans*
Department Emergency Medicine, ZNA Camp Stuivenberg, Antwerp, Belgium Center for Research and Education in Emergency Care, Leuven, Belgium
Sofie Maebe
Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium
Greet Dieltiens
Department Emergency Medicine, ZNA Camp Stuivenberg, Antwerp, Belgium
Kurt Anseeuw
Department Emergency Medicine, ZNA Camp Stuivenberg, Antwerp, Belgium
Marc B. Sabbe
Center for Research and Education in Emergency Care, Leuven, Belgium Department Emergency Medicine, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium
Patrick Van de Voorde
Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium Department Emergency Medicine, University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium
Correspondence: LJM Mortelmans, MD, FESEM Department Emergency Medicine ZNA Camp Stuivenberg Lange Beeldekensstraat 267 B2060 Antwerp, Belgium E-mail:



Children, with their specific vulnerabilities and needs, make up to more than 20% of society, so they are at risk of getting involved in disasters. Are the specialists treating them for medical problems in daily life also capable to deal with them in disaster situations?


The goals of this study were to evaluate perceived knowledge and capability of tertiary pediatricians to deal with disasters, to identify promoting factors, and to evaluate education need and willingness to work.


A survey looking for demographics, hospital disaster planning, estimated risk and capability for disasters, training, and willingness to work, and a set of six content assessment questions to evaluate knowledge, were presented to emergency pediatricians and pediatric emergency physicians in specialized tertiary centers.


The response rate was 51%. Thirty-five percent had disaster training and 53% felt that disaster education should be obligatory in their curriculum. Risk for disasters was estimated from 2.4/10 for nuclear incidents to 7.6/10 for major trauma. Self-estimated capability for these situations ranged from 1.8/10 in nuclear incidents to 7.6/10 in major trauma. Unconditional willingness to work ranged from 37% in nuclear situations to 68% in pandemics. Mean score on the questions was 2.06/6. Training, knowledge of antidote and personal protective equipment (PPE) use, self-estimated capability, and exposure were significant predictors for higher scores. Willingness to work correlated significantly with age, self-estimated capability, and risk estimation. In case of chemical and nuclear incidents, there was correlation with knowledge on the use of decontamination, PPE, and radio-detection devices.


Despite a clear perception of the risks and a high willingness to work, preparedness is limited. The major conclusion is that basics of disaster management should be included in pediatric training.

MortelmansLJM, MaebeS, DieltiensG, AnseeuwK, SabbeMB, Van de VoordeP. Are Tertiary Care Paediatricians Prepared for Disaster Situations?Prehosp Disaster Med. 2016;31(2):126131.

Original Research
© World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine 2016 

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