Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2014
Children are particularly vulnerable during disasters and mass-casualty incidents. Coordinated multi-hospital training exercises may help health care facilities prepare for pediatric disaster victims.
The purpose of this study was to use mixed methods to assess the disaster response of three hospitals, focusing on pediatric disaster victims.
A full-functional disaster exercise involving a simulated 7.8-magnitude earthquake was conducted at three Los Angeles (California USA) hospitals, one of which is a freestanding designated Level I Pediatric Trauma Center. Exercise participants provided quantitative and qualitative feedback regarding their perceptions of pediatric disaster response during the exercise in the form of surveys and interviews. Additionally, trained observers provided qualitative feedback and recommendations regarding aspects of emergency response during the exercise, including communication, equipment and supplies, pediatric safety, security, and training.
According to quantitative participant feedback, the disaster exercise enhanced respondents’ perceived preparedness to care for the pediatric population during a mass-casualty event. Further, qualitative feedback from exercise participants and observers revealed opportunities to improve multiple aspects of emergency response, such as communication, equipment availability, and physician participation. Additionally, participants and observers reported opportunities to improve safety and security of children, understanding of staff roles and responsibilities, and implementation of disaster triage exercises.
Consistent with previous investigations of pediatric disaster preparedness, evaluation of the exercise revealed several opportunities for all hospitals to improve their ability to respond to the needs of pediatric victims. Quantitative and qualitative feedback from both participants and observers was useful for comprehensively assessing the exercise's successes and obstacles. The present study has identified several opportunities to improve the current state of all hospitals’ pediatric disaster preparedness, through increased training on pediatric disaster triage methods and additional training on the safety and security of children. Regular assessment and evaluation of supplies, equipment, leadership assignments, and inter-hospital communication is also suggested to optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of response to pediatric victims in a disaster.