Katrina Offers Poignant Lessons for Medical Professionals Coping with Natural Disasters

The launch in flood-ravaged Colorado of what emergency responders are calling the biggest mass evacuation since hurricane Katrina is a reminder of just how massive and devastating the forces of nature can be. Whole towns and regions of Colorado have been suddenly and unexpectedly isolated from the rest of the world. Given the number of washed out roads, demolished bridges and mud slides, authorities now estimate that it could be not merely weeks but months before travel can be restored to many areas.

The devastating consequences of the Colorado floods is a poignant reminder of the critical necessity of developing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for your medical office and partnering with a medical call center that is ready to roll at the first indication of looming disaster. As pointed out in Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheri Fink, the emergency disaster plan you have in place may not address all the issues you and your staff will actually have to face when nature’s wrath is unleashed.

When Katrina struck, Memorial Medical Center staff implemented its disaster plan. But that plan proved to be woefully inadequate for the challenges the staff faced. As Fink wrote:

The hospital’s preparedness plan for hurricanes did not anticipate flooding. The flooding plan did not anticipate the need to evacuate. The evacuation plan did not anticipate a potential loss of power or communication.

The book reads like a thriller but offers valuable lessons in disaster planning for all medical professionals.