Published 12/1/2008

What you can do

Orthopaedic surgeons can become more educated and involved in disaster response efforts in a variety of ways. The following avenues can be explored independently or concurrently.

Know your hospital’s—and your community’s—disaster plan. Seek out the chairperson of the disaster response committee and discuss your desire to participate. Become actively involved in the hospital’s planning process, sit in on meetings, and participate in drills.

In addition, nearly all communities have a disaster preparedness plan. You can identify the principals who manage and oversee that plan through the hospital’s disaster planning committee. By necessity, hospitals must integrate and coordinate with local and regional police, fire, emergency medical services, and governmental stakeholders.

Learn the language of disaster response. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site (www.fema.gov) to learn the language of disaster response. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) was enacted through the Department of Homeland Security by Homeland Security Presidential Directive to oversee management of domestic incidents and preparedness. The National Integration Center incident management systems division coordinates the NIMS, ensures continuity and accuracy of implementation efforts, and refines and implements improvements to NIMS at federal, state, and local levels.

In February 2008, a 5-year training plan was released to promote nationwide implementation of NIMS. Available through the FEMA Web site, the plan includes six required courses for an individual or organization to be considered “NIMS compliant.” Most can be taken online through FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, which also offers additional classroom courses.

Sign up. Sign up to be available as a first responder in your comunity and train with your team.

Continue your education. Several organizations offer courses that provide continuing medical education credits. The National Disaster Life Support® programs offered by the American Medical Association (AMA) include advanced, basic, and core courses. Access information through the AMA Web site (www.ama-assn.org).

The reconstituted Disaster and Mass Casualty Subcommittee of the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons has an operational level course for surgeons on how to manage disasters; the course is also open to nonphysician healthcare providers and administrators. It has been offered in conjunction with several Orthopaedic Trauma Association annual meetings including the 2008 meeting in Denver.