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Impact of Hurricane Ike on the call volumes of Houston Fire Department emergency medical services

Lt. Elise Cooper, MD, MPH, James R. Langabeer II, PhD, Diaa Alqusairi, MS, David Persse, MD, EMT-P, FACEP

Abstract


Introduction: Little is known about the capacity and activity of emergency medical services (EMS) during large-scale disasters. This article provides a case study of the role of EMS in one large urban city during a major hurricane.
Methods: The authors analyzed changes in call volume data from the City of Houston Fire Department’s EMS during Hurricane Ike. Descriptive and statistical analyses are used to explain surges and statistical differences in volumes.
Results: Demand for EMS care can increase approximately 40 percent during surges in the disaster cycle, placing extreme burdens on system capacity and workload. The largest increase in demand came from respiratory problems, falls, and chest pains, with the largest decrease in calls from motor vehicle accidents.
Conclusions: A strategy for managing surges in prehospital care from major disasters is a requirement for modern EMS.


Keywords


EMS, disaster medicine, Hurricane Ike

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2012.0089

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