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Evaluation of regional hospitals’ use of children in disaster drills

Aaron H. Gardner, MD, Michael R. FitzGerald, PhD, Hamilton P. Schwartz, MD, Nathan L. Timm, MD


Objective: Describe the prevalence of pediatric casualties in disaster drills by community hospitals and determine if there is an association between the use of pediatric casualties in disaster drills and the proximity of a community hospital to a tertiary children’s hospital.
Design: Survey, descriptive study.
Setting: Tertiary children’s hospital and surrounding community hospitals.
Participants: Hospital emergency management personnel for 30 general community hospitals in the greater Cincinnati, Ohio region.
Interventions: None
Main Outcome Measure(s): The utilization of pediatric casualties in community hospital disaster drills and its relationship to the distance of those hospitals from a tertiary children’s hospital.
Results: Sixteen hospitals reported a total of 57 disaster drills representing 1,309 casualties. The overwhelming majority (82 percent [1,077/1,309]) of simulated patients from all locations were 16 years of age or older. Those hospitals closest to the children’s hospital reported the lowest percentage of pediatric patients (10 percent [35/357]) used in their drills.The hospitals furthest from the children’s hospital reported the highest percentage of pediatric patients (32 percent [71/219]) used during disaster drills.
Conclusions: The majority of community hospitals do not incorporate children into their disaster drills, and the closer a community hospital is to a tertiary children’s hospital, the less likely it is to include children in its drills. Focused effort and additional resources should be directed toward preparing community hospitals to care for children in the event of a disaster.


disaster, drills, children, hospital, emergency preparedness

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