Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response
A disaster is an event that is a natural or man-made occurrence that can disrupt or destroy the lives of those it affects (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). Management of a disaster includes four phases; prevention, preparedness, response and recovery (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). Hawaii’s isolation in the pacific lends itself to the possibility of many disasters from; floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, pandemics, and volcano eruptions (Schaefers, 2014). The purpose of this paper is to study emergency preparedness and response to flooding in Hawaii, and the role of the professional nurse in such a disaster.
The Role of the Nurse There is a propensity for flooding in Hawaii due to heavy rains, tsunamis and hurricanes. Due to the isolation of the island, community measures must be taken to become self-sufficient and prepared for recovery from a disaster. Flash floods in Hawaii can occur anytime and are recorded most during the wet season which runs October thru April (“Flash Floods,” n. d. ). “Flooding is the leading cause of direct weather deaths in the state of Hawaii” (“Flash Floods,” n. d. , para. 2).
Public Health Nurses (PHN) serve a vital role in the mitigation or prevention of disasters (Baack & Alfred, 2013). In order for nurses to assist in disaster preparedness they should be prepared themselves by addressing their own needs for safety, and by practicing self-health (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). The unique role of the PHN in a disaster includes being first responders and triaging the injured, ongoing surveillance of the emergency, rapid needs assessment, and skills in communication to provide the community with accurate and timely information (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014).
The need for increased nursing support during a disaster is much greater than at any other time, but research has showed that many nurses are not adequately prepared for this role due to lack of training or competence (Baack & Alfred, 2013). The best way for the PHN to be prepared for an emergency is to participate collaboratively with community resources including local hospitals, health care centers, and state disaster teams.
Training on specialized teams such as; Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), Medial Reserve Corps (MRC), and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) provide opportunities for the nurse to prepare themselves for a disaster (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). Training for disaster preparedness increases the likelihood that friends, family and neighbors will be ready and resilient (“HMRC,” 2014). In regards to flooding in Hawaii, nurses can educate the public in ways to avoid injury and death during a flood.
Teaching the safest route to high ground, what emergency materials they should have on hand, and not to drive through a flooded area (“DEM: flash flood,” n. d. ). The PHN uses clinical decision making skills during a disaster such as; knowing the disaster plans for their community, assisting in triage of injured, preventing further injury to volunteers trying to help, and collaborating with local agencies (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). Nursing Strategies Hawaii’s location in the Pacific Ocean requires that we be self-reliant, quick to recover, and quick to respond (“HMRC,” 2014).
One best practice is to assist the community in preparing for an emergency. Education on what needs to be in a 7-day disaster kit is essential since we depend heavily on shipment of foods through our harbor and our energy supply is challenging (“DEM: flash flood,” n. d. ). Handing out fliers on emergency kit preparation to the community through emergency preparedness fairs and health centers is one way to educate the public. During the recovery phase, the PHN assists the community to return to a state of normalcy as quick as possible.
Recovery is often difficult and requires long-term support of the community health nurse in collaboration with state and national efforts aid (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). A nursing approach to recovery is to remain flexible and continually assess community needs and determine interventions that help to achieve pre-disaster life (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2014). Many of Hawaii’s PHN are not prepared for an emergency or disaster so training through participation in disaster drills or actual disaster events is crucial (Baack & Alfred, 2013).
A best practice strategy is participation in one of the Hawaii disaster preparedness organizations such as; The Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps, which members are a cumulative of physician and nurse volunteers who want to serve their community when a disaster or public health emergency strikes (“HMRC,” 2014). The attendance of meetings, participation in preparedness exercises, and assistance in non-emergent community health activities all help the PHN to be prepared to respond quickly when needed in a disaster (“HMRC,” 2014).
Summary Hawaii is known for its natural disasters from floods, earthquakes, and the changing environment, and also from potential pandemics due to the influx of worldwide visitors. We as nursing professionals must be ready and prepared. The role of the nurse in a disaster or emergency is one of self-preparation, mitigation, and community assessment. Strategies to improve response to a disaster includes education of the community, collaboration of resources, and adequate training of the PHN.