News & Events

Disaster preparedness: an all-hazards approach for nurses

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
October 2006 Edition

By Chris Pontus, MS, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director, Health & Safety

In response to requests from nurses to become educated about responding to a disaster event, the MNA recently developed and presented a disaster preparedness program series this past spring/summer.

The three-part educational program, geared toward nurses, was conceptualized and developed by Mary Crotty and Chris Pontus. Speakers included experts from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Massachusetts schools of nursing, as well as professionals in the field of emergency medical services and first response.

Each participating speaker delivered and presented the program to an at-capacity crowd of nurses—several of whom came looking for assistance in developing their organizations’ emergency response plan.

The series also provided a valuable opportunity for nurses to network and share contact information and ideas about creative ways to develop contingency plans for presently unknowable events.

Program overview
Part I: All hazards overview
Disaster preparedness: An All-Hazards Approach for Nurses Part I was designed and delivered from the perspective of an all hazards overview. The course content identifies the events that shape the modern profession of emergency management, describes the components in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Response Plan, with an overview of the National Response System (NRS). Some of the objectives of this program were to have participants identify emergency support functions provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Local Emergency Preparedness Committee’s (LEPC) in their communities.

Participants also learned to consider and recognize when personal protective clothing and equipment are needed to safely get a job done. Nurses were provided the basic elements in the development of an EMS plan which includes the levels of incidents and response of an Incident Command System (ICS). Continuity of operations was also discussed during the program.

Part II: All-hazards approach for nurses
The nurse and community planning efforts for emergencies and disasters
The focus of this session was the development of a personal and family disaster plan. Participants were provided resources to encourage relatives, friends, neighbors, peers and individuals in the community to develop their own disaster plans. Information about existing organizations that can offer ways to contribute toward planning efforts during a disaster response in local communities was outlined during the presentation. Participants received information on identification of the contributing factors of a pandemic. The current status of H5N1 virus and the elements of a state and local pandemic plan were presented as well as the essential components in a Continuity of Operations Plan.

Part III: All-hazards approach for nurses
Psychosocial affects of disaster, nursing management.
Session three looked at the behavioral health issues of both natural and man-made emergency events. The result of how these emergency events affect the behavioral health of individuals, families and communities was discussed. Symptoms and interventions related to disaster as well as stress and long-term related issues were also examined. The presenter then discussed the population of children, and the four types of losses typically experienced by children in a disaster. Children’s reactions to disaster for each developmental stage and strategies for children coping with trauma/disaster were explored.

The MNA Emergency Preparedness Task Force recommends that individuals develop emergency first aid/disaster kits for use if needed by themselves and their family. Currently the task force is also strongly advocating that nurses become involved with their local public health departments and local emergency preparedness committees. It is imperative that nurses participate in planning activities in their communities. This will ensure that the expertise nurses can contribute will be part of the response in the event of a disaster.

We are looking forward to offering this program again in the future. If you have an interest in attending one or all three sessions of this educational program or would like to attend one of our emergency preparedness task force meetings held monthly at MNA offices in Canton, contact Mary Crotty or Chris Pontus