Health care facility and community strategies for patient care surge capacity

Ann Emerg Med. 2004 Sep;44(3):253-61. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2004.04.011.


Recent terrorist and epidemic events have underscored the potential for disasters to generate large numbers of casualties. Few surplus resources to accommodate these casualties exist in our current health care system. Plans for "surge capacity" must thus be made to accommodate a large number of patients. Surge planning should allow activation of multiple levels of capacity from the health care facility level to the federal level. Plans should be scalable and flexible to cope with the many types and varied timelines of disasters. Incident management systems and cooperative planning processes will facilitate maximal use of available resources. However, resource limitations may require implementation of triage strategies. Facility-based or "surge in place" solutions maximize health care facility capacity for patients during a disaster. When these resources are exceeded, community-based solutions, including the establishment of off-site hospital facilities, may be implemented. Selection criteria, logistics, and staffing of off-site care facilities is complex, and sample solutions from the United States, including use of local convention centers, prepackaged trailers, and state mental health and detention facilities, are reviewed. Proper pre-event planning and mechanisms for resource coordination are critical to the success of a response.

MeSH terms

  • Community Networks
  • Crowding
  • Disaster Planning*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Health Facility Administration*
  • Health Resources*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Terrorism*
  • Triage