Introduction: Emergency preparedness can be defined by the preparedness pyramid, which identifies planning, infrastructure, knowledge and capabilities, and training as the major components of maintaining a high level of preparedness. The aim of this article is to review the characteristics of contingency plans for mass-casualty incidents (MCIs) and models for assessing the emergency preparedness of hospitals.
Characteristics of contingency plans: Emergency preparedness should focus on community preparedness, a personnel augmentation plan, and communications and public policies for funding the emergency preparedness. The capability to cope with a MCI serves as a basis for preparedness for non-conventional events. Coping with chemical casualties necessitates decontamination of casualties, treating victims with acute stress reactions, expanding surge capacities of hospitals, and integrating knowledge through drills. Risk communication also is important.
Assessment of emergency preparedness: An annual assessment of the emergency plan is required in order to assure emergency preparedness. Preparedness assessments should include: (1) elements of disaster planning; (2) emergency coordination; (3) communication; (4) training; (5) expansion of hospital surge capacity; (6) personnel; (7) availability of equipment; (8) stockpiles of medical supplies; and (9) expansion of laboratory capacities. The assessment program must be based on valid criteria that are measurable, reliable, and enable conclusions to be drawn. There are several assessment tools that can be used, including surveys, parameters, capabilities evaluation, and self-assessment tools.
Summary: Healthcare systems are required to prepare an effective response model to cope with MCIs. Planning should be envisioned as a process rather than a production of a tangible product. Assuring emergency preparedness requires a structured methodology that will enable an objective assessment of the level of readiness.