Mass medical evacuation: Hurricane Katrina and nursing experiences at the New Orleans airport

Disaster Manag Response. 2007 Apr-Jun;5(2):56-61. doi: 10.1016/j.dmr.2007.03.001.


Hurricane Katrina, a category 4 storm, struck the U.S. Gulf states in late August, 2005, resulting in the most costly and second most deadly natural disaster in recent United States history. The storm and subsequent flooding due to levee failure necessitated the evacuation of 80% of the city of New Orleans' 484,674 residents. Most of the city's hospitals and other health care resources were destroyed or inoperable. The hurricane devastated many communities, stranding people in hospitals, shelters, homes, and nursing homes. Nurses and other health care providers deployed to New Orleans to provide medical assistance experienced substantial challenges in making triage and treatment decisions for patients whose numbers far exceeded supplies and personnel. This article describes the experiences and solutions of nurses and other personnel from 3 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams assigned to the New Orleans airport responsible for perhaps the most massive patient assessment, stabilization, and evacuation operation in U.S. history. As the frequency of disasters continues to rise, it is imperative that the nursing profession realize its value in the disaster arena and continually take leadership roles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Aviation*
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Disasters*
  • Equipment and Supplies / supply & distribution
  • Hospitals, Packaged
  • Humans
  • Louisiana
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff* / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff* / psychology
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Relief Work / organization & administration*
  • Rescue Work / organization & administration
  • Triage / organization & administration