At 1251 h on Feb 22, 2011, an earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, causing widespread destruction. The only regional acute hospital was compromised but was able to continue to provide care, supported by other hospitals and primary care facilities in the city. 6659 people were injured and 182 died in the initial 24 h. The massive peak ground accelerations, the time of the day, and the collapse of major buildings contributed to injuries, but the proximity of the hospital to the central business district, which was the most affected, and the provision of good medical care based on careful preparation helped reduce mortality and the burden of injury. Lessons learned from the health response to this earthquake include the need for emergency departments to prepare for: patients arriving by unusual means without prehospital care, manual registration and tracking of patients, patient reluctance to come into hospital buildings, complete loss of electrical power, management of the many willing helpers, alternative communication methods, control of the media, and teamwork with clear leadership. Additionally, atypical providers of acute injury care need to be integrated into response plans.
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