Preventing and Mitigating Radiology System Failures: A Guide to Disaster Planning

Radiographics. Nov-Dec 2021;41(7):2111-2126. doi: 10.1148/rg.2021210083.


Disaster planning is a core facet of modern health care practice. Owing to complex infrastructure requirements, radiology departments are vulnerable to system failures that may occur in isolation or during a disaster event when the urgency for and volume of imaging examinations increases. Planning for systems failures helps ensure continuity of service provision and patient care during an adverse event. Hazards to which a radiology department is vulnerable can be identified by applying a systematic approach with recognized tools such as the Hazard, Risk, and Vulnerability Analysis. Potential critical weaknesses within the department are highlighted by the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis tool. Recognizing the potential latent conditions and active failures that may impact systems allows implementation of strategies to prevent failure or to build resilience and mitigate the effects if they happen. Inherent system resilience to an adverse event can be estimated, and the ability of a department to operate during a disaster and the subsequent recovery can be predicted. The main systems at risk in a radiology department are staff, structure, stuff (supplies and/or equipment), and software, although individual issues and solutions within these are department specific. When medical imaging or examination interpretation needs cannot be met in the radiology department, the use of portable imaging modalities and teleradiology can augment the disaster response. All phases of disaster response planning should consider both sustaining operations and the transition back to normal function. Online supplemental material and the slide presentation from the RSNA Annual Meeting are available for this article. Work of the U.S. Government published under an exclusive license with the RSNA.

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning*
  • Humans
  • Radiography
  • Radiology Department, Hospital*
  • Radiology*