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Hospitals Have Come a Long Way in Girding for Disaster

September 18, 2013
by Katherine Hobson
U.S. News & World Report

Hospitals have significantly boosted their readiness for disaster since Sept. 11, 2001, and the anthrax attacks that began just a week later.

In May 2011, as a massive tornado barreled toward Joplin, Mo., St. John's Regional Medical Center braced for impact. Staffers closed curtains, moved objects away from windows and transported patients to chairs in the hallways. After the tornado dealt a direct blow, destroying generators, shutting down communications, peeling off the roof, blowing out windows and turning IV poles into projectiles, they shifted into disaster mode, moving out patients who could walk and using evacuation sleds and even doors ripped from their hinges to take those who couldn't walk down as many as nine floors. Critical patients were quickly sent to another hospital; the emergency department set up operations on a safe area of the street. Afterward, people told me they "knew exactly what [they] should be doing," says Dennis Manley, then director of quality and risk management for the hospital and now vice president of quality for Mercy Hospital Joplin. "All that drilling and education really does pay off," he says.

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