A "system" of any type consists of numerous vulnerable as well as valuable components, thus the entire system faces possible failure if a single component is removed or not working as it should. In the field of emergency medical services, all personnel must be fully prepared to prevent service lapses when a key component is removed.
A biological agent is released, samples are collected, and then the diagnostic process begins. Laboratories within a national (and international) network screen for potential threats and determine the level of exposure and treatment required for each response. Such diagnostics provide the guidelines necessary for using and distributing medical countermeasures.
By using mHealth technologies, local health departments can improve their efficiency and effectiveness not only in communicating with the public but also in dispensing medical countermeasures during large-scale pandemics. Current initiatives can offer a starting point on how to integrate mobile technology into local preparedness planning efforts.
Current plans for combatting the effects of an anthrax attack at the local level include the use of antibiotics. Although federal agencies recommend - and the Strategic National Stockpile provides - anthrax vaccine adsorbed as a medical countermeasure against such attacks, the vaccine currently is not included in the preparedness plans of many local health departments.
An emerging infectious disease or a bioterrorism attack must be prevented from spreading globally even when the effectiveness of predictive measures and detection programs is in question. In addition to current medical countermeasures, defending against biological threats may require the enforcement of control measures that rely on non-medical public health interventions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is changing the dynamics of public-private partnerships as they relate to medical countermeasures for public health threats. By using nontraditional partnerships, CDC is not only providing easier access but also reducing the time needed to dispense large quantities of antiviral drugs, thereby securing the overall health of the nation.
No two emergency scenarios are identical and some may call for "creative" solutions - for example, overriding triage strategies for victims of a weapon of mass destruction or substituting medications for scarce countermeasures. Understanding the rules and how far they can "bend" in a crisis situation may help save not only the lives of victims but also the jobs of responders and decision makers.
If a nuclear device were to be detonated within any of the nations major metropolitan areas, the healthcare system both inside and outside the blast-damage zones would be seriously affected. Predicting the "what ifs" and planning for such scenarios can help hospitals and responder agencies cope with and manage the numerous deaths and injuries that may certainly occur.
As a result of severe weather events such as the 2010 "Snowmaggedon" and an increasing number of other natural disasters, the nation's public health sector is increasing and expanding its professional capabilities and playing a greater role in responding to such events. In doing so, public health is using an all-hazards approach to preparing for and responding to natural and manmade events.
Whether responding to mass casualties from a nuclear blast or an attack by a single "Lone Wolf" shooter, hospital preparedness requires careful planning, effective coordination, and collaboration in the sharing of critical resources. Inter-hospital cooperation and training will almost always result in a better outcome than would be possible through single-facility planning efforts.