Emergency Preparedness: It’s Important for Physicians,Too

Paul Biddinger, MDBy Paul Biddinger, MD

First in a series of articles in support of  the month-long Mass. Dept. of Public Health project, “Together We’re Ready – Massachusetts Prepared.”

Recent weather events and the Boston Marathon bombings serve as an important reminder not only that an emergency or disaster can occur at any moment, but also remind us of the critical importance of emergency  preparedness efforts in advance of any event.

Those of us who practice disaster medicine and emergency medicine know firsthand the impact that pre-planning has on our ability to respond effectively; yet, it is important to remember that all physicians have an obligation to care for the ill and injured, and anyone may be needed to provide care during  a disaster.

The ability to respond efficiently and effectively, whether at your own institution or in a volunteer capacity, requires many things, but often starts at home with personal preparedness.

September is National Preparedness Month. Now is the time to put together that “go bag” of immediate items that your family may need in case of an emergency.  Equally important is having a clear family communication plan in the likely event that family members are not all in the same place when an emergency occurs.

A list of recommended supplies and a preparedness checklist are available online at www.mass.gov/dph/ready.   It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the available emergency information outlets, your community’s notification procedures, and the types of disaster events that are most likely to occur in your area.

Resilient communities are comprised of resilient individuals who know what to do and are able to take care of themselves and their family.

All physicians have a responsibility to prepare themselves, their families, their practices, and their patients. In an emergency, each of us will need to strike a balance between taking care of ourselves and our family and taking care of patients. The better prepared we are personally, the more likely we are to be successful at both.

Dr. Biddinger, a practicing emergency physician, is the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves as the Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise Program (EPREP) at the Harvard School of Public Health and is chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Preparedness.

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