Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2184839
 
 

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Emergency Preparedness and Public Health: The Lessons of Hurricane Sandy


Tia Powell


Montefiore Medical Center - Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Dan Hanfling


Inova Health System

Lawrence O. Gostin


Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

November 16, 2012

JAMA Online, 2012
Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-189

Abstract:     
When Hurricane Sandy hit downtown Manhattan, three neighboring hospitals each made different decisions about when to evacuate. Across the metro region, more than five hospitals and over 20 nursing and assisted living facilities were evacuated, making this the central public health challenge of this calamitous event. It is a familiar story — a super storm comes ashore, infrastructure is overwhelmed, and healthcare facilities evacuate patients, with major delays in returning to normal functioning. Afterwards, policy makers evaluate lessons learned for the next disaster, but similar missteps are often repeated.

Although not identical, it is instructive to compare Hurricane Katrina with the still unfolding events of Sandy. Unlike in Katrina, New York hospitals had more detailed emergency plans. What seemed to be missing, however, were clear and consistent criteria to guide evacuation decisions. Evacuation decisions are complex — a decision to evacuate prematurely places patients at risk, while waiting too long can have devastating consequences. Public officials, in collaboration with facilities, should decide whether to shelter in place or risk transfer of fragile patients. Governors should consider early emergency declarations, including request for a formal “public health emergency declaration”, to reduce legal concerns and regulatory constraints. Federal, state, and municipal authorities can better prepare for the next disaster and have a duty to do so.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 3

Keywords: emergency preparedness, Hurricane Sandy, natural disaster, public health

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39

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Date posted: December 4, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Powell, Tia and Hanfling, Dan and Gostin, Lawrence O., Emergency Preparedness and Public Health: The Lessons of Hurricane Sandy (November 16, 2012). JAMA Online, 2012; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-189. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2184839

Contact Information

Tia Powell
Montefiore Medical Center - Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine ( email )
111 East 210th Street
Bronx, NY 10467
United States
Dan Hanfling
Inova Health System ( email )
8110 Gatehouse Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
United States
Lawrence O. Gostin (Contact Author)
Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )
600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)
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