Bioterrorism and Mass Casualty Preparedness in Hospitals: United States, 2003

Bioterrorism and Mass Casualty Preparedness in Hospitals: United States, 2003
Sep 15 CDPH Team

Niska RW, Burt CW



This study examined the content of hospital terrorism preparedness emergency response plans; whether those plans had been updated since September 11, 2001; collaboration of hospitals with outside organizations; clinician training in the management of biological, chemical, explosive, and nuclear exposures; drills on the response plans; and equipment and bed capacity.


The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) is an annual survey of a probability sample of approximately 500 non-Federal general and short-stay hospitals in the United States. A Bioterrorism and Mass Casualty Supplement was included in the 2003 survey and provided the data for this analysis.


Almost all hospitals have plans for responding to natural disasters (97.3 percent). Most have plans for responding to chemical (85.5 percent), biological (84.8 percent), nuclear or radiological (77.2 percent), and explosive incidents (76.9 percent). About three-quarters of hospitals were integrated into community-wide disaster plans (76.4 percent), and 75.9 percent specifically reported a cooperative planning process with other local health care facilities. Despite these plans, only 46.1 percent reported written memoranda of understanding with these facilities to accept inpatients during a declared disaster. Hospitals varied widely in their plans for re-arranging schedules and space in the event of a disaster. Training for hospital incident command and smallpox, anthrax, chemical, and radiological exposures was ahead of training for other infectious diseases. The percentage of hospitals training their staff in any exposure varied from 92.1 percent for nurses to 49.2 percent for medical residents. Drills for natural disasters occurred more often than those for chemical, biological, explosive, nuclear, and epidemic incidents. More hospitals staged drills for biological attacks than for severe epidemics. Despite explosions being the most common form of terrorism, drills for these were staged by only one-fifth of hospitals. Hospitals collaborated on drills most often with emergency medical services, fire departments, and law enforcement agencies.