EMS Lessons Learned from Joplin Tornado
August 8, 2012
EMS World ran an article about the medical response to the Joplin, MO, tornado. Written by the EMS medical director, it details his first-hand account of how the disaster directly impacted the EMS and public health systems, how Joplin dealt with the total loss of one of its two hospitals, and what lessons should be taken and applied to other communities to help them prepare for disasters.
Descriptions of the days after the tornado show how quickly a working system can be overwhelmed by a large disaster. Communications down, medical resources halved, storms continuing to roll in, roads blocked, and the initial response happening at night with no electricity added more layers of complexity to an already difficult situation. “Although local EMS agencies had participated in numerous exercises and drills over the years, no one had practiced for all the challenges this disaster brought.”
A second article discusses eight lessons learned based on the experiences of the author during the response. The suggestions include regular drills and exercises, incorporating the Incident Command System (ICS) into plans, and making sure EMS has a presence in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
Patient triage and tracking should also be evaluated. Joplin responders quickly ran out of triage tags and had to make do with other ways to document information. In addition, tracking patients became an issue as people were moved from the ruined hospital to other locations by any means necessary, including pickup trucks.