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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine

Protecting hospitals from natural disasters

Today is the UN’s International Day for Disaster Reduction.  This year the UN is dedicating the day to highlighting the need to make hospitals safe from disasters.

This “hospitals theme” was also used over the past year in a campaign involving UN agencies and the World Bank, called the 2008-09 World Disaster Reduction campaign.  The campaign has been working to help hospitals withstand floods, hurricanes, cyclones, and earthquakes

In a press release from the WHO, Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said:

“No new hospital should be built unless it can withstand the impact of natural hazards. Existing health facilities should also be assessed for their safety and action take to improve their safety and the level of their preparedness.”

I was interested to learn about the Hospital Safety Index.  The Hospitals Safe from Disasters website says that the tool is a “rapid, reliable and low-cost” and aims to “help health facilities assess their safety and avoid becoming a casualty of disasters.” The index is based on a checklist that assesses the safety level in 145 areas of the hospital, and is being used in Latin America and the Caribbean.  I did a quick PubMed search to look for published studies that have evaluated the use of this index in the field, but couldn’t find any.  If you know of such studies in the literature, do let readers know by responding to this post.

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