EMS Dispatches during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in New Jersey.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Hurricanes Irene and Sandy heavily impacted New Jersey. Investigating EMS dispatch trends during these storms may allow us to prepare for future disasters.

OBJECTIVES

Our objectives to characterize the types of EMS dispatches immediately before, during, and after landfall compared to a control period.

METHODS

This retrospective study was conducted at a large EMS dispatch center that provides first responders, Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Life Support (ALS), and critical care transport services to an area with approximately 20 receiving hospitals including a Level I Trauma Center. At peak staffing, there are 8-10 ALS vehicles, 25 BLS vehicles, and 3 critical care transport vehicles deployed. We included of the day of landfall and seven days before and after. We compared dispatch data to a control period in 2010 that mirrored Hurricane Sandy the dates of. Descriptive statistics and two way ANOVA were used to assess dispatch, gender and age differences.

RESULTS

We found Hurricane Sandy dispatches peaked 2 days after landfall. Both ALS and BLS had an increase in age in the post-Sandy period compared to the pre-Sandy (ALS 58.5 to 64.2, p = 0.005, ANOVA p = 0.078; BLS 47.4 to 56.3, p < 0.001, ANOVA p = 0.001). There were 17 "hurricane related" (loss of power related issues, oxygen supply depleted, evacuation) and 15 carbon monoxide dispatches in the post-Sandy period and none in the others, including peri-Irene. The average age of cardiac arrest dispatches was lower in the post-Irene group compared to pre-Irene (74.3 to 47.8, p = 0.023). There were no critical care requests before or after Hurricane Sandy, but there were 14 around Hurricane Irene and 10 surrounding the control period.

CONCLUSIONS

Dispatch data can inform natural disaster planning. Education efforts can focus on geriatric patients, as well as resource distribution planning for an increase in geriatric populations. However, pattern variability between storms shows further study is needed to clarify exactly which resources should be utilized in order to maintain an ideal response to a natural disaster.

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