Survey of Hospital Employees’ Personal Preparedness and Willingness to Work Following a Disaster

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ObjectivesLittle is known about the personal readiness of hospital staff for disasters. As many as 30% of hospital staff say that they plan not to report for work during a large-scale disaster. We sought to understand the personal disaster preparedness for hospital staff.MethodsSurveys were distributed to the staff of a large academic tertiary-care hospital by either a paper-based version distributed through the departmental safety coordinators or a Web-based version distributed through employee e-mail services, depending on employee familiarity with and access to computer services. Surveys assessed the demographic variables and characteristics of personal readiness for disaster.ResultsOf the individuals who accessed the survey, 1334 (95.9%) enrolled in it. Women made up 75% of the respondents, with a mean age of 43 years. Respondents had worked at the hospital an average of 9 years, with the majority (90%) being full-time employees. Most households (93%) reported ≤4 members, 6% supported a person with special medical needs, and 17% were headed by a single parent. A small number (24%) of respondents reported an established meeting place for reuniting households during a disaster. Many reported stockpiling a 3-day supply of food (86%) and a 3-day supply of water (51%). Eighteen percent of respondents were not aware of workplace evacuation plans. Most respondents were willing to report to work for natural disasters (eg, tornado, snowstorm; all categories >65%), but fewer respondents were willing to report during events such as an influenza epidemic (54%), a biological outbreak (41%), a chemical exposure, (40%), or a radiation exposure (39%). Multivariate analysis revealed being female, having a child in the household younger than 6 years old, and having a child in school lowered the likelihood of being willing to report to work in two or more event types, whereas pet ownership, being a clinical healthcare worker, and being familiar with the work emergency plan increased the likelihood.ConclusionsDespite being employed at the same facility for a prolonged period, employees reported being willing to report for work at a low rate in a variety of disasters. Subjects reported suboptimal personal preparedness for disaster, which may further limit the number of staff who will report for work. Hospitals should promote personal disaster preparedness for staff and explore staffing models with an understanding of reduced staff availability during disasters.

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