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National Experts to Discuss Hospital Readiness for Terrorist Events

Hospitals’ Response to Mass Casualty Events to be Explored at Symposium

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

When disaster strikes, it is imperative that a solid plan is in place so that healthcare workers can focus on providing care instead of the many logistics that can seem overwhelming, especially in times of crisis

If a mass casualty event occurs in the upstate New York region, will the emergency response and healthcare systems be prepared to handle the onslaught of patients?  A seminar being organized by the University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Center for Disaster Medicine and Emergency Preparedness is exploring this very topic on Thursday, October 14.

National, state and local bioterrorism and mass casualty experts (see below) will be on hand during the one-day seminar, dispensing advice on how the region’s medical, emergency and first responder communities can prepare for a mass casualty event, regardless of the source (i.e., acts of terrorism, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE), or accidents and forces of nature). 

“When disaster strikes, it is imperative that a solid plan is in place so that healthcare workers can focus on providing care instead of the many logistics that can seem overwhelming, especially in times of crisis,” Janet Williams, M.D., said, an emergency medical physician who also directs the Center for Disaster Medicine and Emergency Preparedness.

Developing a region’s surge capacity, as it is called, revolves around three major categories: workforce, resources and facilities.  For example, in the case of a mass casualty event that produces hundreds of victims, hospitals would not only need to worry about moving their non-critical patients to another location to make room for the acutely injured and keep track of where they went and provide proper medical instructions to ensure continuity of care, but also need to think about the number of ventilators or isolation units if needed, or even if they will have enough workers to continue working in high risk situations.

“The goal of this conference is to bring together the nation’s experts to give us a sense of what is successfully working in other communities across the country, and then to hear from state leaders on the unique challenges New York state is facing in developing an adequate surge capacity,” Williams said. 

During the symposium, topics to be explored under the surge capacity umbrella include the role of hospitals in responding to mass casualty incidents, the status of state and regional planning, and clinical implications for hospitals responding to CBRNE incidents.

National Experts

Giving the luncheon keynote address will be Donald A. (D.A.) Henderson, M.D., M.P.H., a graduate of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the man widely credited with the eradication of smallpox.  In his talk, entitled “The Threat of Bioterrorism, Myth or Reality?” Henderson will give his assessment on the likelihood of a bioterrorist attack in the U.S. Currently, Henderson is professor of medicine and public health at the University of Pittsburgh and resident scholar at the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  Henderson has served as director, and, later, as principal science adviser of the U.S. government’s Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Commander Melissa Sanders, chief of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Branch, will provide the morning keynote lecture on “The Culture of Preparedness:  Updates and Future Directions of the National Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program.”  Sanders is responsible for administering almost $500 million in funds to states to help them improve their ability to deliver effective and coordinated care to victims.  She most recently was involved in pre-planning for Hurricanes Charley and Frances, and also worked with the government of Greece to help prepare for the recent Summer Olympic games.

Other speakers include Timothy E. Davis, M.D., M.P.H., a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and a blast trauma expert, who will speak on the role of hospitals in mass casualty incidents; and representatives from New York State Department of Health and the Healthcare Association of New York State will provide updates on planning for hospitals’ response to terrorist and other mass casualty incidents.

The day will conclude with a panel discussion with a team of University of Rochester Medical Center experts in poison control, adult and pediatric infection control, radiological exposure, and trauma/burns. 

The symposium is open to hospital administrators, physicians and nurses, public health officials, local emergency management leaders and first responders.  It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rochester, and the registration fee is $65 (or $20 with a valid student ID).  For more information, call 585/275-6618, or register on-line at

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Germaine Reinhardt

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