AAP: Disaster preparedness and response for the pediatrician

October 13, 2008

It’s not the first, or for that matter, the second or third most pressing issue for office-based pediatricians. But disaster preparedness is steadily becoming more relevant issue.

It’s not the first, or for that matter, the second or third most pressingissue for office-based pediatricians. But disaster preparedness is steadily becoming a more relevant issue.

Lou Romig, MD, a pediatric emergency specialist at Miami Children’s Hospital,notes that “There is no supervising agency charged with assuring the welfareof children and families during and after disasters.” This lack of accountabilitytranslates into a need for communities to start thinking about disaster preparednessat home.

So what role can a general pediatrician play? Co-speaker Michele McKee, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, advises pediatricians to direct parents to preparedness sites including www.ready.gov. This site features information on how parents can talk to their kids about a disaster.

Another resource is the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Readiness kit, available at www.aap.org/family/frk/frkit.htm. This kit includes an Emergency Information Form for parents to complete (www.aap.org/advocacy/eif.doc), which documents a child’s immunization history, special dietary needs, etc. This document can then be used in the event that electronic health records are not available post-disaster.

There are also resources for how to prepare and protect your own practice. AuthorScott Needle’s book A Disaster Preparedness Plan for Pediatricians discussesmatters such as how (or if) a pediatrician should temporarily shut down theirpractice. It also explores what other contingencies can be enacted. One example given isestablishing telephone triage signage within your practice, to let families knowwhere they can call their pediatrician in the event of a disaster.