SGER: MCEER Hurricane Gustav Reconnaissance: Lessons Learned by New Orleans Hospitals from Katrina to Gustav and Beyond
Daniel Hess Principal Investigator
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Project Title<br/><br/>MCEER Hurricane Gustav Reconnaissance: Lessons Learned by New Orleans Hospitals from Katrina to Gustav and Beyond<br/><br/>Abstract<br/><br/>The proposed project investigates decision making under uncertain conditions by examining the response of acute care hospitals in the New Orleans area before, during, and immediately after Hurricane Gustav including the evacuation and return of hospital patients and staff. ?Quick response? methodology will be used to gather information via observation of behaviors and facilities, document acquisition and evaluation, and semi-structured, face-to-face interviews of up to 30 hospital executives representing all 10 of the acute care hospitals in the New Orleans area. This qualitative approach is intended to provide a rich, context-aware understanding of the decision making by hospital executives in the New Orleans area with respect to emergency preparedness plans and execution. The project extends research conducted by the researchers after Hurricane Katrina and thus takes advantage of a natural experiment that allows the researchers to: (1) identify revisions to hospital emergency plans following Hurricane Katrina, (2) understand how revised emergency procedures were implemented during Hurricane Gustav, (3) assess outcomes of revised emergency procedures, and (4) make recommendations for improved hospital emergency procedures and healthcare planning in a region with recurrent and predictable natural disasters. The research thus examines whether Hurricane Katrina was a ?turning point? event for New Orleans area acute care hospitals. Organizations that fail to learn from disaster experiences are likely to repeat the mistakes that made them vulnerable. Lessons learned will be disseminated to a broad array of individuals and organizations through publications (e.g., MCEER Technical Report, peer-reviewed journal articles) and presentations (e.g., to the Academy of Management, to EERI, to regional and state agencies).<br/><br/>Hospitals, along with power systems, water supply, and critical infrastructure) are vital components of a community?s critical lifelines, and emergency planning and leadership decision-making should ensure that hospitals are able to respond to a disaster and not become victims of a disaster (like some New Orleans hospitals did during and after Hurricane Katrina). In considering the consequences of disasters for communities, hospitals merit special attention thanks to their complexity and occupancy characteristics and because of their critical role in lifeline maintenance before, during, and after extreme events. Lessons learned from emergency planning and operations for hospitals for Hurricane Gustav will be broadened so that they are useful not only for hurricanes but for a variety of extreme events and not just for hospitals but for other institutions and organizations as well. Any organization that depends on the external environment for essential inputs (e.g., human resources, energy, supplies) to routine operations risks disruptions to those operations if sound emergency planning does not plan for resiliency. Learning from the experiences of hospital administrators and emergency officials who led organizations during extreme events should enable future organizations to be more resilient when facing various crises.