From Olympic Park to the Boston Marathon to Texas

The New Yorker’s Atul Gawande writes often and well about medicine. This week, he described how disaster planning and training in hospitals saves lives. This morning he added a series of tweets:

In his New Yorker piece, Gawande talked described how the years of post-September 11 training in hospitals led to the “orchestration” that happened after Monday’s Boston Marathon explosions:

There’s a way such events are supposed to work. Each hospital has an incident commander who coördinates the clearing of emergency bays and hospital beds to open capacity, the mobilization of clinical staff and medical equipment for treatment, and communication with the city’s emergency command center. At my hospital, Stanley Ashley, a general surgeon and our chief medical officer, was that person. I talked to him after the event—I had been out of the city at the time of the explosions—and he told me that no sooner had he set up his command post and begun making phone calls then the first wave of victims arrived. Everything happened too fast for any ritualized plan to accommodate.

Even without the “ritualized plan,” staff had been so thoroughly trained that one emergency department director told Gawande he didn’t have to tell people much at all. “Everybody spontaneously knew the dance moves,” he said.

Learn more:

Learning How to Respond To A Boston-Style Emergency

6 Factors That Help Save Lives In A Disaster 18 April,2013Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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