Effective healthcare system response to consecutive Florida hurricanes


  • Laura L. Banks, DVM, MPH
  • Mark B. Shah, MD
  • Michael E. Richards, MD, MPA




DMAT, disaster medicine, hurricane, preparedness


In September 2004, two consecutive hurricanes (Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Jeanne) made landfall in Stuart, FL, and created healthcare needs that overtaxed the capacity of the local healthcare system. To determine the character and structure of the response to these hurricanes, researchers from the University of New Mexico, Center for Disaster Medicine conducted both a structured written survey of employees and a guided group interview with healthcare system management. The written survey queried staff on topics related to their ability and willingness to get to work and stay at work during the storms. The roundtable interview with leadership resulted in analysis of the preexisting Emergency Operations Plan and its use during the storms, including preparation and execution of plans for staffing, facility operation, communication, community resource utilization, and recovery. In addition, the interaction with federally deployed Disaster Medical Assistance Teams was documented and reviewed. In general, prior planning on the part of the healthcare system in Stuart, FL, resulted in a successful response to both hurricanes. Employees were willing and able to provide the necessary care for patients during the hurricanes, overcoming many physical and emotional barriers that arose during the month-long response. These barriers included concern for the safety of family and pets, inoperable or insufficient communication methods, and damage to employees’ personal property and homes. Recommendations for healthcare system preparedness and response were formulated by the researchers based on this healthcare system’s successful response to back-to-back hurricanes, including recommendations for interacting with disaster medical resources.

Author Biographies

Laura L. Banks, DVM, MPH

Center for Disaster Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mark B. Shah, MD

Center for Disaster Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Michael E. Richards, MD, MPA

Center for Disaster Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


MacMaster J: The public health nurse in tornado relief. Public Health Nurs. 1999; 16(1): 72-75.

French E: Comparison of nurses’ needs/concerns and hospital disaster plans following Florida’s Hurricane Floyd. J Emerg Nurs. 2002; 28(2): 111-117.

Cone D: Hospital disaster staffing: If you call, with they come? Am J Disaster Med. 2006; 1(1): 28-36.

Moritsugu KP, Reutershan TP: The National Disaster Medical System: A concept in large-scale emergency medical care. Ann Emerg Med. 1986; 15(12): 1496-1498.

Brandt EN, Jr, Mayer WN, Mason JO, et al.: Designing a National Disaster Medical System. Public Health Rep. 1985; 100(5): 455-461.

Sklar DP, Richards M, Shah M, et al.: Responding to disasters: academic medical centers’ responsibilities and opportunities. Acad Med. 2007; 82(8): 797-800.

Mahoney LE, Reutershan TP: Catastrophic disasters and the design of disaster medical care systems. Ann Emerg Med. 1987; 16(9): 1085-1091.

Stopford BM: The National Disaster Medical System—America’s medical readiness force. Disaster Manag Response. 2005; 3(2): 53-56.

Health Resources and Services Administration, US Health and Human Services: National Disaster Medical System: Medical manpower component establishment. Notice. Fed Regist. 1988; 53(76): 12994-12995.

Sternberg E, Lee GC, Huard D: Counting crises: US hospital evacuations, 1971–1999. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2004; 19(2): 150-157.

Nufer KE, Wilson-Ramirez G: A comparison of patient needs following two hurricanes. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2004; 19(1): 146-149.

Blaney-Brouse D: Meeting the challenge: First person accounts of Florida nurses’ courageous response to the hurricanes of the Fall of 2004. J Emerg Nurs. 2005; 31(1): 28-33.

McCaughrin W: Perfect storm: Organizational management of patient care under natural disaster conditions. J Healthcare Manag. 2003; 48(5): 295-308.

Neil R: Power of people—Part four. Mater Manag Health Care. 2003; October; 25-28.



How to Cite

Banks, DVM, MPH, L. L., M. B. Shah, MD, and M. E. Richards, MD, MPA. “Effective Healthcare System Response to Consecutive Florida Hurricanes”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 2, no. 6, Nov. 2007, pp. 285-9, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2007.0038.