Mechanical ventilation in disaster situations: A new paradigm using the AGILITIES Score System


  • Eric P. Wilkens, MD, MPH
  • Gary M. Klein, MD, MPH, MBA



triage, mechanical ventilator, disaster, influenza, death, resource, pandemic


Background: The failure of life-critical systems such as mechanical ventilators in the wake of a pandemic or a disaster may result in death, and therefore, state and federal government agencies must have precautions in place to ensure availability, reliability, and predictability through comprehensive preparedness and response plans.

Methods: All 50 state emergency preparedness response plans were extensively examined for the attention given to the critically injured and ill patient population during a pandemic or mass casualty event. Public health authorities of each state were contacted as well.

Results: Nine of 51 state plans (17.6 percent) included a plan or committee for mechanical ventilation triage and management in a pandemic influenza event. All 51 state plans relied on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Flu Surge 2.0 spreadsheet to provide estimates for their influenza planning. In the absence of more specific guidance, the authors have developed and provided guidelines recommended for ventilator triage and the implementation of the AGILITIES Score in the event of a pandemic, mass casualty event, or other catastrophic disaster.

Conclusions: The authors present and describe the AGILITIES Score Ventilator Triage System and provide related guidelines to be adopted uniformly by government agencies and hospitals. This scoring system and the set of guidelines are to be used in disaster settings, such as Hurricane Katrina, and are based on three key factors: relative health, duration of time on mechanical ventilation, and patients’ use of resources during a disaster. For any event requiring large numbers of ventilators for patients, the United States is woefully unprepared. The deficiencies in this aspect of preparedness include (1) lack of accountability for physical ventilators, (2) lack of understanding with which healthcare professionals can safely operate these ventilators, (3) lack of understanding from where additional ventilator resources exist, and (4) a triage strategy to provide ventilator support to those patients with the greatest chances of survival.

Author Biographies

Eric P. Wilkens, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City, New York

Gary M. Klein, MD, MPH, MBA

Chief Medical Officer, mEDhealth Advisors, LLC, Vienna, Virginia


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How to Cite

Wilkens, MD, MPH, E. P., and G. M. Klein, MD, MPH, MBA. “Mechanical Ventilation in Disaster Situations: A New Paradigm Using the AGILITIES Score System”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 14, no. 4, Oct. 2019, pp. 311-26, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2019.0347.