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Computer Program Helps Hospitals Prepare for Mass Casualties - 03/06/2007

Computer Program Helps Hospitals Prepare for Mass Casualties

Release Date: March 6, 2007

Johns Hopkins emergency medicine specialists have developed a tool to help hospitals prepare for disasters with the potential to overwhelm services.

The Electronic Mass Casualty Assessment & Planning Scenarios (EMCAPS) computer program calculates the impact of such crises as a flu epidemic, bioterrorist attack, flood or plane crash, accounting for such elements as numbers of victims, wind direction, available medical resources, bacterial incubation periods and bomb size.

Written by members of the Johns Hopkins Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) office and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the program depends heavily on population density estimates to derive "plausible estimates" of what hospitals may expect in the first minutes or hours of a disaster.

"EMCAPS won’t predict with absolute precision, but it will give a good estimate of impact in a particular neighborhood or city," says James Scheulen, administrator of Johns Hopkins’ Department of Emergency Medicine and executive director of CEPAR.

"The program gives us numbers and types of injuries that are likely to help plan responses to catastrophe with something more than experience and intuition," he adds.

For example, if a bomb similar to the one detonated in Oklahoma City in 1995 were exploded in a moderately crowed pedestrian area in an average large city EMCAPS calculates that 437 people would be killed; 768 would suffer acute trauma injuries and 3,759 would sustain urgent care injuries that would require time in the emergency department. Up to 1,407 would have injuries not requiring hospitalization.

"We can use EMCAPS to help state and local officials and hospitals plan jointly for who and how many of what injury would go where, and adjust communications, transport systems, law enforcement and emergency personnel assignments accordingly," says Scheulen

EMCAPS development was funded with a $120,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program.

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