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MNAAP Newsletter

Statewide Project to Prepare for Pediatric Disasters

Paula Kocken, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Children’s MinnesotaPaulaKocken

How would your local hospital respond to 15 pediatric victims of a disaster presenting to the emergency department (ED) in one hour?

A surge of pediatric patients can come from a mass casualty event like the Boston Marathon or from a chlorine spill at a pool.

The National PedsReady project from 2013 showed, on average, only 60 percent of Minnesota hospitals are sufficiently prepared for a pediatric surge of patients.

Through a grant from the AAP, I am working with a multidisciplinary group and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to create and roll out an educational curriculum to improve the care of young patients during a large volume event.

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Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can!

By Paula Kocken, MD

This was September’s theme for Disaster Preparedness Month and there certainly were enough disasters to test the theme. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires ravaged North America. I am certain that all of us were thinking, “What can I do to help?” I am also certain that many of us gave money to charitable organizations, donated food to groups going to aid the victims, and called our relatives and friends in the areas affected to offer help.

One thing you may not have thought was, “How can I best prepare for a disaster if it happens here?”

The best way to be prepared is to “Make a Plan” by thinking ahead in an organized fashion and creating a strategy for what you would do during the most likely disasters to strike your community. It is the idea of preparing yourself first so you are free to help others. The government has some excellent guidelines and tools listed on their websites that are very helpful and informative. Every time I go to those sites, I learn something new or get a great idea on what I need to do to prepare. Below are some of the ideas I think are the most helpful.

Have a family meeting and discuss which disasters would impact your family. In Minnesota, the top culprits include winter storms, tornados, and floods. If you have children, it is important to talk about what could happen and how they would respond to it. It is a good time for demystifying what the children see in the media while validating their concerns. The AAP Family Readiness kit has many suggestions on what to do and how to talk about disasters with children.

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Disaster Preparedness: Planning for the Unimaginable

PaulaKocken2By Paula Kocken, MD, FAAP

It seems that there are disasters happening every day and everywhere. Some occur very far away from us and others seem to be at our doorsteps. The AAP, recognizing the increase in disasters, has encouraged each state chapter to ask for pediatricians knowledgeable and interested in disaster preparedness to champion the efforts in their state to improve preparedness.  Dr. Kiragu asked if I could accept the challenge of improving the awareness of information and programs about disaster preparedness and move forward Minnesota’s pediatricians in their ability to respond to disasters.

I was very pleased to be asked to help Minnesota and the AAP in this complex and challenging topic. I have been working with disaster preparedness for over the past 15 years through many venues.  Beyond being a pediatric emergency medicine physician based at Children’s of Minnesota, I took additional training in the hospital response to disasters with the U.S. army.  As the medical director of Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC), I have been working on “all hazards” readiness for pediatric disaster preparedness for EMS providers and emergency departments. I also participate with the MN Department of Health Advisory Committee for emergencies.

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