Mass Casualty Wildfires Could Overwhelm Hospitals and Medical Transport

As reported by Adam Rogers for Wired, the devastating California Camp Fire in 2018 was a wake-up call to emergency managers and public health professionals.

The fire killed at least 85 people and destroyed the local Feather River Hospital. That reduced the available medical treatment facilities needed to treat patients and requiring the evacuation of existing patients.

The article states, “That moment made real a problem that specialists had been warning about for years. “There were four beds immediately available in the entirety of Northern California for a burn patient. Everyone else was going to have to wing it,” says Tina Palmieri, director of the Firefighters Burn Center at UC Davis, which would receive 10 burn victims from the Camp Fire alone.”

The threat of major wildfires has been increasing with both climactic conditions and the encroachment of human beings into areas that were once wilderness.

Regional coalitions of emergency managers, healthcare providers, and EMS services in wildfire prone areas are looking for ways to build flexibility and resiliency into systems that are resource constrained.

One potential solution for both the medical transport and patient surge capacity issues is to stock and deploy temporary medical transport capacity and patient sleeping quarters using systems like the AmbuBus Conversion Kit developed by First Line Technology.

In a wildfire scenario, the AmbuBus can be an invaluable resource in four critical areas of response:

Multi-Patient Transport

The AmbuBus Conversion Kit provides two structural steel frames that can typically accommodate 12 patients on stretchers or backboards. The kits can be installed permanently or temporarily into any available school or metro bus in less than two hours by two people with no power tools.

Most communities that utilize the AmbuBus install at least one permanently so that it can be rapidly deployed to evacuate hospitals, nursing homes, or at-risk homebound patients from the disaster area.

They also stock additional AmbuBus kits that can be temporarily installed for additional transport capacity when the danger of a wildfire is imminent.

Hospital Surge Capacity

The AmbuBus kit can be set-up free-standing in a hospital corridor or cafeteria. Less critical patients can be accommodated here which will free up hospital beds for seriously burned or ill patients.

Victim Sleeping Quarters

Major wildfires can destroy hundreds of homes. Additional AmbuBus kits can be installed in schools or tents as temporary sleeping quarters for victims until more permanent accommodations can be found.

Responder Rehab

When not needed for patient transport, an AmbuBus-equipped vehicle can be dispatched to the fire staging area providing a place to rest and rehab or on-scene sleeping quarters.

For more information on the AmbuBus Conversion Kit, click here.

To read the original Wired article, “Hospitals Aren’t Ready for a Mass Casualty Wildfire”, click here.