The World Trade Center attack - The experiences of health care professionals and the lessons to be learned

November 12, 2001

In this month's Critical Care, health care professionals who were either directly involved in the rescue efforts of 11th September or are experts in the field of disaster response analyse the events of that day, and suggest ways in which health care systems can be better prepared for future disasters, be they natural or acts of terrorism, including bioterrorism.

Their views are recorded in a series of articles investigating the response of paramedics, local hospitals, the police, and the fire service, as well as offering new perspectives on improving disaster management plans.

David Crippen, an intensivist in Pennsylvania with vast rescue experience, analyses how we respond to disasters, comparing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack with his experience of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. He suggests that the best approach to saving lives is to teach life-supporting first aid to the general public so that uninjured bystanders can help those worse affected.

Jeffrey Hammond and Jill Brooks, from the Robert Wood Medical School, New Jersey, investigate the prevention of psychological problems faced by disaster victims and rescuers. They surmise that, "critical incident stress debriefing", a peer-driven, therapist-guided, group therapy is essential for preventing the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is especially important, since treating PTSD after it has established is only minimally beneficial.

Ronald Simon and Sheldon Teperman, members of the Jacobi Medical Center Disaster Committee, conclude that there were weaknesses in the response of New York City to the crisis and that improved disaster management planning will undoubtedly save lives in the event of any future natural or man made disasters.

The question of preparing for future attacks is examined further by Kenneth Mattox, Professor of Surgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, who asks perhaps the most difficult question in response to the New York attacks - to what extent are health care bureaucrats able to prepare for future disasters? Answering this question requires "leaving egos and personal agendas at the front door and working for a common benefit", he warns.

These articles offer a unique insight into the reaction of the health care system to an unprecedented terrorist attack and offer in depth analysis of how disasters are managed with suggestions on how we can be better prepared.
-end-
All these articles will be published in the next issue of Critical Care (5:6) but will be available to download at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/ccf/wtc.asp

Any articles published using the material featured in these articles should reference Critical Care, a journal published by BioMed Central.

To read further press releases from BioMed Central visit: http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/pr-releases.asp

BioMed Central

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