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32.1 Types of Disasters

All communities experience the risk for disasters. Disasters are classified as natural or human made. Natural disasters occur as a result of weather or a natural event. Human-made disasters occur as a result of human action. The health and safety of communities are directly impacted by disasters. Nurses contribute to the assessment of community disaster risk.

32.2 Biological Terrorism

Biological terrorism is the intentional release of biological agents to threaten populations and can lead to disaster and mass casualties. Biological agents are categorized by threat risk, with Category A as the highest priority agents that have the greatest threat of transmission and mortality. Nurses must be prepared to identify and respond to individual and community biological agent exposure.

32.3 Mass Violence

Mass violence is an intentional criminal act targeted at defenseless citizens with the intent to harm or kill in large numbers. Mass shootings make up the majority of mass violence events, with the number of incidences rising. Mass violence negatively impacts communities through loss of life, injury, decreased feelings of community safety, and increased mental health issues. Nurses must be prepared to recognize signs of potential violence and be able to respond to mass casualty events. Mass casualty management is complex and requires multiagency, interprofessional collaboration, efficient organization and communication, scene safety assessment, and zoning of care areas.

32.4 The Disaster Management Cycle

The disaster management cycle is a planned, systematic approach used by communities to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. The nurse participates in every stage of disaster management. NIMS and ICS are used to promote multiagency, interprofessional collaboration and communication during an event.

32.5 The Nurse’s Role in Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response

Emergency preparedness is an essential role of the nurse. Upon completion of nursing school, attainment of disaster competencies for the general professional nurse is expected. Nurses involved in emergency response to disaster move through six stages of response and recovery. The nursing process is utilized during each phase of disaster management. Triage assessment is a vital nursing skill during disaster response. START, SALT, and JumpSTART are commonly used triage systems.


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