The Race to Save Lives: Demonstrating the Use of Social Media for Search and Rescue Operations


Importance: Utilizing social media in an emergency can enhance abilities to locate and evacuate casualties more rapidly and effectively, and can contribute towards saving lives following a disaster, through better coordination and collaboration between search and rescue teams.

Objective: An exercise was conducted in order to test a standard operating procedure (SOP) designed to leverage social media use in response to an earthquake, and study whether social media can improve joint Israeli-Jordanian search and rescue operations following a regional earthquake.

Design: First responders from both Jordan and Israel were divided into two mixed groups of eight people each, representing joint (Israeli-Jordanian) EMS teams. Simulated patients were dispersed throughout the Ben-Gurion University Campus. The first search and rescue team used conventional methods, while the second team also used social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) to leverage search and rescue operations.

Participants: Eighteen EMS and medical professionals from Israel and Jordan, which are members of the Emergency Response Development and Strategy Forum working group, participated in the exercise.

Results: The social media team found significantly more mock casualties, 21 out of 22 (95.45%) while the no-media team found only 19 out of 22 (86.36%). Fourteen patients (63.63%) were found by the social media team earlier than the no-media team. The differences between the two groups were analyzed using the Mann-Whitney U-test, and evacuation proved to be significantly quicker in the group that had access to social media. The differences between the three injury severities groups’ extraction times in each group were analyzed using the Kruskal-Wallis test for variance. Injury severity influenced the evacuation times in the social media team but no such difference was noted in the no-media team.

Conclusions: Utilizing social media in an emergency situation enables to locate and evacuate casualties more rapidly and effectively. Social media can contribute towards saving lives during a disaster, in national and bi-national circumstances. Due to the small numbers in the groups, this finding requires further verification on a larger study cohort.

Challenges for Resuming Normal Life After Earthquake: A Qualitative Study on Rural Areas of Iran


Background and objective:
Growing evidence is indicating that some of disaster affected people face challenges to resume normal life several months after an earthquake. However, there is no sufficient in-depth understanding of complex process of resuming normal life after an earthquake in Iran, as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and in rural areas as a particular setting. This study aimed to explore challenges of return to normalcy in rural earthquake-stricken areas of Iran.

The study was conducted using qualitative content analysis method (Graneheim approach). Twenty people from the earthquake-stricken areas and seven qualified experts were selected via purposeful sampling .Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and field notes from August 2013 to January 2014. Data collection continued to the point of data saturation (no new information was provided by interviewees). Data saturation supported the sample size. Data analysis was based on qualitative content analysis principles.

“Social uncertainty and confusion” was the most prominent challenge of return to the normal life after earthquake, which was categorized into six concepts of social vulnerability, lack of comprehensive rehabilitation plan, incomplete reconstruction, ignorance of local social capital, waste of assets, and psychological problems.

Findings showed that social uncertainty and confusion occurs as a result of negligence of some important social aspects in process of returning to the normal life. This issue, in turn, can greatly interrupt the normal developmental processes. Understanding the challenges of life recovery after disasters will help policy makers consider social rehabilitation as a key factor in facilitation of return to normal life process after earthquakes.

Keywords: Disaster; earthquake; social rehabilitation; social uncertainty.

Patient Reactions after the Canterbury Earthquakes 2010-11: A Primary Care Perspective


Aim – To explore GP perceptions of the impact of the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes on primary care clinic patients.

Methods – Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with eight GPs from the Christchurch area exploring GPs’ perceptions of the impact on patients.

Results – Patients experienced significant strain and anxiety following the earthquakes. The impact of this differed due to personal circumstances. Secondary stressors such as insurance and housing issues contributed to experiences of distress.

Conclusions – The GPs identified significant impacts on patients as a result of the earthquakes with significant levels of strain and anxiety being due to the on-going recovery process. It appears that a significant proportion of the affected population felt comfortable talking with the GPs about the earthquakes, secondary stressors and their effects upon them.

The EnRiCH Community Resilience Framework for High-Risk Populations


Introduction: Resilience has been described in many ways and is inherently complex. In essence, it refers to the capacity to face and do well when adversity is encountered. There is a need for empirical research on community level initiatives designed to enhance resilience for high-risk groups as part of an upstream approach to disaster management. In this study, we address this issue, presenting the EnRiCH Community Resilience Framework for High-Risk Populations.

Methods: The framework presented in this paper is empirically-based, using qualitative data from focus groups conducted as part of an asset-mapping intervention in five communities in Canada, and builds on extant literature in the fields of disaster and emergency management, health promotion, and community development.

Results: Adaptive capacity is placed at the centre of the framework as a focal point, surrounded by four strategic areas for intervention (awareness/communication, asset/resource management, upstream-oriented leadership, and connectedness/engagement). Three drivers of adaptive capacity (empowerment, innovation, and collaboration) cross-cut the strategic areas and represent levers for action which can influence systems, people and institutions through expansion of asset literacy. Each component of the framework is embedded within the complexity and culture of a community.

Discussion: We present recommendations for how this framework can be used to guide the design of future resilience-oriented initiatives with particular emphasis on inclusive engagement across a range of functional capabilities.

Evolution of a Search: The Use of Dynamic Twitter Searches During Superstorm Sandy


Twitter has emerged as a critical source of free and openly available information during emergency response operations, providing an unmatched level of on-the-ground situational awareness in real-time. Responders and survivors turn to Twitter to share information and resources within communities, conduct rumor control, and provide a “boots on the ground” understanding of the disaster. However, the ability to tune out background “noise” is essential to effectively utilizing Twitter to identify important and useful information during an emergency response.

This article highlights a two-prong strategy in which the use of a Twitter list paired with subject specific Boolean searches provided increased situational awareness and early event detection during the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012. To maximize the amount of relevant information that was retrieved, the Twitter list and Boolean searches were dynamic and responsive to real-time developments, evolving health threats, and the informational needs of decision-makers.

The use of a Twitter list combined with Boolean searches led to enhanced situational awareness throughout the HHS response. The incorporation of a dynamic search strategy over the course of the HHS Sandy response, allowed for the ability to account for over-tweeted information, changes in event related conversation, and decreases in the return of relevant information.

Site Selection Criteria for Sheltering after Earthquakes: A Systematic Review


Objective: Proper shelter site selection is necessary for long-term welfare of earthquake affected people. This study aims to explore the criteria that need to be considered after earthquakes.
Methods: Through a systematic review, 273 articles found that were published till April 2014. Among these, seven articles have been selected and analyzed for the criteria that they introduced for sheltering site selection after earthquakes.
Results: Out of 27 proposed criteria, accessibility and proximity to homes of affected people were stressed in all the papers. Moreover, seven other criteria were the same in most of the papers including suitable size, suitable distance from hazardous areas, geological hazards and land slope, suitable distance from medical centers, water supply and Security.
We categorized all the mentioned criteria in six main categories. Size and location, disaster risk reduction, relief and rescue facilities, feasibility of the site, environmental and social aspects are the main categories.
Conclusion: Selection and applying proper criteria for shelter site selection after earthquakes is a multi-disciplinary task. The decision needs relevant models and/or tools. Geographic Information System (GIS) is a useful tool for this purpose.

Key words: Disaster, earthquake, shelter, site selection, systematic review

Optimizing the Use of Chief Complaint & Diagnosis for Operational Decision Making: An EMR Case Study of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake


Introduction: Data from an electronic medical record (EMR) system can provide valuable insight regarding health consequences in the aftermath of a disaster. In January of 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deployed medical personnel to Haiti in response to a crippling earthquake. An EMR system was used to record patient encounters in real-time and to provide data for decision support during response activities.

Problem: During the Haiti response, HHS monitored the EMR system by recoding diagnoses into seven broad categories. At the conclusion of the response, it was evident that a new diagnosis categorization process was needed to provide a better description of the patient encounters that were seen in the field. After examining the EMRs, researchers determined nearly half of the medical records were missing diagnosis data. The objective of this study was to develop and test a new method of categorization for patient encounters to provide more detailed data for decision making.

Methods: A single researcher verified or assigned a new diagnosis for 8,787 EMRs created during the Haiti response. This created a new variable, the Operational Code, which was based on available diagnosis data and chief complaint. Retrospectively, diagnoses recorded in the field and Operational Codes were categorized into eighteen categories based on the ICD-9-CM diagnostic system.

Results: Creating an Operational Code variable led to a more robust data set and a clearer depiction emerged of the clinical presentations seen at six HHS clinics set up in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake. The number of records with an associated ICD-9 code increased 106% from 4,261 to 8,787. The most frequent Operational Code categories during the response were: General Symptoms, Signs, and Ill-Defined Conditions (34.2%), Injury and Poisoning (18.9%), Other (14.7%), Respiratory (4.8%), and Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue (4.8%).

Conclusion: The Operational Code methodology provided more detailed data about patient encounters. This methodology could be used in future deployments to improve situational awareness and decision-making capabilities during emergency response operations.

The Effectiveness of Disaster Risk Communication: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies


Introduction: A disaster is a serious disruption to the functioning of a community that exceeds its capacity to cope within its own resources. Risk communication in disasters aims to prevent and mitigate harm from disasters, prepare the population before a disaster, disseminate information during disasters and aid subsequent recovery. The aim of this systematic review is to identify, appraise and synthesise the findings of studies of the effects of risk communication interventions during four stages of the disaster cycle.
Methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, MEDLINE, PsycInfo, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Science and grey literature sources for randomised trials, cluster randomised trials, controlled and uncontrolled before and after studies, interrupted time series studies and qualitative studies of any method of disaster risk communication to at-risk populations. Outcome criteria were disaster-related knowledge and behaviour, and health outcomes.
Results: Searches yielded 5,224 unique articles, of which 100 were judged to be potentially relevant. Twenty-five studies met the inclusion criteria, and two additional studies were identified from other searching. The studies evaluated interventions in all four stages of the disaster cycle, included a variety of man-made, natural and infectious disease disasters, and were conducted in many disparate settings. Only one randomised trial and one cluster randomised trial were identified, with less robust designs used in the other studies. Several studies reported improvements in disaster-related knowledge and behaviour.
Discussion: We identified and appraised intervention studies of disaster risk communication and present an overview of the contemporary literature. Most studies used non-randomised designs that make interpretation challenging. We do not make specific recommendations for practice but highlight the need for high-quality randomised trials and appropriately-analysed cluster randomised trials in the field of disaster risk communication where these can be conducted within an appropriate research ethics framework.

A Research Agenda for Humanitarian Health Ethics


This paper maps key research questions for humanitarian health ethics: the ethical dimensions of healthcare provision and public health activities during international responses to situations of humanitarian crisis. Development of this research agenda was initiated at the Humanitarian Health Ethics Forum (HHE Forum) convened in Hamilton, Canada in November 2012. The HHE Forum identified priority avenues for advancing policy and practice for ethics in humanitarian health action. The main topic areas examined were: experiences and perceptions of humanitarian health ethics; training and professional development initiatives for humanitarian health ethics; ethics support for humanitarian health workers; impact of policies and project structures on humanitarian health ethics; and theoretical frameworks and ethics lenses. Key research questions for each topic area are presented, as well as proposed strategies for advancing this research agenda. Pursuing the research agenda will help strengthen the ethical foundations of humanitarian health action.

Combining Dedicated Online Training and Apprenticeships in the Field to Assist in Professionalization of Humanitarian Aid Workers: a 2-year Pilot Project for Anesthesia and Intensive Care Residents Working in Resource Constrained and Low-income Countries


As a result of the gaps in humanitarian response highlighted by several reports, the international community called for an increased professionalization of humanitarian aid workers. This paper describes a pilot project by an Italian university and a non-profit, non-governmental organization to implement a medical apprenticeship in low-income countries during Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine residencies.

Before deployment, participants were required to complete a dedicated online training course about safety and security in the field, principles of anesthesia at the district hospital level, emergency and essential surgical care, essentials of medical treatment in resource-constrained environments and psychological support in emergencies.

At the end of the program, a qualitative self-evaluation questionnaire administered to participants highlighted how the project allowed the participants to advance their professional skills when working in a low-resource environment, while also mastering their adapting skills and the ability to interact and cooperate with local healthcare personnel. The project also proved to be a means for personal growth, making these experiences a recommendation for all residents as a necessary step for the professionalization of healthcare personnel involved in humanitarian aid.