Brief note on the mandatory components of Disaster Medicine

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Disaster medicine relates to the task of preserving health and preventing deaths, disabilities and diseases that occur as a consequence of natural or man made disasters and minimizing them to the utmost.

Promoting health, prolonging life and medical rehabilitation of victims of disaster along with organized community support brings about a rapid return to normal in the aftermath of a disaster event and also helps mitigate the long-term adverse impact of any disaster. Environmental sanitation, control of epidemics of communicable diseases, ensuing safety of drinking water and food supplies and immediate medical attention are important aspects of disaster medicine.

Early availability of efficient medical, paramedical and nursing services helps to ensure quick diagnosis and raid and prompt treatment during disaster situation. Creating an able bodied and motivated volunteer force from the local communities and educating and training these volunteers in health and hygiene matters as well as rendering correct first aid will greatly assist in limitation of diseases, disabilities and deaths during disaster situations.

Mandatory Components

(a) Rescue

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The principle of ‘SAVE A LIFE OR LIMB’ should be efficiently employed during rescue, resuscitation, first aid and emergency Medicare. The first life saving procedure is ‘Rescue’ of victims of disaster without aggravating the existing damage to their health and safety. Rescue operations often become haphazard and hazardous due to fear and panic that grips nearly every unprepared individual during a sudden disaster event.

Hence, through prior training, education and mock exercises among the local population and by encouraging large-scale community participation in disaster limitation planning, more lives could be saved and disabilities limited. Rescue may be necessary when the individuals are;

  • Trapped under the ruins of collapsed buildings;
  • Buried under mud or landslide;
  • Cut off due to floods or damage to communication routes.

The rescue parties must observe the following rules:

  • Do not trample over ruins;
  • Do not remove rubble unless one is sure of not causing further collapse of building or structure;
  • Use manual method of removing the rubble;
  • Use of the spades and pickaxes should be very careful of persons trapped underneath, gas and water pipes and high voltage electric cables.

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(b) First-Aid

As soon as a victim, who is buried under the debris is noticed:

  • Ensure free supply of natural air, avoid using fans or exhaust for this purpose.
  • If victim can be reached, clear his throat using your fingers. Remove dentures if present.
  • Loosen collar, white buttons, and belt; remove shoes and socks.
  • Use blankets to keep the victim warm.

Once rescued, the victim of disaster may be found injured, bleeding, in a state of shock or unconscious. A quick physical examination can largely indicate the exact cause of infirmity. The victim may need resuscitation, stopping of hemorrhage, prevention of impending shock and its management, location and immobilization of fractures using body support, splints or improved artifacts. The collective aim of all such resuscitatory measures is to enable transport of a victim to the nearest medical facility in as stable a state of health as achievable, and without any further injury.

(c) Emergency Medicare

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Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation’ (CPR) of victims of heart and respiratory failure is another important component. These procedures are simple and easily understandable by an average literate person, housewives, and school children. Some training and practice are of course necessary. Deaths due to heart attacks, electrocution, drowning, accidental ingress of foreign body in the windpipe, can be averted by timely rendering of CPR through trained hands.

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