Hospital Surge Capacity: A Web-Based Simulation Tool for Emergency Planners

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The National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response (PACER) has created a publicly available simulation tool called Surge (accessible at to estimate surge capacity for user-defined hospitals. Based on user input, a Monte Carlo simulation algorithm forecasts available hospital bed capacity over a 7-day period and iteratively assesses the ability to accommodate disaster patients. Currently, the tool can simulate bed capacity for acute mass casualty events (such as explosions) only and does not specifically simulate staff and supply inventory. Strategies to expand hospital capacity, such as (1) opening unlicensed beds, (2) canceling elective admissions, and (3) implementing reverse triage, can be interactively evaluated. In the present application of the tool, various response strategies were systematically investigated for 3 nationally representative hospital settings (large urban, midsize community, small rural). The simulation experiments estimated baseline surge capacity between 7% (large hospitals) and 22% (small hospitals) of staffed beds. Combining all response strategies simulated surge capacity between 30% and 40% of staffed beds. Response strategies were more impactful in the large urban hospital simulation owing to higher baseline occupancy and greater proportion of elective admissions. The publicly available Surge tool enables proactive assessment of hospital surge capacity to support improved decision-making for disaster response. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018;12:513-522)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-522
Number of pages10
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • disaster medicine
  • hospital
  • surge capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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