Preparing your intensive care unit to respond in crisis: Considerations for critical care clinicians

Elizabeth L. Daugherty, Lewis Rubinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: In recent years, healthcare disaster planning has grown from its early place as an occasional consideration within the manuals of emergency medical services and emergency department managers to a rapidly growing field, which considers continuity of function, surge capability, and process changes across the spectrum of healthcare delivery. A detailed examination of critical care disaster planning was undertaken in 2007 by the Task Force for Mass Critical Care of the American College of Chest Physicians Critical Care Collaborative Initiative. We summarize the Task Force recommendations and available updated information to answer a fundamental question for critical care disaster planners: What is a prepared intensive care unit and how do I ensure my unit's readiness? DATA SOURCES:: Database searches and review of relevant published literature. DATA SYNTHESIS:: Preparedness is essential for successful response, but because intensive care units face many competing priorities, without defining "preparedness for what," the task can seem overwhelming. Intensive care unit disaster planners should, therefore, along with the entire hospital, participate in a hospital or regionwide planning process to 1) identify critical care response vulnerabilities; and 2) clarify the hazards for which their community is most at risk. The process should inform a comprehensive written preparedness plan targeting the most worrisome scenarios and including specific guidance on 1) optimal use of space, equipment, and staffing for delivery of critical care to significantly increased patient volumes; 2) allocation of resources for provision of essential critical care services under conditions of absolute scarcity; 3) intensive care unit evacuation; and 4) redundant internal communication systems and means for timely data collection. Conclusion: Critical care disaster planners have a complex, challenging task. Experienced planners will agree that no disaster response is perfect, but careful planning will enable the prepared intensive care unit to respond effectively in times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2534-2539
Number of pages6
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • ICU
  • disaster
  • preparedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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