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Study Examines VA Nursing Homes' Disaster Response Activities Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed significant flaws in the U.S. preparedness for catastrophic events - and in the nation's capacity to respond to them. These flaws were particularly evident in the affected disaster areas' nursing homes. While some efforts were executed smoothly and with little disruption to the care provided to nursing home residents, there were unfortunate instances of poor response efforts that resulted in deaths. However, among Veterans living in VA or VA-contracted nursing homes, there were no reported deaths related to the two hurricanes. In order to improve emergency preparedness and response, especially in nursing homes, it is vital to determine factors that have led to effective evacuation of residents after disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Thus, this article reviews VA's response to these hurricanes, in regard to nursing home evacuation, and the literature on nursing home evacuation. Authors also propose a conceptual model to help guide decision-making for future evacuations. The model has five main components: 1) community context, 2) threat conditions, 3) social processes, 4) patterns of behavior, and 5) consequences of preparedness. In addition, this model proposes redefining evacuation to account for the fact that it may, in some instances, be permanent rather than preventive. The authors suggest more research on how disaster plans can be adapted to meet the needs of the frail elderly and other nursing home residents.

PubMed Logo Dobalian A, Claver M, and Fickel J. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Department of Veterans Affairs: A Conceptual Model for Understanding the Evacuation of Nursing Homes. Gerontology March 24, 2010;epub ahead of print.

This study was funded by HSR&D (RRP 06-134). All authors are part of HSR&D's Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior in Sepulveda, CA.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.