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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Health System Response and Health Care Access

The Impact of Hurricane Sandy on Health Systems Care and Development of Disaster Response and Resilience Based Metrics

Applicant Institution: New York University

Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine partnered with the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) evaluated prehospital care delivery (emergency ambulance services) after the catastrophic closure of multiple hospitals during Hurricane Sandy. They found that prehospital data provided an easily identifiable real-time operational metric for evaluating the stressors experienced by specific hospitals and by the healthcare system as a whole during Hurricane Sandy.

Separately, the team analyzed the contribution of a novel, freestanding emergency department (ED) – absent hospital inpatient services – which was established in the midst of the disaster at Bellevue Hospital Center in order to decrease stress on the healthcare system. They found that the freestanding emergency department served local needs and had an effect beyond adjacent boroughs.

The team also found significant differences in how public and private patients respond to hospital closures and changes in health care access during disasters, and identified high-risk populations who developed acute medical needs in specific geographic areas after Hurricane Sandy. These findings will help planners and responders target neighborhoods likely to need additional medical care following future disasters.

Learn more about this project in the following publication:

Lee DC, Smith SW, Carr BG, Goldfrank LR & Polsky D. (2015). Redistribution of Emergency Department Patients After Disaster-Related Closures of a Public Versus Private Hospital in New York City. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 9(3):256-64. PMID: 25777992.

Lee DC, Smith SW, Carr BG, Doran KM, Portelli I, Grudzen CR & Goldfrank LR. (2016). Geographic Distribution of Disaster-Specifc Emergency Department Use After Hurricane Sandy in New York City. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 9 Feb 2016 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 26857616.

Smith SW, Braun J, Portelli I, Malik S, Asaeda G, Lancet E, Wang B, Hu M, Prezant DJ & Goldfrank LR. (2016). Prehospital Indicators for Disaster Preparedness and Response: New York City Emergency Medical Services in Hurricane Sandy. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 7 Jan 2016 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 26740248.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy and Recommendations for Improved Healthcare and Public Health Response and Recovery for Future Catastrophic Events

Applicant Institution: American College of Emergency Physicians

The American College of Emergency Physicians worked with a wide variety of stakeholders to evaluate the impact of Hurricane Sandy on patient care, not only in the hardest hit areas of New York and New Jersey but also in the 13 states declared by FEMA as affected areas. They looked at events and practices that occurred before, during and after the storm, and identified a number of lessons learned and opportunities for improvement.

For example, they found a need for uniform hospital bed definitions to simplify evacuations. During Hurricane Sandy, many of the out-of-area ambulances were not familiar with the city’s hospitals, so patients were not always transported to the appropriate facility. In addition, current patient tracking systems which reply on wristbands did not allow hospitals to fully track a patient’s final destination.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways, Queens: Response and Recovery for Access to Primary Care

Applicant Institution: University of Pittsburgh

Disasters can disrupt primary care services, resulting in a gap between the ability of healthcare providers to deliver care, and the increased healthcare needs of the population. This gap is called the access deficit. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh developed the HAZEL (hazard-area primary care locator) modeling tool Exit Icon  to allow users to test the impact of interventions such as back-up systems, alternative service plans, and policy modifications on the access deficit. This tool allows users to find the most effective ways to restore primary care access after disasters.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

  • This page last reviewed: March 10, 2016