Emergency 411: Are You Prepared?

Jul 17, 2013, 13:04 ET from American Osteopathic Association

American Osteopathic Association Survey Finds Majority of People Are Concerned About Having a Health Emergency in a Public Setting  

CHICAGO, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As violence continues to creep into safe havens like schools, movie theaters and marathons, who, if anyone, will be available to step up and provide medical assistance before the ambulance arrives seems to be on people's minds. New survey results released today by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) indicate 3 in 5 adults are concerned about having a health emergency in a public setting, and more than half of adults are concerned about a natural disaster, home or building fire, terrorist attack or other violent act.

Of those surveyed, 3 in 10 adults say they experienced a medical emergency in a public setting requiring treatment from a medical professional in the past and 1 in 4 adults indicate they have been affected by a health emergency or a natural disaster.

"Working in the emergency room at a major New York City hospital, I see patients come in in dire medical situations each day," says Alfredo L. Rabines, DO, an emergency medicine physician, associate Emergency Department director and director of medical education at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn. "Some situations become more serious because the patients are unable to communicate with emergency responders about pre-existing medical conditions or medications they are using. A medical alert bracelet or simple wallet card with medical information can save valuable time in treating a patient."

Confidence at Public Venues
In the event of a medical emergency, 3 in 4 adults are confident that medical assistance would be available during a physical endurance competition, such as a 5K run or marathon, compared to other public venues and events, followed by:

  • Schools (73%)
  • Sports venues, like stadiums or arenas (71%)
  • Cruise ships (65%)
  • Airplanes (55%)

People were least confident (less than 2 in 5 adults) that adequate medical assistance would be available on public transit. Yet, people board public transportation 35 million times each week day, according to the American Public Transportation Association. To keep passengers safe, many transportation agencies throughout the country have added automated external defibrillators (AEDs), including Metra in Chicago, which added AEDs to all of its trains earlier this year. 

Racing to Action to Save Lives
Unfortunately, fears of acts of violence are based upon all too common occurrences of these events and those in the health care profession who happen to be on the scene are often called upon to provide emergency medical assistance. One osteopathic physician (DO) experienced this as the triumph of an annual sporting event turned to violence in a matter of seconds. As he had done for many years, Martin S. Levine, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician from Short Hills, N.J. and past AOA president, was treating athletes in the medical tent at the Boston Marathon not far from the finish line where the first bomb exploded. Dr. Levine quickly transitioned from treating exhausted runners to serving as a first responder tending to those injured by the blasts. It is believed that the number of medical personnel at the marathon and the readiness of ambulances that had been on scene to treat runners helped to save many lives that afternoon. Dr. Levine agrees that being prepared can help save lives in an emergency situation.

"As an osteopathic physician, I believe the best medicine is taking steps to prevent illness and injury before they occur. Likewise, being prepared is the most effective prescription for dealing with an emergency situation," explains Dr. Levine. "In Boston, our emergency response plan helped our team work together to quickly assess, treat and transfer those who were injured by the blasts. This idea applies to home and work, too. If you don't already have them in place, talk to your family and employer about developing those emergency plans now."

Help Others by Preparing Yourself
When asked how they would react if they were on the scene of a medical emergency but not ill or injured themselves, 7 in 10 adults say they would help in any way they could. Consider the following tips to prepare yourself to help others in a medical emergency:

Prepare Your Family and Home
Take the time to assemble an emergency kit containing water, food and other disaster supplies. Develop a family disaster plan that includes:

  • Identifying steps to take when an emergency occurs, including specific responsibilities for each family member.
  • Educating everyone in the household, especially children, on using fire extinguishers and calling 911.
  • Practicing your plan by conducting evacuation drills and quizzing children and other family members on what to do when different types of emergencies occur.

Local hospitals or public health departments often have available educational materials on emergency preparedness and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Preparedness and You" Web page offers step-by-step guidance on how to deal with emergencies more effectively.

Seek out CPR and First Aid Training
The American Red Cross has a database to find classes in your area for CPR, AED and first aid training as well as emergency preparedness education.  

Carry a Medical Information Card
The AOA created a template for an emergency information card to keep in your purse or wallet. There you can list emergency contact information, medications you take, any allergies or pre-existing medical conditions, and your physician's contact information.

To find more tips, visit www.osteopathic.org/Emergency411.

How Osteopathic Physicians Step Up in Emergencies
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, Dr. Levine and other members of the medical team covering the event stepped up to provide triage care until ambulances arrived. When asked to identify which health care professionals can assist in an emergency, 88% of those surveyed recognized that DOs are among those qualified to provide emergency medical assistance.

Like Dr. Levine, many other DOs found themselves in the role of first responders during several disasters in the news this year, including:

  • Danielle Deines, DO, who helped victims at the Boston Marathon after completing the marathon herself.
  • George Smith, DO, a first responder after the Texas fertilizer plant explosion who also was injured from the blast.
  • Stephanie Barnhart, DO, who provided care following the tornado in Moore, Okla.

Osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to prescribe medication and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. They are trained to consider the health of the whole person and are taught to use a hands-on approach known as osteopathic manipulative treatment to diagnose and treat a number of health problems from back pain to sinus infections.

About the Survey
The survey results are being announced in advance of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Annual Meeting of the House of Delegates, taking place Friday through Sunday, July 19-21, at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. During the meeting, the AOA will be honoring the DO heroes mentioned above. Delegates also will consider reaffirming existing policies supporting medical kits being available on airplanes and disaster preparedness training.

The survey was conducted from May 28 to May 30, 2013. A total of 1,066 respondents completed the online survey. A sample size of 1,066 has a margin of error of approximately ± 3.0 % at the 95% confidence level.

About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.

SOURCE American Osteopathic Association