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MHRS Disaster Response FAQs

Orange County is fortunate to have many fine emergency medical services available. The paramedics and emergency medical technicians employed by the fire departments and ambulance companies will respond in force. However, as witnessed in previous disasters, if a threat to the public's safety exists, many of these men and women may be occupied with other life saving tasks. In short, emergency medical care may be limited in the initial hours following a disaster’s impact. First Aid is the responsibility of everyone.

Medical disaster experts feel that it will very much depend on the size or extent of the disaster and how much it impacts the local community around the hospital or health facility. For example, if the hospital or clinic is near the earthquake's epicenter, you can be sure that hospital staff and officials will be busy with the care and well being of those patients already in the hospital. Disaster victims with non-life threatening needs who arrive at medical facilities following a disaster may have to wait some length of time to be attended to. Of course, those most severely injured will be taken care of first.

Every year the hospitals in Orange County unite with fire departments, ambulance companies, the American Red Cross and other private and government agencies to exercise the mass casualty plan for our community. Cooperation for the good of the many is everyone’s goal. Despite our County’s excellent medical disaster preparedness status, the advice of the experts is still very clear; personal medical disaster preparedness today, will save suffering and resources in a time of crisis.

Following the Northridge earthquake, many physicians opened their offices to serve their patients and clients in what ever ways they could. This lifted some of the burden from hospital Emergency Departments in and around the quake-damaged area. It is not known at this time which offices and clinics plan to be open following a major medical disaster. It is difficult to say who will be open and who will be closed. Now would be an excellent time to ask your physician or health care provider what services they plan to offer following a widespread medical emergency.

There are a number of actions you can take to better prepare you and your family for any medical need, which may arise following a disaster. Here are just a few suggestions: 

Get Involved! Be a part of the solution! Your help is needed right now by a number of organizations that are preparing to respond to large medical needs. Hospitals, municipal organizations, private service groups are getting ready to support the Orange County medical community. You can share in this, and you don’t have to be a medically trained person. You only have to be someone who cares about people in your community.

Take a First Aid Course. A first aid course might be a good place to start. A basic first aid course is ideal for almost any adult or young adult. You don’t need to be a medical expert and the course can be completed in 6 to 8 hours. Take a family member, friend or neighbor to a Red Cross First Aid class and you will be taking a big step in building your emergency medical support team. To locate a class, call your local American Red Cross chapter (in Orange County 714-481-5300), or contact the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for your city.

Create a First Aid Kit for Home & Car. Whether you buy a pre-packaged first aid kit or put one together yourself, this act of preparedness should be one of your first steps in getting ready for the next disaster. What ever type of kit you choose, make the first aid kit suitable for you and your family. Here is a quick list of some of the more important items:

  • Protective latex/plastic gloves
  • Band-Aids, 1", 2" and 3" rolled gauze and 4"X4" gauze pads
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Large triangular bandages
  • 2" and 4" Elastic bandages
  • Bandage (adhesive) tape
  • Cold medication, decongestants, antihistamine
  • Antiseptics/sterile wash for wounds and antibiotic ointment
  • Pain reliever (aspirin, acetaminophen, etc.)
  • Antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, laxatives
  • Eye wash/eye drops
  • 7 day supply of prescription medications
  • Extra eyeglasses/contacts; contact lens cleaner/soak
  • Sunscreen, skin lotion
  • Soap, towels, tissue, paper cups, plastic
  • spoons and bags
  • Scissors, tweezers, magnifying glass
  • Thermometer
  • Safety pins, pocket knife, needle and thread, matches
  • Flashlight, mirror
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Blanket
  • Splinting material and instant cold packs 

These supplies can be stored in a toolbox or fishing tackle box and kept with other emergency supplies. All disaster supplies should be checked at least 2-4 times a year. Watch all dated items for the expiration date. Replace them before they expire and utilize them for your day-to-day needs. You can use your disaster kit for other every day emergencies as well. Just be sure to keep your inventory stocked!

Temperatures inside your car can become extreme. The first aid kit in your automobile should be stored in the coolest location possible, and checked every 3 months.

It’s easy to obtain additional information related to medical and general disaster preparedness. Consult any of the following resources for advice on getting ready for the next "Big One":

  • Your city's Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
  • Orange County Sheriff
    Emergency Management Division
  • American Red Cross
    Orange County Chapter
  • State of California
    Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
  • County of Orange Health Care Agency
    Emergency Medical Services
    Serving the emergency services healthcare community of Orange County

  • If the person’s heart or breathing has stopped, there is a valid DNR order and the patient does not want treatment, paramedics and EMTs will not try to restart the heart or breathing.
  • The types of treatments that a patient with a DNR order would not receive include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, or CPR), electric shocks to the heart, assisted breathing with mechanical devices, or the use of medications intended to start the heart again. (A person would not be placed on life support, such as a ventilator or a breathing machine).
  • A DNR order only applies when the heart or breathing has stopped. It does not affect care before the heart has stopped, for pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms.