Disaster Medical I and II

Introduction and Unit Overview — Disaster Medical Operations I

The need for disaster medical operations is based on two assumptions:

  • The number of victims will exceed the local capacity for treatment.
  • Survivors will assist others. They will do whatever they know how to do. They need to know lifesaving or post-disaster survival techniques.

There are three phases of death from trauma:

  • Phase 1: Death within minutes as a result of overwhelming and irreversible damage to vital organs
  • Phase 2: Death within several hours as a result of excessive bleeding
  • Phase 3: Death in several days or weeks as a result of infection or multiple-system failure (i.e., complications from the injury)

Peter Safer’s research after earthquakes in Chile, Peru, and Italy indicated that more than 40 percent of disaster victims in the second and third phases of death from trauma could be saved by providing simple medical care.

CERT personnel are trained to provide:

  • Treatment for life-threatening conditions—airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock—and for other less urgent conditions.
  • The greatest good for the greatest number of victims by conducting simple triage and rapid treatment.

In a disaster, there will be more victims than rescuers and that immediate help will not be available. CERTs must be able to function quickly and efficiently to save lives.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  • Identify the “killers.”
  • Apply techniques for opening the airway, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock.
  • Conduct triage under simulated disaster conditions.

The goal of disaster medical operations is to do the greatest good for the greatest number. In a disaster with many victims, time will be critical. CERT members will need to work quickly and efficiently to help as many victims as possible.

This unit will introduce you to the “three killers” and the principles of triage. Throughout the unit, you will have opportunities to practice the treatment techniques and, at the end of the unit, you will have the opportunity to conduct triage evaluations in a simulated disaster.

The first section will deal with treatment for life-threatening conditions: Airway obstruction, excessive bleeding, and shock.

Introduction and Unit Overview — Disaster Medical Operations II

This unit will cover:

  • Public health concerns related to sanitation, hygiene, and water purification.
  • Organization of disaster medical operations.
  • Establishing treatment areas.
  • Conducting head-to-toe assessments.
  • Treating wounds, fractures, sprains, and other common injuries.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  • Take appropriate sanitation measures to protect the public health.
  • Perform head-to-toe patient assessments.
  • Establish a treatment area.
  • Apply splints to suspected fractures and sprains, and employ basic treatments for other wounds.

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