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Disaster Preparedness

Natural or man-made, disasters can be scary, chaotic, and tragic events. ANA is helping to ensure disaster preparedness and response is robust in this country, and helps you be personally and professionally prepared for a disaster.

Always have a personal and family disaster plan.  Thinking about being a volunteer responder? The time to register is before a disaster, not during one. Choose a volunteer responder organization that matches your desired level of response.

ANA has educational opportunities for nurses on disaster preparedness. When we are a prepared profession, we can cope and help our communities recover from disasters better, faster, and stronger.

Know Your Disaster

Disasters can take many shapes and forms. They can occur naturally or man-made, and can be accidental or acts of terrorism.  In general, disasters are classified into the following categories:

  • Natural/Environmental
  • Chemical
  • Biological, including Pandemic Influenza
  • Radiological/Nuclear
  • Explosive Incidents

The type of response and the level of response needed often depend on the type and severity of the disaster. Below are resources and other websites that give detailed explanations of disasters and disaster response. Some special considerations for response include mental health (for both responders and the victims of a disaster), planning for special needs populations (such as the elderly, children, persons with disabilities, and people in incarceration), and surge capacity in hospitals and clinics.

Related Resources

ANA Action

ANA has dwelt on the issues of disaster preparedness and response since 1998 and continues to work in areas of policy and organizational representation at a variety of levels.  ANA encourages nurses to strengthen the capacity of the health services in emergencies by joining a volunteer registry, knowing and understanding your employer’s disaster response plan, and being personally prepared for emergencies.

Helping You Be Prepared

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) - Guidance for Mass Decontamination
    Patient Decontamination in a Mass Chemical Exposure Incident: National Planning Guidance for Communities
  • ANA Issue Brief: Who Will Be There? Ethics, the Law, and a Nurse's Duty to Respond in a Disaster
    Unresolved issues of legal, ethical, and professional considerations of disaster medical response remain a challenge and could hamper the ability of nurses to respond. A concerted effort to solving these problems is needed, with nurses and stakeholders at the national, state, and local levels.
  • IOM Report on Establishing Altered Standards of Care in Disasters [PDF]

Documents from ANA

  • Position Statement: Registered Nurses' Rights and Responsibilities Related to Work Release During a Disaster [PDF]
  • Position Statement: Work Release During a Disaster - Guidelines for Employers [PDF]

Be Competent: Education

ANA considers disaster preparedness and response a part of nursing practice. For nurses, it has become part of the curriculum at many institutions of nursing education, better enabling future nurses with the skills to prepare for and respond to emergencies. In addition, nurses can find continuing education and competency development offered by several nursing and non-nursing organizations, drawing from text books and articles written by nurses.  ANA strongly recommends that RNs take a formal class or certification course, enabling them to keep up with the latest skill development and education by reviewing nursing journals and other nursing literature, or just keeping up with disaster preparedness and response organizations’ web sites.

Interprofessional Certifications


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