A ‘disaster prevention’ approach advocated

Dr Nebil Achour BSc MSc PhD, a researcher at Loughborough University who has 13 years’ experience and expertise in disaster prevention – with particular focus on the resilience of healthcare facilities – examines some of the ways that business continuity and resilience can be ‘built into’ hospitals and other healthcare facilities, to enable them to remain functional in the event of major ‘disaster’ or ‘hazard’ events such as earthquake, fire, or flood. He draws on his own work, experience, and reflections, and considers some of the key international thinking and approaches.

Hospitals are one of the most critical facilities in any country, along with facilities such as fire departments and police stations. However, hospitals are distinctive due to the critical role they play in maintaining the health and wellbeing of society, and in dealing with the large number of injuries typically associated with major hazards. 

The fact that hospitals are complex is widely admitted by professional, governmental, and non-governmental organisations. The Pan American Health Organization1 described hospitals as ‘a hotel, an office building, a laboratory and a warehouse’ due to the complexity and interconnectivity of their systems (see Fig. 1). However, these complex, interconnected systems have commonly been narrowed down to three major categories: structural, non-structural, and functional components, in order to develop a better vision and approaches to understand them. 

This article aims to shed light on the resilience of these critical facilities, and discusses which theoretical approach is most suitable for building their resilience. It presents a brief summary of some of the author’s research work, experience, and reflections, over the past 13 years. The article takes advantage of the fact that major hazards have similar impacts on hospitals’ operation2 to look at international experience in order to develop a better understanding of the performance of hospitals following major such incidents.

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