Document Type


Publication Date



Natural disasters and acts of terrorism have placed a spotlight on the ability of health care providers to surge in response to catastrophic conditions. This paper reviews the status of efforts to develop the capacity and capabilities of the health care system to respond to disasters and other mass casualty events. Strategies for adapting routine medical practices and protocols to the demands posed by extraordinary circumstances and scarce resources are summarized. Existing federal roles, responsibilities, and assets relative to the contributions of state and local government and the private sector are described, including specific programmatic activities such as the Strategic National Stockpile, the National Disaster Medical System, and the Hospital Preparedness Program. Opportunities for federal policymakers seeking to strengthen and expedite preparations for medical disaster response are highlighted.


Background paper no. 65

Open Access



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.