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Principles of Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities

Book of Stress Management In DisastersIn a period of only 15 years, between 1981 and 1996, 93 hospitals and 538 health care centers in Latin America and the Caribbean were damaged as a consequence of natural disasters. This resulted in the loss of service of some 24,000 beds. The direct cost of these disasters has been enormous; just as devastating has been the social impact of the loss of these critical facilities at a time when they were most needed.

Hospitals and health centers are complex; they have high occupancy levels and play a critical role in disaster situations. For these reasons, special consideration must be given to disaster planning for these facilities. Assessing and reducing their vulnerability to natural hazards is indispensable.

"Principles of Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities" is an updated compilation of various documents on the topic already published by PAHO/WHO. Sections of previous publications have been revised to address the needs of professionals from a variety of disciplines, particularly those involved in health facility planning, operation and maintenance. It does not attempt to address the more technical and specialized aspects of disaster mitigation. Figures and photographs illustrate situations that can increase disaster vulnerability in health facilities. Examples are given of how countries in Latin America have conducted vulnerability assessments and applied specific disaster mitigation measures in their hospitals and health centers.

The book focuses on problems encountered in areas at high risk for seismic events. It introduces the essential aspects of carrying out vulnerability assessments and applying practical measures to mitigate damage in hospitals, addressing structural and nonstructural aspects, as well as administrative and internal organization.

This book can be ordered from PAHO's Emergency Preparedness Program (, or can be downloaded, by chapters, as PDF files. You need to have installed Adobe Acrobat Reader to read these files. It can be obtained free of charge from the Adobe Website.