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February 5, 1992

Physicians and Disaster Preparedness

Author Affiliations

San Clemente, Calif

JAMA. 1992;267(5):655. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480050058021

To the Editor.  —In their article on medical responses to mass disasters, Drs Pretto and Safar1 perpetuate the myth of the cavalry riding to the aid of victims of major disasters.However, as the authors stated, "lifesaving potential... rapidly decline[s] from the time of the event to near zero 24 hours later." The medical response system they envisioned is based on the NDMS and enhancement of the local EMS. First, it is likely to take the NDMS several days to mobilize under the best of circumstances (it took 12 days to mobilize for the hurricane Hugo disaster2). Second, in the event of a major earthquake, the local EMS will be effectively nonfunctional for a prolonged period. Southern California local public safety officials estimate that 72 hours will elapse before effective medical response can be mounted.With this in mind, the Society of Orange County (California) Emergency Physicians,