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April 7, 1956


JAMA. 1956;160(14):1202-1205. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02960490016004

• Help for survivors in a nuclear blast area must come from the periphery. Consequently it depends on organized mobile groups from the surrounding region. Such a unit, planned to include first aid for 250 casualties, was given a field trial in "Operation Mercy."

Four hospitals willingly agreed to supply equipment for the four operating teams, three resuscitation teams, the sorting station, and the burn and postoperative ward. The local civil defense organization called on volunteer sources in the community, and physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and medical students were mobilized. Transportation for equipment and personnel was by means of private cars, buses, laundry trucks, and small vans. Boy Scouts and high school students cooperated by acting as casualties to the number of 250.

The sequence of events, from the unannounced surprise alert until the "pack up and return" signal, lasted nine and one-half hours into the night. There was much confusion, but no one was hurt.

Cooperation was found to be enthusiastic when people are asked to participate in a specific activity. The organizing and implementing of even a modest disaster unit was found to require a tremendous amount of attention to detail, but the results were gratifying.