Lessons from the Storm

Our region struggled to stabilize during the last two nor’easters, which passed through within a week of each other. Power lines were hit hard, communication was compromised, and some roads were impassable. Sadly, even six months after Maria slammed into the island, Puerto Rico is still fighting to stay alive. Storms seem to pack a stronger, more frequent punch these last few years, which leave us assessing how fortunate we truly are when conditions return to normal. Waking up in a bedroom where you cannot see your breath, and being able to take a hot shower, no longer seem like basic conveniences, but rather as luxuries after you have been without them for days.

Hopefully, we have learned more than a feeling of gratitude, which often fades with time.  One important lesson to be taken from any state of emergency, man-made or natural, is that you can never be too prepared, particularly in regard to medical services and quality care for those who cannot chop wood, or move a heavy generator. It is the responsibility of not just power authorities and government agencies, but everyone, including health care workers, to stay informed so that they can weather any challenges to their professional services.

We have a very healthy collection of text books, e-books, memoirs, and manuals that offer guidance about how to be our best when our infrastructure is impaired, but patients’ needs are high. A few are listed below. Click here for a more extensive list of resources that are available in our library. And with the power back on, now is the perfect time to become even more informed.



Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink. Available in print. 

From the New York Times Book Review:

Dr. Fink, a physician turned journalist, won a Pulitzer Prize for her investigation of these events in a 2009 joint assignment for ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine. This book is much more than an extension of that report. Although she had the material for a gripping disaster story, Dr. Fink has slowed the narrative pulse to investigate situational ethics: what happens when caregivers steeped in medicine’s supreme value, preserving life, face traumatic choices as the standards of civilization collapse (Berry, 2013, p. C-6).





Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses, edited by A.J. McMichael and D.H. Campbell-Lendrum. Available online.

From Chapter One, Global climate change and health: an old story writ large:

This volume seeks to describe the context and process of global climate change, its actual or likely impacts on health, and how human societies should respond, via both adaptation strategies to lessen impacts and collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As shown later, much of the resultant risk to human populations and the ecosystems upon which they depend comes from the projected extremely rapid rate of change in climatic conditions. Indeed, the prospect of such change has stimulated a great deal of new scientific research over the past decade, much of which is elucidating the complex ecological disturbances that can impact on human well-being and health-(McMichael, 2002, p. 1).




Radiation Disaster Medicine : Perspective from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, edited by Koichi Tanigawa and Rethy Kieth Chhem. Available in print. 

From the Preface:

No clear definition of radiation disaster medicine has been articulated after the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents.

…An overarching purpose of this book is therefore to broaden the lens, examine the unique challenges that physician’s face, and introduce readers to some key institutions in radiation disaster situations (Tanigawa and Chhem, 2014).




 Cittone’s Disaster Medicine, edited by Gregory R. Cittone. Available online.

From the Foreward:

I think the events of the years since the first edition of this book have cemented in a harsh reality the need to be concerned with disasters. Not only have we had an all too steady diet of the mayhem produced by war and attempts at revolution, but we have had an unending number of natural disasters with serious problems caused by major storms, tornados, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Adding in the not so natural disasters that also seem to have occurred with ever increasing frequency, such as nuclear plant spills, industrial pollutions, and industrial explosions and fires, there is such a profusion of disasters that it seems that not only a second edition, but many other editions thereafter, will be necessary. (Rosen, 2016).



 Improvised Medicine: Providing Care in Extreme Environments, by Kenneth V. Iserson. Available online.

From the Introduction:

As this second edition goes to press, the need for improvisation among health care workers has become more evident. Natural and human-made disasters have overwhelmed many of the world’s resource-poor regions; local and international health care workers have stepped in to assist—with excellent skills, but often with less than adequate supplies and equipment. Health care workers in more developed countries also experience these shortages, even under “normal circumstances,” but generally to a lesser degree. The information in this book should help to overcome some of these difficulties (Iserson, 2016).