skip to content, health centers and clinics, search, accessibility statement

Press Release

Coalition Considers the Medical Needs of Kids in a Disaster

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Health professionals and emergency-response experts are meeting this week to plan how to save children's lives following a catastrophic event in California.

More than 140 health professionals and emergency managers will come together June 7 for the California Neonatal/Pediatric Disaster Coalition Conference in Oakland. The conference is being sponsored by Alameda and Contra Costa County Emergency Medical Services, and is part of an aggressive statewide effort to promote disaster preparedness for infants and children. These emergency-response officials are using the lessons of Katrina, the H1N1 flu pandemic and the earthquake in Japan to help plan how to protect and care for children during a disaster in the state.

Children are especially vulnerable in a natural disaster, terrorist attack or public health emergency. They're more likely to suffer serious injuries than adults, and because their immune systems are not as well-developed, children are particularly susceptible to germs and biological agents. Yet while children face greater risks, emergency responders historically haven't adequately planned for children's medical needs in a disaster. But that is changing thanks to the efforts of the coalition, which formed three years ago after the H1N1 pandemic in California.

"Disaster preparedness guidance for critically ill infants is especially limited and we are working to change that," said Pat Frost, the director of Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and co-chair of the coalition.

In a disaster with mass casualties there won't be enough specialized pediatric hospital beds in California for injured infants and children (ages 0-18). Bed capacity for infants and children are regionally distributed throughout the state. That means many sick newborns and injured kids may not be able to receive rapid emergency care for treatable conditions during a disaster. The coalition has been working with hospitals and medical providers around the state to plan how they can stretch their resources to accommodate sick or injured kids during both multi-casualty and disaster events.

The June 7 conference take place at the California Endowment Center in Oakland and will run from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Please note that the viewpoints expressed in this press release are those of the event organizers and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The California Endowment.) The conference will feature discussions on hospital surge capacity, patient triage, domestic terrorism, and mass casualty preparation. Following the event, the coalition will make a pediatric-disaster toolkit available to hospitals, doctors, health clinics, and other emergency-care providers.

"The point of all this is to save children's lives," said Cynthia Frankel of Alameda County Emergency Medical Services. "In order to do that, we need to know we'll be able to care for our kids when disaster strikes."

If you would like to learn more about the California Neonatal/Pediatric Coalition and its work visit

# # #

Press Contact
  • Patricia Frost
  • EMS Director
  • 925-313-9554