Little work has been devoted to the links between natural disasters, subsequent Emergency Medical Services (EMS) network utilization, triage, and public awareness. The aim of this study was to investigate the types and distribution of emergency calls recorded after each South Florida hurricane during the 2005 season, identifying target areas for public health education, and emergency personnel use and training. Retrospective database review. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) emergency dispatch headquarters. All persons making 911 phone calls to the MDFR emergency dispatch headquarters in the 3 days before and after category 3 or higher hurricanes during 2005. None. There were 192,363 emergencies reported in 2005. The mean number of 911 emergencies reported per day for the 3 days before and after Katrina was 503 +/- 26 and 819 +/- 105, respectively (p = 0.007). The mean number for Wilma was 533 +/- 42 before and 800 +/- 63 after (p = 0.004). However, Rita had no impact on the number of 911 emergencies reported. Katrina resulted in a statistically significant increase in 911 calls for breathing (p = 0.03), convulsions and seizures (p = 0.02), and hazardous situations (p = 0.04). Rita led to an increase in convulsions and seizures (p = 0.03). Lastly, Wilma caused a rise in breathing emergencies (p = 0.02) and hazardous situations (p = 0.02). This study suggests that 911 calls regarding respiratory complaints, convulsions, seizures, and hazardous situations can be expected to significantly increase after a hurricane. Educational initiatives, EMS resource allocation, and modified triage systems designed to target these areas may limit EMS system-wide strain and improve health outcomes following natural disasters.
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