Sam, a nurse who works at the local hospital, hears about a flooding disaster in a nearby community. Major roads are flooded, and grocery stores have been destroyed. Power lines were knocked down during the storm, and cell phone service is not working. Sam starts to wonder, “What if?”… “What if a disaster happens here and I’m not home with my family – how will I know if they are safe? How will I stay safe? What obligations will I have at work?”

As a compassionate nurse, Sam feels a need to respond to others in a crisis but also has a concern about ensuring the well-being of his family members. A Google search reveals the American Nurses Association document “Who Will Be There?” PDF. He realizes the discomfort he is feeling about responding to a potential future disaster event is due to the conflict of ethical principles regarding the nurse’s obligation to care for others, as well as the obligation to care for oneself.[1] He decides to respond to this ethical dilemma by preparing his personal response should a disaster occur.

Sam reads additional information called “Make a Plan” provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website “[2] Several questions come to mind as Sam reflects on his anticipated response to a disaster:

  1. How will I receive alerts and warnings about a disaster in my community?
  2. Are there any laws in my state that require my participation as a nurse in disaster response?
  3. What is my employer’s emergency response plan? What is my expected role as an employed nurse?
  4. What state and local disaster preparedness plans currently exist in my community?
  5. How will I get to work safely if a disaster occurs?
  6. How will I communicate with my family members and ensure their safety if a disaster occurs?

Sam reads additional information provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and starts to create his personal and family disaster plan.[3]

Reflective Questions:

  1. Consider the questions Sam posed as he considered his potential disaster response. What additional questions do you have about your role in a disaster response? What are the answers to these questions in your community and at your place of employment?
  2. Create your own personal and family disaster plan.

  1. American Nurses Association. (2017). Who Will Be There? Ethical, the law, and a nurse’s duty to respond in a disaster.
  2. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2022, May 18). Make a plan.
  3. FEMA. (2018). Create your family emergency communication plan.


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Nursing: Mental Health and Community Concepts Copyright © by Chippewa Valley Technical College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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