Skip to content

Hospitals Safe from Disasters is a Collective Responsibility!

Disaster-resilient hospitals and health facilities are everyone’s right. They are also everyone’s responsibility. The following suggestions for ways in which countries, agencies and individuals can play a role were originally developed at the start of the World Disaster Reduction Campaign 2008-2009, through which the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization are seeking to raise awareness of the issue of hospitals safe from disasters.

World Health Day 2009When Disaster Strikes: Safe Hospitals Save Livesbuilds on this initiative.  Disaster-resilient hospitals and health services require a strong partnership among many sectors and agencies.  Learn more about how you can play a role.


Take a leadership position make safe hospitals a national priority.
Governments have the ultimate responsibility for the safety of their citizens. At all levels, governments have much at stake when it comes to ensuring their health services continue to function when disaster strikes. Strong political commitment is imperative to designing and building new hospitals that are safe from disasters.

Create a framework for collaboration to make hospitals and health facilities resistant to natural hazards.
The issue of ‘hospitals safe from disasters’ must figure prominently on national and local policy agendas and involve a wide variety of sectors including planning, finance, the environment, local authorities and others. The broader the participation, the greater the national commitment will be.

Draft, pass and enforce legislationin particular building codesthat protect hospitals.
Building codes alone are not enough. Even if national codes do take into account natural hazards, they still must be enforced. To do so requires support of decision makers and legislators.

UN, international and regional agencies and NGOs

Build on existing inter-agency mechanisms and strategic partnerships.
The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is responsible for the Hyogo Framework for Action, which calls on countries worldwide to ensure that all new hospitals are built with a level of resilience that strengthens their capacity to remain functional in disaster situations.

Highlight this cross-cutting issue on the agenda of regional meetings.
The last decade has witnessed a tremendous upswing in the involvement of international and regional agencies in all aspects of emergency management and disaster risk reduction. Agencies and NGOs should seek to mainstream health sector risk reduction into these efforts.

Collect, share and disseminate good practices.
Each agency and NGOs has a specialized niche or area or expertise. Share your knowledge and skills with as many partners, information centers, journals or other information vehicles as possible in order to disseminate this knowledge as widely as possible.

Health institutions and the health workforce

Become agents of disaster risk reduction.
Health workers have an intimate knowledge of their work environment, and this contributes to making a health facility safe from disasters. Hospital plans are everyone’s business and all health workers must be involved in their preparation.

Seek opportunities to update skills and knowledge.
Health workers and all staff working in health facilities from the largest to the smallest must constantly update their knowledge and skills about hazards and risk reduction to improve their leadership role in emergency situations.

Mentor the next generation of health professionals.
In the health sector, disaster risk reduction is still not a household word. Schedule presentations with universities, professional associations and other outlets to build awareness of issues concerning the safety of health facilities in emergency situations.

Universities, schools and professional associations

Incorporate modules or courses that contribute to hospital safety into university and professional curricula.
Review and make changes to existing school and university curricula. Deliver continuing education courses and develop certification programs and supporting technical publications.

Act as repositories of specialized expertise.
Add to a global knowledge base or knowledge management system by systematically collecting and sharing specialized expertise with established information centers, providing a blueprint for countries with similar risks and resources.

Encourage innovations and cutting-edge designs.
Stimulate innovations and cutting-edge designs by encouraging countries to continuously experiment with new courses of action to improve the performance of health facilities.

Publish articles for scientific and technical publications and journals.
Encourage research into the magnitude of the problem and the cost effectiveness of introducing disaster risk reduction measures into the design of new hospitals and health facilities.

Financial institutions

Propose that risk reduction measures are incorporated into all health construction projects.
It is possible to design and construct new health facilities that are capable of protecting not only lives but also the investment in complex facilities such as hospitals. In some cases, the cost is negligible, since all that is needed is to choose a different location or change the underlying design philosophy.

Promote research and studies from an economic point of view.
Help measure the magnitude of the problem and the cost-effectiveness of introducing disaster risk reduction (prevention, mitigation and preparedness) measures into hospitals and health facilities.

Solicit government enforcement of existing legislation on building codes.
To protect investments in health infrastructure, encourage health facility construction projects to take into account and incorporate all necessary risk reduction measures into the design and construction of new hospitals and to enforce already existing building codes.

The donor community

Consider how donor-funded development projects can contribute to achieving the goal of hospitals safe from disasters.
Give priority to funding activities that contribute to protecting health facilities from the avoidable consequences of disasters which is essential to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Look for ways to mainstream health sector risk reduction into project design.
In much the same way that the issue of ‘gender’ is mainstreamed into a variety of projects, so too can issues related to reducing risk so that hospitals function in disaster situations be included in other development projects.

Make "hospitals safe from disasters" a component of the larger disaster and development portfolio.



Last Updated on Monday, 02 March 2009 06:20

Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
Tel.: +1 (202) 974-3000 Fax: +1 (202) 974-3663

© Pan American Health Organization. All rights reserved.