Disaster Information For Librarians
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What is an emergency, a disaster, a health disaster?We often hear these words, but they are rarely defined. Before we can explore the roles of librarians in the disaster life cycle (mitigation, planning, response and recovery) it is worth understanding what disasters are.
You can see how an event can cause an emergency, and how that emergency can turn into a disaster, and how a disaster in turn can create a health disaster.
Librarians' Roles in Disaster Planning
Interprofessionalism is paramount to effective disaster mitigation, planning, response and recovery. Members of the disaster workforce include both licensed or credentialed health professionals (nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, physicians, etc.) and additional licensed or trained professionals (community volunteers, firefighters, emergency managers, etc.), including librarians.
Librarians assist disaster workers by rapidly identifying, evaluating and disseminating information. Further, librarians train emergency responders in the use of information tools; and librarians monitor information sources to support decision-making by emergency managers.
A project from the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) identified functions for librarians:
Finding Disaster Health Information
The following Medline-indexed journals contain peer-reviewed articles and research on disaster health topics.
In addition to appearing in the above sources, disaster health literature is found in the scholarly literature of many health specialties. Emergency medicine, health administration and public health are just a few examples. It is essential to develop search strategies that include a wide variety of sources when seeking disaster health literature.
Disaster Health Subject Headings & Terminology
Valuable resources for locating appropriate subject headings to use in searches for disaster health information are NLM's Guide MeSH Terms Used in Indexing Disaster-Related Journal Articles and the U.S. Fire Administration Learning Resource Center's subject heading list.
Use also the Library of Congress (LC) subject heading "Disaster Medicine," with its narrower entries for "Disaster Hospital" and "Disaster Nursing."
There is no Doody's category for "Disaster Medicine." When locating monographs for collection building, try the terms:
A further resource is this list of disaster glossaries compiled by NLM's Disaster Information Management Research Center.
For prefabricated strategies on disaster topics such as surge capacity and bioterrorism, check the Disaster Search Strategies blog.
Sources of Disaster Health Information
Recognize that opportunities for disaster research are limited. Randomized, double-blinded, clinical studies, case-control or cohort studies are impractical for most research in disaster medicine.
Qualitative studies, using a case or case series design, are more common. Evidence from interviews, government reports, hospital and emergency department logs, de-briefing documents, media stories and other sources of grey literature contributes primarily to disaster research studies. Prepare to utilize a variety of databases and web sources when seeking disaster literature.
Depending on the period -- mitigation, planning, response or recovery -- in which you are providing services, information requests will differ. Grey literature sources will help you find planning documents, agency reports will help you find current mortality and morbidity statistics, and bibliographic databases will help you find peer-reviewed journal literature.
Consider your audience. Are you providing services to nurse managers, volunteer fire fighters, health care administrators, academic researchers? How will they be accessing the information? Do they need a quick summary to be displayed on a mobile device? Do they require a systematic search of the literature?
The resources below (Canadian, American, and international) are categorized to assist you in finding disaster information information efficiently for a wide range of audiences.
Best Bets for Disaster Information
Specialized Libraries for Disaster and Emergency Management Literature
Disaster Information from Professional Associations
Emergency Management Programs and Disaster Information from Academic Centres
Disaster Health Information Tools & Resources from NLM
Disaster Health Information for the Public/Consumer
Paediatric Disaster Information
Surveillance Tools for Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Agencies report infectious disease incidence statistics through some of the tools listed here. Health care organizations, in particular, may require updated mortality and morbidity numbers to support administrative decision making in the case of infectious disease outbreaks.
Disaster Information Apps & Mobile Optimized Websites
Tools to help you find important information on your mobile device on disaster planning, response and recovery topics.
Disaster Health Information Email Lists
Email lists are a great way to monitor information and join discussions on disaster management topics.
Disaster Health Information RSS Feeds
Monitoring disaster information is a key role for librarians in disaster management. Subscribing to RSS feeds from agencies that release disaster-related information will allow you to stay abreast of updates and breaking news. Don't forget your local news sources though -- they are your best bet for finding out what is happening in your community.
Disaster Health Information on Twitter
Social media plays an important role in monitoring and sharing disaster information. Twitter hashtags for emergency management can help you follow relevant conversations related to disasters or events. For a list of disaster hash tags, see the post on the DavisLogic Emergency Management Blog . Also follow the Disaster Information Management Research Center @NLM_DIMRC
Disaster Health Information Widgets
A widget allows you to insert code from disaster agencies in your website. Once added, the widget updates and displays information from agencies on your site.
Courses that complement information presented on this page are offered through the Medical Library Association's (MLA's) Disaster Information Specialization Program and the Canadian Health Libraries Association's (CHLA's) Continuing Education course, Disaster Health Information Sources for Canadians.
AcknowledgementWork to compile this preliminary list of disaster health information sources was funded by the National Library of Medicine under contract HHS-N-276-2010-00782-P.