The date 26 December 2004 saw a massive tidal wave propagated from a 9.0 Richter scale suboceanic earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in South-East Asia. It swept across the Indian Ocean over a matter of hours leaving destruction in its wake. In Southern Thailand, Krabi Hospital, that province's major tertiary health centre, received the majority of the region's tsunami victims. Well-rehearsed contingency plans were in place to cope with 10, 20 and 40 trauma victims in the case of an extreme event. By the end of 26 December some 500 injured people had been treated at Krabi Hospital: well in excess of the 'worst case scenario' planning. Over the following days a total of 1357 tsunami victims were treated. Over the course of the day victims were able to move through the hospitals' system and gain appropriate treatment. This was achieved through the almost superhuman dedication of the hospitals' well-trained nursing and medical staff. In addition to this were large numbers of both Thai and foreign volunteers, who aided people with basic necessities such as providing them with food, water and clothing as well as simple human comfort, some also acting as translators for the health-care workers and the masses of injured and displaced people. Makeshift wards were constructed in halls and little used areas of the hospital, using army style stretchers to accommodate the wounded. Even though the disaster contingency plans at Krabi Hospital were utterly overrun, the fact that well-thought out and practised strategies were in place saved incalculable lives. The message is clear: practised responses to mass trauma situations will save lives and allows health-care teams to coordinate well in the face of overwhelming odds without panic. All centres should routinely practise disaster response through scenario-based training.
- Disaster planning