Disaster prepardness: Looking beyond the streetlight

Dr Karen Hammad (FCENA) PhD, BN(Hons), Grad Dip Emerg Nsg

World Health Organisation

Does it feel like you haven’t had enough disaster training or that the disaster training you have had is somewhat lacking? This presentation will explore current themes in disaster training and why we need to change the way we look at disaster training.


In 2001 while watching scenes from the World Trade Center attack unfold on television Karen was prompted to reflect on the readiness of the emergency department she was working in at the time as well as her own personal preparedness for something similar occurring in her own city. Karen recognised gaps in her own disaster preparedness and through discussions with colleagues became aware that others felt as unprepared as she did. This stirred a passion in Karen which determined the rest of her career focussing on building resilience and preparedness in front line health professionals.

Karen graduated from the University of South Australia as a Registered Nurse in 1996 and has spent most of her career working clinically in emergency departments. Karen has also worked for nearly a decade in the university system where she developed and coordinated a Masters Degree in Disaster Health Care. Karen holds a PhD from Flinders University which explores the experiences of nurses who have worked in emergency departments during disasters. Karen is an active researcher with a focus on preparedness, response and resilience of health professionals in relation to disasters and unexpected events.

Having identified a gap in accessible and affordable disaster training for health professionals Karen established Disaster Readiness Solutions in 2018. Disaster Readiness Solutions currently provides development, training and consulting to health professionals, health organisations, small business, schools and community groups.

Karen is currently employed as a consultant for the World Health Organisation headquarters in Geneva where she works in health security focussing on preparedness for deliberate events with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear involvement.

Karen is a Fellow of the College of Emergency Nursing Australasia and has held positions as Company Director and State President. Karen is an Associate Director of the Torrens Resilience Institute, Deputy Chair of the Australian College of Nursing Disaster Community of Interest and is a member of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine. Karen is proud to be an emergency nurse and continues to work clinical shifts when she can.