The Perfect Storm: South Australian Emergency Department clinician’s experience of an extreme weather event

Dr Karen Hammad1, Ms Megan Wake2, Ms Carla Zampatti2, Ms Sally Neumann3

1Flinders University, Adelaide , Australia, 2Royal Adelaide Hospital Emergency Department, Adelaide, Australia, 3Mount Gambier Hospital Emergency Department, Mount Gambier, Australia

Background: On the 28th of September 2016 South Australians experienced an unprecedented extreme weather event forcing the South Australian Commissioner of Police to declare a major incident. The event lasted for nearly a week and resulted in widespread power outages, flooding and structural damage. South Australian Emergency Department (ED) staff who worked during the event were unable to care for patients as they usually would. This experience presented an opportunity to understand how ED clinicians were affected by the event and provides insight into how prepared ED clinicians are for future events.

Method: The purpose of this research was twofold, aimed at generating an understanding of how ED clinicians were impacted by the event and how prepared ED clinicians feel for future events. Ethical approval was provided by Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee.  An online survey was distributed to nurses and doctors through the College of Emergency Nursing Australasia (CENA) and the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM).  56 nurses and doctors who worked in a South Australian ED between 28th September and 3rd October 2016 responded to the survey.  A descriptive analysis of the survey responses was undertaken.

Results: For the majority of respondents in this research, the extreme weather event significantly impacted their ED and clinicians changed their practice as a result. There were common themes throughout the state. The results of the study also demonstrates inconsistencies in current disaster training with the most common type of disaster training being hospital in-service lectures and the majority of respondents reporting that they hadn’t participated in disaster training since 2014.

Conclusion: This presentation will report on the findings of the research focusing on how EDs and clinical practice were impacted. Further recommendations about preparing clinicians using educational resources will also be discussed.


Karen is a CENA Fellow, she is currently employed as a Lecturer in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders University where she runs the post graduate emergency nursing program and a Masters degree in Disaster Health Care. Karen is also an emergency nurse with more than 20 years experience.