Occupational injury and illness rates for volunteer responders have not been well documented. We analyzed data specific to volunteers from the American Red Cross (ARC).
Data collected by the ARC between 2008 and 2012 were analyzed to identify disaster factors associated with responder injuries and illnesses. We focused on disaster-relief operation (DRO) level (indicating operational costs, ranging from 3 [lower] to 5+ [higher]); disaster type; region; and year. We calculated injury and illness rates and estimated rate ratios (RR) with 95% CI, using negative binomial regression. Also, we analyzed a total of 113 disasters.
Hurricanes had the highest rates of injuries (14/1000 responders) and illnesses (18/1000 responders). In the adjusted model for injuries, RRs were higher for DRO levels 4 (3.6 [CI, 2.0–6.7]) and 5+ (4.9 [CI, 2.2–11.0]) than for level 3. In the adjusted model for illnesses, RRs also were higher for DRO levels 4 (4.4 [CI, 2.6–7.3]) and 5+ (8.6 [CI, 4.1–17.7]) than for level 3.
Higher DRO levels were a significant predictor of greater rates of occupational injuries and illnesses. Careful selection of responders, including volunteers, has been warranted for deployments to such disasters. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;0:1-7)
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