Blackout 2003: Preparedness and lessons learned from the perspectives of four hospitals

Kelly R. Klein, Marc S. Rosenthal, Howard A. Klausner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Introduction: The blackout in North America of August 2003 was one of the worst on record. It affected eight United States states and parts of Canada for >24 hours. Additionally, two large United States cities, Detroit, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio, suffered from a loss of water pressure and a subsequent ban on the use of public supplies of potable water that lasted four days. A literature review revealed a paucity of literature that describes blackouts and how they may affect the medical community.Methods: This paper includes a review of after-action reports from four inner-city, urban hospitals supplemented accounts from the authors' hospital's emergency operations center (emergency operations center).Results: Some of the problems encountered, included: (1)lighting; (2) elevator operations; (3) supplies of water; (4) communication operations; (5) computer failure; (6) lack of adequate supplies of food; (7) mobility to obtain Xray studies; (8) heating, air condition, and ventilation; (9) staffing; (10) pharmacy; (11) registration of patients; (12) hospital emergency operations center; (13) loss of isolation facilities; (14) inadequate supplies of paper; (15) impaired ability to provide care for non-emergency patients; (16) sanitation; and (17) inadequate emergency power.Discussion: The blackout of 2003 uncovered problems within the United States hospital system, ranging from staffing to generator coverage. This report is a review of the effects that the blackout and water ban of 2003 had on hospitals in a large inner-city area. Also discussed are solutions utilized at the time and recommendations for the future.Conclusion: The blackout of 2003 was an excellent test of disaster/emergency planning, and produced many valuable lessons to be used in future events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-349
Number of pages7
JournalPrehospital and disaster medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2005


  • Blackout 2003
  • after-action reports
  • emergency operations center (EOC)
  • failures
  • hospitals
  • lessonslearned
  • preparedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


Dive into the research topics of 'Blackout 2003: Preparedness and lessons learned from the perspectives of four hospitals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this