Demand for poison control center services "surged" during the 2003 blackout

Kelly R. Klein, Perri Herzog, Susan Smolinske, Suzanne R. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background. Beginning 8/14/03, for 24 hours, the largest geographic power failure in U.S. history occurred. Our Poison Control Center (PCC) catchment area was one of the most severely affected, with most of the population left without electricity, fuel, water pressure, or municipal potable water. The paucity of reports on the impact of disasters on PCC operations led us to summarize our experience. Method. Data sources included 1) Toxicall® human exposures during 8/03 (with comparison to 2002 and to national trends) and 2) an after-action report completed by Specialists-in-Poison Information (SPI's) on duty during the disaster. Results. The average call volume for 8/03 increased by 7.8 %. Significant increases in human exposure and information calls occurred in four categories: gasoline, carbon monoxide, food poisoning, and water contamination. After-action report findings included: vulnerability of PCC operations to interruptions in power supply; lack of redundant communication methods; staffing challenges; and exclusion of PCC staff from hospital disaster plans despite co-location. Conclusion. During the blackout of 2003, there was a measurably increased demand for poison center services. PCC disaster plans should address increased staffing needs during the time of disaster, communication system redundancy, back-up power supply, and SPI needs (food, water, transportation, environmental safety, and rest/rotation).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-254
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Disaster
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Food poisoning
  • Power outage
  • Water contamination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


Dive into the research topics of 'Demand for poison control center services "surged" during the 2003 blackout'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this