To help prepare for the threat of a pandemic flu, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) has developed guidelines and recommendations to help the medical community prepare for a large number of patients suffering from acute respiratory failure. While these guidelines specifically address pandemic flu, the same guidelines can apply to other mass casualty events including man-made and natural disaster.

The AARC established the guidelines to identify the respiratory issues the medical community could be faced with when treating mass casualties in the wake of a pandemic flu; terrorist attacks; or natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. The guidance document also provides recommendations for ramping up equipment and human resources to prepare for a crisis. Some of the key AARC recommendations include:

• Increase human resources to assist respiratory therapists and physicians and have easy-to-use ventilators available in the event the respiratory therapists on the hospital staffs cannot handle the volume and non-critical care professionals must be enlisted.
• Extend ventilator capacity for any mass casualty response, expanding strategic national stockpiling program by 5,000 to 10,000 ventilators. Additional ancillary supplies for ventilator use should also be stockpiled.
• Develop a distribution plan for ventilators on both the local and national level.
• Perform intubation for patients suffering acute respiratory failure during a pandemic flu, because ventilation by mask may increase the risk of infection to staff and other patients.
• Prepare for a power outage by identifying emergency power sources for electricity and compressed gas.
The guidance document, developed by the AARC in conjunction with medical experts in the respiratory field, is being distributed to respiratory therapists across the United States and is also available on the AARC’s website at www.aarc.org.