The harrowing patient evacuations during Superstorm Sandy visibly demonstrated the challenges that our health care system faces in disaster.

If a major tornado or other manmade or natural disaster hits the Des Moines metro area, how would our health care system handle it?

To proactively prepare for coordination of critical health care services in a disaster, hospitals, public health agencies, emergency managers and other health care providers in Dallas and Polk counties have joined forces as the Central Iowa Coordinated Response Coalition (CICRC).

The new coalition, officially launched in July, was formed from a merger of the Dallas County Multidisciplinary Committee and the Polk County Multidisciplinary Committee. CICRC will improve preparedness and response capabilities for emergencies by working together to develop, implement, demonstrate and sustain all public health and health care preparedness capabilities.

"Communities are more resilient to disasters when neighbors help one another, and that also applies to health care," said Janice Jensen, Executive Director, Dallas County Public Health Nursing Services. "By sharing resources— like hospital beds, medical supplies, and medical staff, we will be more efficient and save more lives."

The newly formed CICRC will continue initiatives begun under the two separate committees, including mass dispensing of vaccinations and/or medications; and, coordinating a rapid response to any incident that has large numbers of casualties and fatalities. The committees will continue to work closely with emergency management, fire, emergency medical services, and law enforcement partners.