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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Alternative Care Sites: An Option in Disasters


During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the limited surge capacity of the healthcare system is being quickly overwhelmed. Similar scenarios play out when an institution’s systems fail, or when local or regional disasters occur. In these situations, it becomes necessary to use one or more alternative care sites (ACS). Situated in a variety of non-healthcare structures, ACS may be used for ambulatory, acute, subacute, or chronic care. Developing alternative care facilities is the disaster-planning step that moves communities from talking to doing. This commitment pays real dividends if a disaster of any magnitude strikes. This paper discusses the basic criteria for selecting, establishing and ultimately closing an ACS, difficulties of administration, staffing, security, and providing basic supplies and equipment.

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