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How Much Personal Protective Equipment is Enough During a Pandemic?

Scott Wallask and Evan Sweeney, July 6, 2009

One of the linchpins of emergency planning is estimating how much personal protective equipment (PPE) staff members might need during an event, such as a pandemic.

HealthLeaders Media reported last month that hospitals in the midst of H1N1 flu responses found their supply chains tested, and certainly PPE—including gloves, respirators, and surgical masks—falls under that concern.

The uncertainty of a pandemic flu outbreak makes it tough to plan for PPE stockpiling. Each hospital plays a different role in its community, and therefore has unique requirements concerning PPE, says Tom Huser MS, CHSP, safety coordinator of emergency management and hazardous materials at Clarian Health in Indianapolis.

"There's no real number," Huser says. "It depends on the facility, the facility's size, location, and population served. If you are a small hospital in the suburbs or rural areas, you may be the only game in town, but the entire population served is probably going to be smaller than a square mile around an urban hospital."

Huser says Clarian is fortunate to receive funding from the U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, which the hospital has used to stockpile materials.

Currently, Huser estimates Clarian has 710,000 pairs of gloves and 5,000 pairs of eye protection locked away in a separate location. To help determine that stockpile, Clarian hired the 3M Company based in St. Paul, MN, to use its surge model to predict how much the hospital might need.

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