An Evaluation of Non-Structural Vulnerabilities of Hospitals Involved in the 2012 East Azerbaijan Earthquake




Background: When disasters strike, hospitals are among the first units whose efficient and timely services can be crucial and decisive in reducing mortality and rescuing the injured. Non-structural components are among domains that need to be considered in any assessment of hospital readiness. Objectives: Given that Azerbaijan, and especially the metropolis of Tabriz, is located in the world’s earthquake belt, this study aimed to evaluate the non-structural vulnerability of hospitals involved in the 2012 Azerbaijan earthquake. Materials and Methods: In a cross-sectional study, eight public, social security, military, and private earthquake-stricken hospitals in Azerbaijan were assessed from nine different aspects using the standard checklist issued by the WHO/HSI (hospital safety index). Results: The lowest level of performance was observed in communication and electrical systems. The hospitals surveyed had appropriate levels of performance in terms of water supply systems, medical gas systems, and emergency fuel. Although in the overall assessment, approximately 60% of hospitals surveyed had an acceptable performance in their non-structural elements, key sectors such as emergency, ICU, radiology, and laboratories had rather low to moderate levels of safety in all hospitals. Conclusions: Overall, two hospitals had high levels of readiness in the assessment (above 80%). Given that Iran, and particularly its neighbor Azerbaijan, is a crisis-prone country, adherence to non-structural security protocols of the WHO has had a significant effect on the non-structural readiness and safety of hospitals.