Disaster Management and Emergency Medicine in the Asia-Pacific Region: Current Practices and Future Directions

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Around the world, people and societies are at risk of being affected by disasters, both natural and man-made. In the face of climate change and human activity, the threat posed by unexpected disasters is likely to increase in future. This book, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, offers insights from experts in healthcare and higher education both locally and further afield. Some of the authors have first-hand experience with various elements of disaster management through such events as the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, the COVID-19 pandemic, and large-scale competitions including the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

Key learnings and recommendations are presented in three sections: disaster management and reconstruction, including what we can learn from past earthquakes; the importance of healthcare and emergency medicine in disasters and community events; and the way forward, in particular how technology and systems thinking can be used for disaster mitigation. By shedding light onto future work in disaster management and emergency medicine in Hong Kong and East Asia, this book aims to contribute to community resilience in the region and beyond. It will be useful for tertiary and postgraduate programmes, teachers and academics, practitioners, healthcare providers, policymakers, and community leaders.
Pub. Date
Jul 19, 2023
336 pages
152 x 229 mm
In the past 20 years, human lives have been threatened by various disasters (natural and man-made) in many parts of the world because of geographic features, climatic conditions, man-made structures and facilities, warfare, biohazards, pandemics, and so on. A disaster is defined as “a serious disruption of the functioning of a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity, leading to one or more of the following losses in human, material, economic and environmental” (United Nations General Assembly, 2016, p. 13).

Although the probability of Hong Kong being exposed to earthquakes and tsunamis is minimal, there is an increasing trend of being hit by the effects of climate change due to global warming such as super typhoons, heavy rainstorms, extreme hot (heatwave) and cold weather (cold spell), and so on over the past decade which has caused significant casualties locally (Cheung, 2022). On 5 September 2018, Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the strongest typhoon to affect Hong Kong since Typhoon Ellen in 1983, slammed into the city and caused a vast amount of structural damage to buildings, roads, and public vehicles. The Signal No. 10 typhoon (the highest tropical cyclone warning signal in Hong Kong) was in effect throughout the day, and most importantly led to the largest mass collapse of public transportation in Hong Kong in the past 20 years. It is rare that the public asks the Hong Kong government to have a more efficient and effective response towards unexpected natural disasters, but that is exactly what occurred in Mangkhut’s aftermath. Apart from natural disasters, however, we cannot forget the painful experience of pandemics such as the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks in Hong Kong, especially their impact to the healthcare system. During the first six months of 2003, 1,755 people were infected and 299 people died in three months, including eight medical staff. Most recently, in early 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic struck Hong Kong and still had not abated when the draft of this book was finished in July 2022. In the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, mainly caused by the Omicron variant, 1,317,743 people were infected as of 22 July 2022, and 9,461 had already died—mainly older people aged 80 or above.

Disaster risk reduction aims “to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk and managing residual risk by the society in a cost-effective manner, which can result in sustainable development, and thus strengthen the community to be more resilient” (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015, p. 10). Disaster management and emergency care are not widely taught in schools or professional programmes. Therefore, the purpose of this book is to present the experiences and knowledge of numerous experts in the fields of higher education and healthcare in Hong Kong and neighbouring regions in order to consolidate the work that has been done in the Asian and Hong Kong context. Some of the authors were involved in disaster relief work immediately after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. There are also review chapters on disaster management, mitigation of disasters via adoption of policy frameworks of disaster risk reduction, and sustainability and systems thinking.

This book consists of three parts. The first five chapters in Part I describe disaster management and reconstruction: what we can learn from earthquakes, with reviews of the impacts of earthquakes on the physical and mental health of survivors, the progress and development of national disaster teams, and professional disaster training and education since the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. The quality of life of lower limb amputees is presented, as is a study on earthquake preparedness among people in China with and without experience of earthquakes and injuries. Rehabilitation in infectious disease epidemics and a service-learning project for victims in Yunnan with amputations illustrate reconstruction after a disaster. The application of emerging technology is demonstrated via its role in the smart transformation of disaster management. Part II is about the importance of healthcare and emergency medical treatment in disaster management, including preparedness and training for major incidents and the roles of primary care in times of major community events, as well as a case report on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps the most serious public health disaster since SARS. The significance of the operation and practices of humanitarian and emergency logistics is also presented in a case study. Finally, Part III concludes the book by looking forward to the mitigation of disasters with chapters on the adoption of technology and policy frameworks for disaster risk reduction, sustainability, and systems thinking.

Community resilience is “the ability of the community exposed to disasters, crises and underlying vulnerabilities to anticipate, prepare for, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses without compromising their long-term prospects” (International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2016, p. 11). This book is the first of its kind in Hong Kong, shedding light onto future work in disaster management and emergency medicine in Hong Kong and the East Asian context, and thus contributes to strengthening community resilience in these societies. This book is suitable for students of tertiary and postgraduate programmes, teachers and academics, practitioners, healthcare providers, policymakers, and community leaders.

Part I—Disaster Risk Management and Reconstruction: What We Can Learn from Earthquakes


Emergency Medicine and Disaster Management: Concepts and Models 

Wei Kwang LUK, Wang-kin CHIU, Alan K. T. LEUNG, Alfred P. H. YIP, Derrick K. W. LAW, Ben Y. F. FONG


A Scoping Review of the Impacts of Earthquakes and Natural Disaster Management on Physical and Mental Difficulties of Earthquake Survivors 

Kenneth N. K. FONG


Medical and Public Health Disaster Competencies in Education and Training Curricula in China after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake 

Sijian LI, Lu CHEN, Nana WU, Hao DAI, Shaohua CHEN, Rui XIA, Sunshine CHAN


Review of the Quality of Life of Lower Limb Amputees after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake 



Earthquake Preparedness among People with and without Experience of Earthquakes and Injuries in China 

Kenneth N. K. FONG, Peng LIAO, Cong WANG, Hong ZHU, Qiuyun WANG, Danli WU, Cecilia W. P. LI-TSANG


Part II—Health and Emergency Medicine: Considerations for Hong Kong

Roles of Primary Healthcare in Major Community Events 

Thomas M. C. DAO, Bean S. N. FU, Brendan C. Y. WU


Training and Preparedness for Major Events, Massive Accidents, and Natural Disasters: A Hong Kong Report 

Yukie Y. K. LAM, Cynthia K. C. WAI, Jonathan H. O. WAI, Kin-Kwan LAM


Management of COVID-19 in Hong Kong 

Leon Wai LI, Percy W. T. HO, Sandra Wing Yi CHAN, Billy S. H. HO, Simon C. LAM


The Operation and Practices of Humanitarian and Emergency Logistics in Hong Kong 

Simon S. M. YUEN, Calvin CHENG


Part III—Looking Forward:  Policy and Technology Systems Thinking

Technology in Disaster Management 

Joseph LEUNG


Disaster Risk Reduction, Sustainability, and Systems Thinking 

Wang-kin CHIU, Jocelyn R. TONG, Ben Y. F. FONG, Vincent T. S. LAW



Kenneth N. K. FONG is a Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Currently he is the coordinator of the assistive technology laboratory in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, management committee member of the Research Institute in Artificial Intelligence of Things, chairman of the University Ethics Committee, member of the Senate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Editor-in-Chief, Hong Kong Journal of Occupational Therapy. He is a registered occupational therapist in Hong Kong, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He has received the individual and team teaching awards from the department and the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences. In the last 10 years, he has received competitive public research grants as chief investigator, among them, the Research Impact Fund, General Research Fund, Hospital and Medical Research Fund, Innovation and Technology Fund—Midstream Programme for the Universities, Beat Drugs Fund, etc. from the Research Grants Council, University Grants Committee, and the government, in order to develop innovative technology and rehabilitation intervention for people with disabilities. He serves as an honorary advisor of several non-government and self-help organisations for people with chronic diseases and disabilities in Hong Kong.

Ben Y. F. FONG is a specialist in community medicine, holding Honorary Clinical Associate Professorship at the two local medical schools in Hong Kong. He is currently the Professor of Practice (Health Studies), Associate Division Head and Director of the Centre for Ageing and Healthcare Management Research of the College of Professional and Continuing Education, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and President of the Hong Kong College of Community Health Practitioners. He was formerly Senior Assistant Commissioner (Medical) of the Auxiliary Medical Service, former President of the Hong Kong Disaster Medicine Association, and former Medical Director of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.