Haitian earthquake relief: Disaster response aboard the USNS comfort

Ryan M. Walk, Timothy F. Donahue, Zsolt Stockinger, M. Margaret Knudson, Miguel Cubano, Richard P. Sharpe, Shawn D. Safford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: The Haitian earthquake of January 12, 2010, was a disaster essentially unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere's recorded history. The USNS Comfort departed from Baltimore, Maryland, within 72 hours of the earthquake and arrived in Port-au-Prince harbor on January 19. During the subsequent 40 days, the ship provided one of the largest relief efforts in the US Navy's history. Methods: The data analyzed included all patients evaluated and treated by the USNS Comfort between January 19 and February 27, 2010. A medical chart with a unique identifier was created for each patient on admission. A patient database was created from these records and used for this analysis. Results: A total of 872 patients and 185 patient escorts were processed aboard the ship. Ages ranged from younger than 1 day to 89 years: 635 were adults and 237 were children. Of those admitted, 817 of the patients were admitted for longer than 24 hours; the average length of stay was 8.0 days. The need for surgery was substantial: 454 patients went to the operating room (OR) 843 times for 927 cumulative procedures. A total of 58 patients underwent amputations. Conclusions: Haiti was almost completely reliant on foreign medical teams for trauma care. Analysis of the data illustrates the challenges of triage and treatment in a humanitarian mass-casualty response. The remarkable coordination and cooperation among the Haitian Ministry of Health, nongovernmental humanitarian aid organizations, and the US military highlighted the responders' respective capabilities and demonstrated the importance of collaboration in future disaster response efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-377
Number of pages8
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Disaster relief planning
  • Disasters
  • Earthquakes
  • Haiti
  • Operative
  • Surgical procedures
  • Trauma


Dive into the research topics of 'Haitian earthquake relief: Disaster response aboard the USNS comfort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this