Introduction: After the Volendam fire, a multidisciplinary, integral evaluation, called the Medical Evaluation of the Disaster in Volendam (MERV), was established. This article is a discussion of disaster research methodology. It describes the organizational framework of this project and the methodological problems.Methods: A scientific steering group consisting of members from three hospitals prepared and guided the project. A research team wrote the final study protocol and performed the study. The project was funded by the Ministry of Health. The study protocol had a modular design in which each of the modules focused on one specific area or location. The main questions for each location were: (1) which treatment protocols were used; (2)what was the condition of the patient; and (3) was medical care provided according to existing protocols. After the fire, 241 victims were treated in hospitals; they all were included in the study. Most of the victims had burn injuries, and approximately one-third suffered from inhalation injury. All hospitals and ambulance services involved were visited in order to collect data, and interviewers obtained additional information. The government helped obtain permission for data-collection in three of the hospitals. Over 1,200 items of information about each patient and >200,000 total items were collected. During data processing, the data were re-organized, categorized, and presented in a uniform and consistent style. A cross-sectional site analysis and a longitudinal patient analysis were conducted. This was facilitated by the use of several sub-data-bases. The modular approach made it possible to obtain a complete overview of the medical care provided. The project team was guided by a multidisciplinary steering group and the research was performed by a research team. This enabled the research team to focus on the scientific aspects.Conclusion: The evaluation of the Volendam fire indicates that a project approach with a modular design is effective for the analysis of complex incidents. The use of several sub-databases makes it easy to combine findings and conduct cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. The government played an important role in the funding and support of the project. To limit and structure data collection and analysis, a pilot study based on several predefined main questions should be conducted. The questions then can be specified further based on the availability of data.

, , , , , , , , , , ,,
Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
Department of Surgery

van Harten, S., Bierens, J. J. L. M., Welling, L., Patka, P., Kreis, R., & Boers, M. (2006). The volendam fire: Lessons learned from disaster research. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 21(5), 303–309. doi:10.1017/S1049023X00003927