Welcome to Facts on the Ground a new series brought to you by Elizabeth Landzberg from the University of Pittsburgh. Facts on the Ground is designed to be a concise literature review that helps answer common clinical questions.

The Article

Ranking the Attributes of Effective Disaster Responders and Leaders
King et al.
Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2019


To investigate the relative importance of the top 10 attributes in disaster responders and leaders, to help with personnel recruitment, selection, and training.

Study Design

Two-hundred twenty emergency responders and attendees of emergency medicine meetings completed this voluntary survey. There were no exclusion criteria. 


The highest ranked attribute for leaders and responders was problem solving/decision making and teamwork, respectively.  Calm/cool and adaptable/flexible personal characteristics as well as communication and teamwork/interpersonal skills were ranked in the top five most important attributes for both leaders and responders.


This study is subject to sampling bias because it was a voluntary survey. It is also limited by criterion validity because it surveyed opinions and there was no assessment of actual performance. More than 30% of participants had not participated in a disaster response within the last four years.

The Bottom Line

Personal characteristics of staying calm and being flexible, along with strong communication and interpersonal skills are important in all disaster responders. For leaders, strong problem solving skills may be the most important attribute. These characteristics should be included in disaster medical team selection and training.


King et al. Ranking the Attributes of Effective Disaster Responders and Leaders. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2019.