In one of my first months on the staff of Health Facilities Management (HFM), we published an article on how health facilities professionals could plan for the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Despite isolated tragedies, the concept of such attacks was viewed as a stretch in that pre-9/11 world and much of the article's introduction was spent making the case that "the unthinkable can happen."

Since that January 2000 issue, of course, we've seen the horrors of 9/11 and other mass casualty events as well as frequent natural disasters, biological outbreaks and many lower-level emergencies, leaving little doubt that previously unthinkable threats are real and hospitals are front-line resources for their communities.

Indeed, working with national organizations as well as governmental agencies, the nation's hospitals have been leaders in emergency management. Moreover, it becomes clear from speaking to facilities professionals about their programs that each hospital brings its own unique set of experiences and innovations to the task.

To help document this pre-eminence and bring these individual ideas to a wider audience, HFM has collaborated with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, the Association for the Healthcare Environment and the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management on a first-of-its-kind survey on hospital emergency management.

The study, which is sponsored by Grainger, Lake Forest, Ill., explores readiness practices in facilities management, environmental services and materials management, among other areas, and is a tool for all health care professionals involved in emergency management.

So turn to page 16 to learn how the health care industry is maintaining its lead in planning for disaster.