In a large-scale disaster, South Carolina's emergency responders must be prepared to handle a surge of patients under uncertain and possibly dangerous conditions.

About 50 disaster-response officials met Monday at the Medical University of South Carolina to propose policy changes to improve the state's shortcomings in emergency communications, oversight and training.

The individual sessions were not open to the public, but Dr. Lancer Scott of MUSC said the group would be voting on components of a 38-page policy paper expected to be released next month.

Scott is director of MUSC's Center for Health Professional Training and Emergency Response, an organization that trains so-called “first receivers” who handle patients in the wake of disasters. Health care providers' access to such training statewide was among the topics discussed at Monday's conference, Scott said. He characterized the current level of such training as “pretty poor.”

South Carolina has faced criticism of weaknesses in its capabilities, including in a recent national report that gave the state a “C” grade for disaster preparedness.

The report, compiled by the American College of Emergency Physicians, said South Carolina “needs to address some significant public health concerns and the ability of patients to access the care they need.”

Officials from the S.C. Hospital Association, local hospitals, the S.C. Emergency Management Division and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control were among the participants in Monday's discussions.

The group discussed how to spend what Scott called dwindling federal and state funds to prepare for emergency response to disasters, such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, who appeared at an MUSC press conference, reminded the group of the threat of cyber attacks and urged preparation.

“Let's just get ready because it's only a matter of time,” Graham said.