There has been an upswing in interest on the topic of emergency mass decontamination driven by the number of "drills" being planned for the summer months. So, for the responders and hospital staff that have called/written in, we've put together Decontamination Revisited; a three-part series that will encourage thinking and provide a unique perspective on healthcare preparedness. Contamination Differences will discuss a few basics on the types of contamination that my be encountered, Big Questions will tackle the question of who should actually "do" decon, and Preparing for Decontaminatio we'll provide a simple wrap-up on the topic.
Another issue is the logistics of preparedness for decontamination. Tents and shelters must be trained on and practices with. They must be maintained and checked. Self contained breathing apparatus must also be maintained and personnel continually re-familiarized with its use. Other logistical items that are often forgotten are water supply, cleaning solution, lighting, towels, clothing and runoff management.
It is simply not enough for a health care facility to purchase a tent and believe they are prepared.
To wrap this up, let me leave you with a few take-home points:
- Emergency mass decontamination should be done on site of the event whenever possible
- Hospitals need to be prepared for self-referrals who may be contaminated and that self-referrals can pose a serious risk
- Traditional and non-traditional responders must be able to recognize the incident indicators of chemical/biological/radiological exposure
- Keep in mind that simply removing a victims outer clothing can remove 85 to 95% of contamination
- All victims being transported by ambulance must be decontaminated prior to transport regardless of triage score or severity