Weapons of Mass Destruction
Dealing with hazardous materials, items and weapons of mass destruction is a risky affair. First responders in most instances are the initial persons to handle unknown factors that may be detrimental to own health. Each incident has to be approached differently and with greater caution. Emergency services personnel have to be accorded premium personal protection as well as critical information for operational and incident approach procedures. Availability or lack of precise protective equipment as this determines if an approach towards an incident is possible and how it can be addressed. PPE determine incident mitigation goals, how premise area is defined and assignments made, as well as the designation of working limits. This is informed by the fact that an emergency department officer’s life threat factor is a critical component in determining disaster response outcomes. Failure to bear exact knowledge on the personal protection equipment required for substances in a particular incident and limits to the available PPEs could result into immediately perilous outcomes. This paper seeks to present that the principle concern for the first responder should appertain proper protection in emergency remediation, decontamination and response strategies.
In this paper, PPEs appertains personal protective equipment and materials. PPEs purpose to isolate and shield persons from biological, physical, chemical, explosive, nuclear radiological (CBRNE) threats. OSHA standards has set mandatory requirements for specific training to be guaranteed to every staff engaged in hazardous materials and WMD related incidences at first responder operational levels. Every employer is mandated similarly to develop and set in motion a potent health and safety program in the provision for emergency response.
No particular combination of PPEs has the capacity to offer protections against known hazards deeming it pivotal to incorporate other known protective methods. PPE application also results in generation of worker hazards like heat stress, psychological and physical stress as well as impaired communication, mobility and vision. The higher the degree of PPE use, the more potent the associated hazards become. This implies that training of PPE use is vital to enable for accurate decontamination, maintenance, use and selection of PPEs. An ample PPE program ought to incorporate training, PPE protocols, medical monitoring, hazard identification and environmental surveillance.
The initial concern for each individual E. D. personnel is the ability to live through an incident. Some substances emanating from WMDs are tasteless, odorless, colorless as well as effects that may takes years to manifest fully. Safety of personnel is dependent on form of WMD involved in an incident, associated risks within incident conditions and levels of PPEs necessary to contain an incident. This implies WMDs unleashed should be investigated first, risks established and PPE levels set to respond adequately to operational objectives. The implication therefrom is for all personnel to understand critically PPEs whether physicians, nurses, emergency medical services personnel, lab, respiratory or X-ray service professionals.
Unless the WMD exposed is known and exposure risk ascertained first responders like police officers, emergency medical staff or firefighters ought to be denied access to an incident site. In the case of chemical warfare agents, military issued equipment is utilized based on degree of exposure. Level A protection avails responders with maximum protection to safeguard eyes, skin and respiratory systems from unfamiliar gas concentrations, corrosive or highly toxic gases, and ADHL atmospheres. PPEs in such an incident include a fully encapsulating chemical resistant suit as well as SCBA or self-contained breathing apparatus to safeguard against blister agents and nerve gas.
The sort of hazardous materials involved present direct implication on the PPE opted for or a decision to stay away from an incident area. WMDs span three vast categories of dangerous material, which include etiological or biological materials, chemical materials or radioactive materials. Risks relating to each category serve to determine PPE choice. The materials in the categories also determine use of PPEs as well as influencing decontamination procedures or special disposal immediately after use. There are incidents, which may result defective PPEs where later use may expose personnel to life threatening angers. It is imperative that PPEs be inspected regularly to ascertain reliability in accordance to minimum protection parameters to credibly sustain a dependable protective envelope.
Procedures for emergency decontamination in a WMD incident demand that decontamination protocol be adhered to as per the prescribed action plan as well as other supporting procedures and policies. For instance, emergency contamination that entails simple procedures like washing down, to rapidly separate contaminants from a responder therefore eliminating injury and exposure. Gross decontamination of PPEs is offered in instances where a responder suffers exposure that is potentially life threatening. This ensures a first responder is able to remove safely PPE without experiencing further exposure for themselves and assisting personnel. Mass decontamination is essentially gross decontamination but one which employs vast amounts of water at low pressures to minimize contamination levels. Technical decontamination entails supporting procedures such as disinfection, dilution, chemical degradation, adsorption, absorption, sterilization, neutralization, isolation and disposal, sterilization, vacuuming, solidification and washing. These procedures are essentially dependent on the form of WMD employed as well as the degrees of contamination emergency responders are exposed to.