Health care facility preparation for weapons of mass destruction

R N Bradley
Prehospital Emergency Care 2000, 4 (3): 261-9
Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are a threat that all health care facilities must be prepared for. Every health care facility is a vital part of the community response system and must be ready to respond. A terrorist attack using WMD can occur in any location, urban or rural. Private vehicles or buses may transport the majority of patients, with only a small percentage arriving by emergency medical services. Most will go to the hospitals closest to the incident, even if this results in overcrowding. Others will go directly to their private physicians' offices or primary hospitals, even if these facilities are not part of the local disaster plan. Most of these victims will not be decontaminated before arrival. If a hospital allows any of these patients in, the staff may become ill from the toxic exposure and the facility may require closure for decontamination. Since the risk is universal, all health care facilities must plan for the care of victims of a WMD incident. They must plan for communications that allow local government to transmit alerts regarding the emergency. Health care facilities must also communicate their status and emergency needs to local officials during the emergency. They must be prepared to establish a single entry control point and attempt to secure all other entrances. They must be able to establish a patient decontamination team from on-duty staff with only a few minutes' notice at any time of the day or night.

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