DHS, HHS Release Guidance for Patient Decontamination in Mass Chemical Incidents

The Mass Human Chemical Decontamination Working Group (a federal interagency working group) developed the guidance with the advice of a larger group of federal and non-federal subject matter experts in emergency response, emergency medicine, toxicology, risk communication, behavioral health, and other relevant fields.

Two federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Health Affairs Chemical Defense Program and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, along with a working group, have developed new "Patient Decontamination in a Mass Chemical Exposure Incident: National Planning Guidance for Communities" guidelines. They are needed because the effects of chemical incidents like the ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, and the chemical spill in West Virginia can be devastating, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. Kathryn Brinsfield noted in a Dec. 19 article about the guidelines.

She wrote that they were compiled from evidence-based information and focus on providing options for responses to such events. "This guidance is intended to support state and local civilian first responders and health care receivers, along with emergency managers, public health practitioners, law enforcement officials, and risk communications experts who are the nation’s first line of defense, and must be prepared to respond to potential chemical incidents. Developed specifically for local communities, the document provides guidance as a tool to be added to the local planner’s toolkit. Providing evidence-based guidance and lessons learned before an incident occurs minimizes catastrophic effects and allows for information sharing between departments in order to enhance preparedness and improve response plans for these types of events," Brinsfield wrote.

The Mass Human Chemical Decontamination Working Group (a federal interagency working group) developed the guidance with the advice of a larger group of federal and non-federal subject matter experts in emergency response, emergency medicine, toxicology, risk communication, behavioral health, and other relevant fields. The working group was established at the request of the White House National Security Council.

For more information, visit http://www.dhs.gov/office-health-affairs.

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