A Novel Hospital-Based Mass Casualty Decontamination Facility for Hazardous Material Disasters

*Corresponding author: Ponampalam R*

Abstract

Since the Sarin incident in the subways of Tokyo in 1995, there has been an unprecedented increase in the use of chemical agents on civilian populations internationally. This scourge of chemical terrorism has been relentless worldwide and is likely to continue to be a public health issue that needs to be addressed by the relevant authorities as part of national disaster preparedness and response. One aspect of chemical disasters involves the need for mass decontamination of chemically-contaminated casualties from the scene. The traditional role of hazardous materials civil defence experts in providing such decontamination of victims in the pre-hospital setting is limited by many factors. The presence of congestion in densely populated areas in a highly built up environment of modern-day cities, compounds the timeliness of putting up cordons and crowd control and hence delays the prompt set up of such mobile decontamination facilities close to the incident site. The expected side effect is an almost instantaneous influx of contaminated casualties to the nearest hospital in such situations, which drives the need for public hospitals to be ultimately capable of performing mass casualty decontamination as part of hazardous materials disaster preparedness. This review presents an innovatively designed rapidly deployable hospital-based decontamination facility that has served a tertiary care hospital in Singapore for the last 2 decades in being prepared for managing mass casualties arriving from a chemical disaster in a timely manner.
Keywords
Decontamination; Chemical incident; Industrial disasters; Toxic industrial chemicals; Hazardous materials preparedness; Disaster contingency plans; Emergency preparedness.