Roles & Responsibilities of Medical Personnel at Hazardous Materials Incidents

Roles & Responsibilities of Medical Personnel at Hazardous Materials Incidents 
Jeffrey N. Rubin – College of Natural Sciences, Office of the Dean, Univ of Texas at Austin (SSA Journal Volume 12 Number 3 – Fall 1998 pp. 25 – 30 )

Medical personnel play and integral role in response to hazardous material (“hazmat”) incidents. Although federal regulations lack specificity for medical responders, consensus standards (NFPA 473) specify two levels of competencies and training for medical personnel. Level 1 permits medical responders to work in the Cold Zone (no hazards beyond background) conducting “traditional” support roles. Level 2 permits medical personnel to work in the Warm Zone, (decontamination corridor). Most medical tasks can be safely and effectively accomplished in the Cold Zone. Roles and responsibilities for medical personnel responding to hazmat incidents include: awareness, patient assessment and treatment, assisting with decontamination, medical monitoring, rehab (on-scene cooling, rest, re-hydration, and nutrition for response personnel), research/information, functioning within the incident Command System, and communicating with hospitals. Medical monitoring must include standardized exclusion criteria for entry or re-entry into the Hot Zone (uncontrolled hazmat and contaminated patients or equipment). Medical responders should be prepared to manage exposure/contamination of commonly transported hazmat as well as chemicals used at local facilities. Early hospital notification and updates are essential to prevent shutdown of emergency departments caused by accidental contamination of rooms, equipment, or staff.



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