Environmental health in emergencies

World Health Day - 7 April 2009

Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies

Chemical Emergencies

World Health Day 2009 focuses on the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies. Health centres and staff are critical lifelines for vulnerable people in disasters - treating injuries, preventing illnesses and caring for people's health needs.

Chemical incidents and emergencies can cause specific challenges to health care facilities because there is the added problem of chemical contamination. Special equipment and procedures are needed to protect health facilities from becoming contaminated. Also, plans should be in place to prevent health facility personnel from becoming secondary casualties to chemical incidents. In any case, exposed patients should have undergone decontamination before entering the building, which requires special showering systems, systems for the collection of contaminated run-off water, equipment for the collection of contaminated belongings of patients as well as Personnel Protective Equipment for the staff. In addition, health facilities need to take part in broader communications to be alerted of incidents at the earliest stage possible in order to take necessary preparatory action before patients arrive. It is important that exposed persons do not enter into and contaminate emergency departments that need to be closed down afterwards because of this.

Chemical Emergencies WHD 2007

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