Fire department HAZMAT team perform emergency preparedness drill
Although no significant acts of terrorism with chemicals have occurred in the U.S., state and local governments are preparing for such an event. Fire and police departments have training programs that teach emergency responders how to respond if chemicals are involved in an incident. The military has helped develop programs to teach healthcare providers how to treat casualties of chemical exposures.
Special chemical protective equipment has been developed for hospitals in the case of mass casualties contaminated with hazardous chemicals. Nurses and other healthcare professionals, especially those in EDs, must know how to protect themselves from contaminated patients and treat exposed patients (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022).
Person in jacket with the letters FBI printed on it
If an act of terrorism that involves chemicals occurs, the FBI will be the lead agency in charge. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have oversight of environmental cleanup, and the Department of Homeland Security will coordinate overall federal actions. Health departments will stay in contact throughout the nation using the Health Alert Network (HAN), one of the means to communicate information about the event (CDC, 2022c). The HAN is an internet-based program to alert areas of the country of an attack and to share experiences of how to deal with the event.
Mass casualties due to chemical exposure can rapidly deplete supplies and equipment to treat victims. When a shortage is predicted, local emergency management officials can contact the governor’s office and request the Strategic National Stockpile (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021). The stockpile provisions can be released to a community within 12 hours to provide large quantities of antidotes and equipment to hospitals that are treating mass casualty victims.