Many emergency response workers do not believe that they are adequately prepared to respond to a major disaster such as the World Trade Center attack or the anthrax scare, according to a new report of worker input funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The report shows a need for research, training and other strategic approaches to help protect emergency responders in terrorist attacks. The recommendations are based on the lessons learned from the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September and from the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
The report, released by RAND, summarizes discussions from a two-day NIOSH-sponsored workshop held in December 2001 in New York City. The workshop convened more than 150 participants, including fire fighters, fire fighting special operations, emergency medical services, law enforcement, construction and other trade services, and health and safety professionals, including state and federal agencies.
The report also highlights the need for a research agenda that outlines comprehensive personal protective technology, and improved federal education and training programs and other activities pertaining to the health and safety of emergency responders in rescue, recovery, and restoration efforts. In combination with other information such as injury and exposure data, NIOSH will use the report in working with partner organizations to plan new research on emergency responder safety and personal protective technologies, identify priority needs for guidelines, develop guidelines in forms that will be most useful, and disseminate guidelines broadly.
According to the recommendations included in the report, important areas for research and planning include:
- Development of guidelines for selection and use of appropriate personal protective equipment in long-duration disaster response and bio-terrorism response.
- Research and planning to effectively outfit all responders at sites of large-scale incidents with appropriate personal protective equipment, and to facilitate standardization and inter-operability of protective equipment among emergency responder organizations.
- Development of guidelines and procedures to enforce the use of personal protective equipment at large-scale disaster sites, and to establish effective site management as early as possible in disaster response.
- Identifying ways to provide useful, real-time safety and health information to responders at incident sites, and to ensure appropriate training on the use of personal protective equipment.