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Decontamination training held at Cape Hospital

By Staff | Oct 27, 2010

A training was held at the Cape Coral Hospital Tuesday and Wednesday with hospital staff and the Cape Coral Fire Department to make sure everyone involved knows where all the equipment will be set up during a mass decontamination event.
Cape Coral Hospital is the designated receiving facility for decontamination. The new expansion of the hospital, which will be finished in about a year, will include two areas that will feature a special entrance to keep contaminated patients away from staff and other patients.
Lee Memorial Health System Disaster Preparedness Coordinator Connie Bowles said she holds decontamination training at all four campuses once a year because each hospital has a different fire department they coordinate their efforts with and staff can change from year to year.
Medical Director for Disaster Preparedness and Medical Toxicologist Timothy Dougherty said it is extremely important to have decontamination training because it provides the hospital with the opportunity to develop a floor plan of where to place all of the tents, EMS and fire trucks.
“It’s about efficiency and speed,” he said.
Due to the vast array of chemicals individuals are exposed to on a daily basis, it is important for the hospital and fire department to coordinate their efforts to provide relief to those who are affected by a hazardous substance.
Bowles said there are a lot of chemicals out there and she is amazed they do not have more occurrences they have to use their equipment for.
Dougherty said although they receive individual decontamination cases on a regular basis at Cape Coral Hospital, the mass decontamination cases are not as frequent. Pesticides is one of the most frequent substances that individuals are exposed to and need treatment for.
The hospital works with the fire department, Bowles said, because they have access to large amounts of water and can arrive at a scene and help hose people off before they arrive at the hospital.
Dougherty said it is important to coordinate an effort with EMS and the hospital because the initial step of treatment is to make sure the patient is not being further exposed to the substance, as well as not exposing other patients. He said the longer the body is exposed to the hazardous chemical, the greater the chance the patient has of inhaling the substance, along with absorbing it through the skin.
Tuesday around 7 a.m. the hospital began to set up the equipment for the decontamination training and the Cape Coral Fire Department arrived shortly after 9 a.m. to set up its vehicles. On Wednesday the Cape Coral Fire Department had 10 firefighters present who represented three Cape Coral fire trucks for the training. All firefighters are trained in gross decontamination.
Cape Coral Fire Department Training Chief John Spicuzza said there are two contributing factors to the partnership with Lee Memorial Health System, in the field and on the scene hospital assistance.
During a decontamination situation, Spicuzza said he will have three fire trucks stationed at the hospital and a few out in the field. The fire trucks are placed parallel to each other in a modified V shape to guide patients through as nozzles from both fire trucks spray them from head to toe.
Spicuzza said about 80 to 95 percent of the hazardous chemical is removed from the patient with the initial hose down from the fire trucks.
Dougherty said the fire department helps the process by providing a gross decontamination on site by spraying people down with water to get rid of the first layer of exposure. Once the patients are transported to the hospital, they go through the second phase of washing themselves with soap and water and removing their contaminated clothing.
The equipment that helps with the second phase at the hospital includes the decontamination shower trailer, along with two shelters. Bowles said the shower trailer has been used for multiple events in the past six years.
The first shelter provides patients with the opportunity to get out of the element and the second shelter is utilized for individuals who must be on stretchers.
Bowles said although they have never had to use the stretchers in the case of decontamination, they set up the tent just in case they have to wash an individual from head to toe.
Dougherty explained that they have a significant amount of tents set up during a decontamination event because they want to provide privacy to those they are treating.
The best word of advice that Spicuzza has for individuals who are exposed to a hazardous chemical is to stay put, along with isolating themselves from everyone else, so they do not contaminate their car or others.
“It is best to wait and be evaluated,” he said.
Dougherty said if an individual is exposed to a hazardous chemical in either powder or liquid form while they are at home, they should first remove their clothes before they wash their body with soap and water. If an individual is outside, they are instructed to grab their garden hose and rinse themselves off from head to toe.
After the training was completed Wednesday morning and all the parties decided if the setup is going to work and flow properly, Bowles then began to put it into print and map it out and distribute it to everyone involved.