The federal government must help train emergency personnel and provide updated safety guidelines so the workers are better protected against hazards such as they faced at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to a public health workshop report released today by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a component of the federal National Institutes of Health.
The report, "Learning from Disasters: Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness Through Worker Training," summarizes the findings of an NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program technical workshop that brought together national experts involved in the recent terrorist attacks with those providing the emergency response and cleanup around weapons of mass destruction.
The report is available on-line at http://www.wetp.org. It says there were many deficiencies in the protection of rescue and other workers that resulted in needless injuries, particularly to eyes and lungs, as they faced the catastrophic structural failures at Oklahoma City and later, on September 11 of last year, at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The last "was so massive, extensive in duration and complex that nearly all aspects of our well developed and relatively mature destructive incident response and cleanup operations plans were challenged and, in many cases, found defective in some measure."
Improvements recommended in the report include:
- First-on-the-scene emergency response personnel, such as police and firefighters, need to be trained in and provided with appropriate protective gear, particularly respiratory protection. Major urban centers should identify sources of additional, back-up equipment in the face of a major attack or disaster.
- The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration should develop safety regulations tailored to the challenges of large terrorist events, and these revised guidelines need to be included in Fe
Contact: Bill Grigg
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