[ RadSafe ] Federal Agency Creates Web Site for Treating Victims of Dirty Bombs

LNMolino at aol.com LNMolino at aol.com
Tue Mar 13 11:00:20 CDT 2007

Federal Agency Creates Web Site for Treating Victims of Dirty  Bombs  and
Other Forms of Radioactive Terrorism

ABC News Medical Unit

March 12, 2007  - - An explosion rocks a  local high school. Minutes later,
casualties flood  into a hospital  emergency room. 

Only after the first wave of wounded  arrive is the  hospital informed that
the explosion was a result of a dirty  bomb -- a  weapon designed to scatter
radioactive material throughout its  blast  radius.

And one by one, weaknesses in the system take their toll on   emergency

Hospital administrators call their local  radiation  safety officer, but he is
on vacation and can't be reached.  

Health  workers search for but cannot locate radiation meters that  could help
them  determine which patients suffered the highest degree  of  contamination.

Confusion builds as medical professionals wonder  about the  appropriate way
to deal with so many patients as radioactive  patients lay  waiting for
appropriate treatment, possibly contaminating  other patients and  health

At the climax of the  disaster, the emergency  bays of the hospital close
down. The system of  medical treatment grinds to a  halt. All that remains now
is a slim hope  that casualties and contamination  can somehow be kept to  a

Fortunately, the above was just a  drill -- one of  many conducted in
communities across the country since the  9/11  attacks. 

But the scenario was frighteningly realistic. And the  ways  in which the
situation was mishandled exposed the weak spots in  the medical  system of one
county when it came to a possible  radiological  disaster.

"They flubbed it terribly," says Dr. John  Moulder, professor of  radiation
oncology at the Medical College of  Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Moulder,  who did
not reveal the location of the  scenario described above, says the  missteps
in the response could have  happened anywhere else in the  country.

It is a nightmarish  scenario. But federal officials hope a new  online tool
could help  health professionals cope with such an episode more   effectively.

Preparing for Impending Disaster

The words  "dirty  bomb" have been on the lips of health and law  enforcement
officials since the  terrorist attacks of 2001. But even  now, a surefire
solution for dealing with  such a catastrophe has been  elusive.

Moulder was part of the team that  developed a new resource  -- a Web site
conceived by the U.S. Department of  Health and Human  Services -- that
provides a readily accessible plan of   action.

"The need for this resource was first discussed within a  couple  of months of
9/11," Moulder says. "It has taken this long to  develop because  it is a
federal document."

The need for such a  resource is clear, he  says.

"Most medical professionals do not know  how to deal with  radiation
injuries," Moulder says. "And since they  will probably never see  one, they
have little incentive to spend days  learning the  material."

Other health experts in the field of  radiation treatment say  the Web site,
which includes detailed  guidelines for triage and treatment of  patients, is
a welcome  resource.

"I must admit I am very impressed by  this Web site," says  Dr. Jack Little,
professor of radiobiology at the  Harvard School of  Public Health.

"In the best of all possible worlds, one  would never  need to consult it.
However, having it there and widely available  on  the Internet is, to my
mind, a great service."

But before the   algorithms and guidelines of the site can be applied,  health
professionals  must first be familiar with the site. If they are  not, the Web
site may not  be the first stop for useful  information.

Web Site May Frighten  Public

But while the Web  site may represent a boon for health workers,  for the
public, it may  give a terrifying peek into the difficult decisions  that
would have to  be made in the event of a radioactive disaster.

The  site is laced  with euphemisms. "Expectant" patients are those "who  are
seriously  injured and in whom survivability is poor &"  

Recommended  treatment: "Provide comfort care."

Numerous  flowcharts branch  downward into frightening conclusions. Treatment
of  survivors.  Management of the deceased.

Follow the link of the latter   possibility, and receive this guidance: "If an
autopsy is necessary,   refrigerate the decedent and defer the procedure until
a health physicist  can  assist in planning."

For this reason, Moulder says, the site  may be best  left to health

"Scattered within the  site is stuff at  the lay consumer level, but most of
the resources in  there assume some  knowledge of medicine," he says.

Other health  experts agree. "I am not  sure it is meant for lay people. It is
pretty  specialized and detailed," says  Dr. Ziad Kazzi, medical toxicologist
at  the University of Alabama department  of emergency medicine in  

"Radiation is not user-friendly, in  general," he  adds.

Bobby Scott, senior scientist at the Lovelace  Respiratory  Research Institute
in Albuquerque, N.M., says public worries at  the  idea of measures that would
have to be taken after such an event are to   be expected.

"The very thought of having to prepare for the  possibility  of a nuclear- or
radiological-weapon-associated mass  casualty event in the  U.S. is likely to
frighten many members of the  public," he says.

But  he adds that certain features of the site are  not likely to leave lay
readers  with a feeling of warm  reassurance.

"The public may also find somewhat  disconcerting the  disclaimer statement
'Neither the U.S. government nor any  agency  thereof, nor any of their
employees, make any warranty, express or   implied, or assumes any legal
responsibility for the accuracy,  completeness,  or usefulness of any
information disclosed,'" Scott says.  

Are We  Prepared?

Moulder says the Web site is a step in the  right direction, but  he believes
there is still a long way to go before  health workers and the  government are
fully prepared for the  unthinkable.

"It's better than  anything else we've had before, but  I don't think it's
good enough yet," he  says. "We are not currently  equipped to deal with
radiation mass  casualties.

"Let's hope  it's always scenarios and never the real  thing."

To visit the U.S.  Department of Health and Human  Services' Radiation Event
Medical  Management site, click here _http://remm.nlm.gov/_  

Copyright C 2007 ABC News  Internet Ventures

SOURCE:  _http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=2939106&page=1_  
Louis N.  Molino, Sr., CET
Freelance  Consultant/Trainer/Author/Journalist/Fire Protection  Consultant
LNMolino at aol.com

979-412-0890 (Cell Phone)
979-690-7559  (IFW/TFW/FSS Office)
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"A Texan with a  Jersey Attitude"

"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss  events; Small minds 
discuss people" Eleanor Roosevelt - US diplomat &  reformer (1884 - 1962)

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