Psychosocial considerations for mass decontamination

L Lemyre, C Johnson and W. Corneil

Radiation Protection Dosimetry, 2010, 142(1), 17-23. DOI: 10.1093/rpd/ncq273

Abstract

Mass exposure to explosions, infectious agents, foodborne illnesses, chemicals or radiological materials may require mass decontamination that have critical psychosocial implications for the public and for both traditional and non-traditional responders in terms of impact and of response. Five main issues are common to mass decontamination events: (i) perception, (ii) somatisation, (iii) media role and communication, (iv) information sharing, (v) behavioural guidance and (vi) organisational issues. Empirical evidence is drawn from a number of cases, including Chernobyl; Goiania, Brazil; the sarin gas attack in Tokyo; the anthrax attacks in the USA; Three Mile Island; and by features of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome pandemic. In this paper, a common platform for mass casualty management is explored and suggestions for mass interventions are proposed across the complete event timeline, from pre-event threat and warning stages through to the impact and reconstruction phases. Implication for responders, healthcare and emergency infrastructure, public behaviour, screening processes, risk communication and media management are described.

ASCI-ID: 1126-317