How to Find Out if Your Hospital is Prepared for Treating Victims of Biological, Chemical, or Nuclear Weapons
September 11, 2001, was a cataclysmic event that changed everything, including matters in the scope of this book—the standards by which corporate executives must organize and manage their hospitals. The attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., were a wake-up call. My hospital and all the others had standard disaster plans that we sadly didn't get to use because so few victims lived after the Twin Towers collapsed.
In hindsight, however, many came to realize that the problem was that we were only equipped to handle conventional disasters such as fires, explosions, bus and multiple car collisions, train wrecks, and plane crashes. These types of incidents would usually cause fractures, internal bleeding, head injuries, and burns. It was not a part of our consciousness that the threat of terrorism adds the possibility of infectious epidemics, noxious chemical exposure, and radiation poisoning on a massive scale.
This first attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor was a series of plane crashes aimed at buildings. The surviving victims suffered from injuries that our hospitals were able to handle, and they did a wonderful job. On the other hand, our government and the talking heads on television have been telling us that terrorists will next attack us with biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Accordingly, one of the most important ways that you can prepare for such an eventuality is to know which of your local area hospitals have put out a workable emergency preparedness plan for biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks. This entails calling or visiting the area hospitals and asking the public relations officer a few questions. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is for you to learn what a hospital needs in order to be prepared to treat large numbers of survivors of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear attack.
While I was writing this book, President Bush signed into law the Office of Homeland Security (OHS). The media says that this is the largest government reorganization since Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Since the OHS is still evolving, we do not know what its specific function will be in developing new terrorism disaster response plans for hospitals. However, the published OHS bulletin states that there will be many public health and health-care issues to address. Ultimately, there likely will be local branches all over the country. Accordingly, the purpose of this chapter is to assist you in identifying what is missing in your community with regard to saving lives during the aftermath of a terrorist attack.