7.2. Activation of health sector response

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activacion de la respuestaa. Warning and alerting medical services: Once a warning is activated, it is essential that the health sector conduct a rapid assessment of potential or actual risks to health and the environment. Health professionals should assess the state of victims, and alert the care network as necessary.

Physicians and other responders should receive whatever information is necessary on the nature of the chemical agents involved and on the precautions to be taken. Where there are mass casualties, the hospital disaster preparedness plan should be activated and other health centers in the area should be notified.

b. Activation of intersectoral communications. In addition to local responders, the following organizations will need to be notified of the incident:

  • Other governmental institutions: These need to be notified in order to obtain additional resources and capacities for response, as well as to ensure that there is subsequent governmental monitoring.
  • International organizations: In public health emergencies that could be of international concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) should be notified as required by the International Health Regulations (2005).
  • Neighboring and other countries: If the incident has the potential to affect other countries, these should be notified quickly.
  • Nongovernmental agencies: Depending the severity of the chemical accident, local and international nongovernmental agencies may be asked for additional assistance—another effective way to maximize resources.
  • The involved company/source: Often there will be crucial information here on the substances involved, as well as experience that is useful in supporting response.

Appropriate risk assessment during the incident can be useful to identify individuals and populations that may have been exposed, as well as possible health effects in the short, medium and long terms. There are three principal categories of exposed people, and the exposure levels can be different:

  • Workers and other individuals directly connected with the accident.
  • Response personnel.
  • The public.

Providing proper advice on protective measures requires specific information on the behavior of the particular chemical substance and its adverse health effects. A record of those affected should be maintained and should include responders to the emergency.