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Preparation for the Future

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is researching results from its coordination, monitoring, and reporting efforts. This research will be used to strengthen future emergency preparedness and response efforts and shape health treatment.

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 Protecting Emergency Responders

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), collected information on emergency responders in the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster. NIOSH, through RAND Corp., issued four reports that provide recommendations for protecting and preparing emergency responders in a major disaster.

  • Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorist Attacks
  • Protecting Emergency Responders, Volume 2: Community Views of Safety and Health Risks and Personal Protection Needs
  • Protecting Emergency Responders, Volume 3: Safety Management in Disaster and Terrorism Response
  • Personal Protective Equipment Guidelines for Structural Collapse Events, Volume 4

Researchers reviewed all potential hazards that could be present following a tall building collapse, and the full range of emergency workers who are most likely to respond to large structural collapses, including police officers; urban search and rescue units; fire, medical and hazardous materials teams; and construction and utilities support personnel. According to these reports, many emergency response workers do not believe they were adequately prepared to respond to a major disaster such as the World Trade Center attack.

The first two reports show a need for research, training and other strategic approaches to help protect emergency responders in terrorist attacks. The third report recommends that better planning, training, coordination and management procedures are needed to protect emergency responders at the scene of terrorist attacks and disasters. The fourth report proposes guidelines to better protect emergency responders from the hazards that exist following the collapse of large buildings, in an effort to reduce the extent of injuries like those suffered by responders at the World Trade Center.

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 Preparation for Future Incidents

To protect responders and volunteers it is important to develop comprehensive strategies and definitive plans for conducting exposure monitoring, training and tracking, determining personal protective equipment requirements and ensuring it is provided to all personnel, establishing clear zones, and making decisions about the appropriateness of reoccupying the affected area.

Since the WTC disaster, the National Response Plan has been enacted, which includes a supplement addressing worker safety and health. This Worker Safety and Health Support Annex “provides guidelines for implementing worker safety and health support functions during potential or actual Incidents of National Significance. This annex describes the actions needed to ensure that threats to responder safety and health are anticipated, recognized, evaluated, and controlled consistently so that responders are properly protected during incident management operations.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the lead agency, and Federal partners are assigned specific responsibilities for protecting the health and safety of response and recovery workers during an incident.

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