Are Boston hospitals prepared for a nuclear power plant meltdown?

Updates and other local sites on nuclear accidents, health and hospitals:

 A few cites:

J Nucl Med Technol. 2004 Mar;32(1):22-7.

Radiation disaster response: preparation and simulation experience at an academic medical center.

Department of Health Physics and Radiopharmacology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


OBJECTIVES: A mass casualty disaster drill involving the simulated explosion of a radiation dispersal device (dirty bomb) was performed with the participation of multiple hospitals, emergency responders, and governmental agencies. The exercise was designed to stress trauma service capacities, communications, safety, and logistic functions. We report our experience and critique of the planning, training, and execution of the exercise, with special attention to the integrated response of the Departments of Nuclear Medicine, Health Physics, and Emergency Medicine.

METHODS: The Health Physics Department presented multiple training sessions to the Emergency Medicine Department, Operating Room, and ancillary staff; reviewing basics of radiation biology and risk, protection standards, and detection of radiocontamination. Competency-based simulations using Geiger-Müller detectors and sealed sources were performed. Two nuclear medicine technologists played an important role in radiation discrimination-that is, assessment of radioactive contamination with survey meters and radionuclide identification based on gamma-spectroscopy of wipe smears from patients’ clothing, skin, and orifices. Three Health Physics personnel and one senior Nuclear Medicine staff member were designated the radiation control officers for assigned teams triaging or treating patients. Patients were triaged and, when indicated, decontaminated.

RESULTS: Within a 2-h period, 21 simulated victims arrived at our institution’s Emergency Room. Of these, 11 were randomized as noncontaminated, with 10 as contaminated. Decontamination procedures were implemented in a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) decontamination trailer and, for the 5 patients with simulated serious injuries, in a designated trauma room. A full debriefing took place at the conclusion of the exercise. Staff largely complied with appropriate radiation protection protocols, although decontamination areas were not effectively controlled. The encountered limitations included significant lapses in communications and logistics, lack of coordination in the flow of patients through the HAZMAT trailer, insufficient staff to treat acute patients in a radiation control area, additional personnel needed for transport, and insufficient radiation safety personnel to control each decontamination room.

CONCLUSION: Nuclear Medicine personnel are particularly well qualified to assist Health Physics and Emergency Medicine personnel in the preparation for, and management of, mass casualty radiation emergencies. Simulation exercises, though resource intensive, are essential to an institution’s determination of response capability, performance, and coordination with outside agencies.

Surg Clin North Am. 2006 Jun;86(3):601-36.

Nuclear terrorism: triage and medical management of radiation and combined-injury casualties.

Flynn DF, Goans RE.

US Army Reserves Medical Corps, Office of the Command Surgeon, 94th Regional Readiness Command, 11 Saratoga Boulevard, Devens, MA 01434, USA.


This article addresses the medical effects of nuclear explosions and other forms of radiation exposure, assessment of radiation dose, triage of victims, definitive treatment of radiation and combined-injury casualties, and planning for emergency services after a terrorist attack involving a nuclear device. It reviews historical events of mass radiation-induced casualties and fatalities at Hiroshima, Chernobyl, and Goiania, and discusses various scenarios for nuclear terrorism.


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