Thursday, November 27, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;33.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nsn.png;2014-11-27 00:28:18
Saturday, July 12, 2014

At Nashua hospital decontamination drill, ‘The big takeaway was get naked, get wet’

NASHUA – The medical staff and first responders ran around the parking lot, looking shockingly like astronauts.

They raced back and forth in their full-length plastic suits and yellow rubber boots trying to rescue the victims who had been exposed to a hazardous substance. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

NASHUA – The medical staff and first responders ran around the parking lot, looking shockingly like astronauts.

They raced back and forth in their full-length plastic suits and yellow rubber boots trying to rescue the victims who had been exposed to a hazardous substance.

It was sticky business.

The group of 25 people sweated in 90 degree heat in their plastic suits while they rinsed and cleansed test dummies during a decontamination training session at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center on Tuesday.

And the hazardous substance used to simulate a chemical spill? That was chocolate sauce, and rescuers had to rinse the brown, gooey substance off the inflatable victims.

The training program was an all-day affair, consisting of a morning class followed by the practical demonstration in the afternoon. The training program was designed to teach hospital staff and first responders throughout New Hampshire how to decontaminate patients in case they’re covered in chemicals or toxins prior to entering the hospital.

“We can’t let them in when they’re contaminated,” said Mark Hastings, director of emergency management at SNHMC.

When a person has come in contact with a hazardous substance, hospitals and first responders need to be trained on how to deal with decontaminating patients. There usually are about four decontamination classes offered throughout the state each year. The training session Tuesday was taught by John Prickett, the emergency preparedness coordinator at LRG Health Care.

“They’ve got to experience the suits … and the patients,” Prickett said as his class ran the chocolatey blowup dolls through an inflatable decontamination center.

The decontamination apparatus inflates in four minutes when there’s an emergency, and has three sections for patients. In case of chemical contamination, patients are required to remove all of their clothing and valuables and put them in a plastic decontamination bag they receive upon arrival at the hospital.

“The big takeaway was get naked, get wet,” Hastings said of the training session.

The reason for such frank language is because 90 percent of contaminants from a chemical emergencies are usually embedded in patients’ clothing or hair, Hastings said. Therefore, it is imperative for the patients to take off all of their clothes and rinse off.

The inflatable decontamination center has a rinse section, a soap section and a final rinse section where decontaminated patients eventually get dressed in robes.

“We get them safe, clean and keep their modesty,” Hastings said.

The patients during the training session at SNHMC were mere blowup dolls, and modesty wasn’t a concern. However, rescuers dressed completely in the plastic suits they would wear in case of an emergency.

“It’s the experience of putting the protective equipment on and actually working with it,” Prickett said.

Besides being watertight, the suits are hot, since the responders were duct-taped into the suits. Prickett also said it’s good to practice in the suits because responders’ senses are diminished under the layers of protective plastic.

“Once you put the suits on … they’re not reusable,” Prickett said.

Of the 25 trainees, 15 were staff members at SNHMC. The training was voluntary, and many chose to sign up to be able to assist people in any way possible.

“You always want to jump in and help,” said Angela Moore, a nurse in the Foundation Cardiology Center at SNHMC.

Moore said nurses and first responders are always looking for “something we can do to lend a hand.”

Prickett and Hastings said the training was a success: 25 more people now know how to handle decontaminating patients in case of an emergency.

“Now we pray that this never happens,” Hastings said.

Emily Kwesell can be reached at 594-6466 or ekwesell@nashua
telegraph.com.