Guidelines for Cold Weather Mass Decontamination During a Terrorist Chemical Agent Incident (Final Report) [open pdf - 1MB]
This report provides guidance on cold weather mass decontamination procedures for emergency responders. All methods discussed in this report are potential options under extreme circumstances. As the ambient air temperature decreases, some wet decontamination processes, while potentially life-saving, present risks that must be balanced against the hazards posed by the chemical agents. The guidelines presented in this document are intended to provide responders with mass decontamination options based on decreasing ambient air temperatures. These recommendations were developed with input from cold weather experts and rescue personnel. Responders should use whatever resources are available in time of need and should select the fastest method available because decontamination is most effective when performed immediately. The key to successful decontamination is to use the fastest approach that will cause the least harm and do the most good for the majority of the people. Despite misconceptions among responders, the risk of hypothermia as a result of cold weather mass casualty decontamination is minimal. Less well recognized is the risk of cold shock, which can be minimized by following the recommended guidelines presented in the report (see 6.0, Conclusions and Recommendations: The Bottom Line). Special populations, such as the elderly and the very young, should be given priority for limited resources such as blankets and indoor shelter because of limited or impaired ability to maintain body temperature. Regardless of the ambient temperature, people who have been exposed to a known life-threatening level of chemical contamination should disrobe, undergo decontamination with copious amounts of high-volume, low-pressure water or alternative decontamination method, and be sheltered as soon as possible.