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Haz Mat "Specialist Course"
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FrontLines' Ebola Outbreak

Once again “FRONTLINE” via PBS has produced an excellent report on the Ebola crisis. Their ability to give the student perspective is truly exemplary. In the “links” section of this website is the direct contact for the recent Frontline “Outbreak” video. In case you missed it, you may view it here. You may sign up (at their site) for the upcoming schedule of events by email, which is worthwhile research.

This subject is an excellent example of concern for the hazardous material “Specialist” or Team Leader. Some common elements stand-out that should be prioritized by your organizational leadership. The major areas of concern we shall discuss are;

1] Equipment

2] Fear - Information distribution/contamination spread

3] Responders/manpower - mass resources needed from minimal infrastructure system

4] Early nurse deaths – lack of proper “Training”

5] Psychological affects “Doctor Drain” – Military Triage?

Equipment –

Even though the WHO (World Health Organization) literally wrote the “book” on field response to these incidents, one can deeply appreciate the reduced ability of a response group to operate in a timely manner when an outbreak occurs. This is fine if you want to run an organization like this, but you cannot complain about it after the fact UNLESS you truly use this information for lessons learned TO and DO make subsequent improvements to your response. Do not complain to point fingers, this is a waste of valuable energy, always DO something towards improvement. While many protocols have been stretched, adaptations are imperative when equipment shortages exist.

Fear –

Pre-planning information distribution and systems for this are essential for the reduction of contamination spread. Marshall Law often has a greater negative affect than positive. This action is a last resort activity and the Emergency Manager SHOULD have options in place to exhaust long before this condition is reached. Pre-planning and subject interest is necessary for this to occur. Noticing that poor countries seem to have great access to wireless phones, might stimulate some electronic communication possibilities?

Responders/Manpower –

This is an old-age discussion always resulting in the same solution. All the equipment in the world is useless UNLESS you have the people to operate it. There are no magic wands for personnel! Until the “powers-that-be” appreciate this concept, this will continue to be an issue.

Early Nurse Deaths –

Training is the first element that is cut when short-funding something and the first that is needed under your belt when it hits the fan. The previous pre-planning issue demonstrates this concept and its importance. This issue also mirrors the above manpower one, in that, unless activities for situations are done on a daily basis, they must constantly be “re-fresher” on. Improper preparation results in personnel death and manpower reduction. Don’t do this!

Psychological Affect –

With a problem of this great a magnitude, earlier implementation of at least “military advisers” to the “Doctors-without-Borders” group would have been of great benefit to them. Asking professionals to deal with the added stress of an emergency situation in addition to their medical skill may be too much to demand. Doctors’, who are not used to “battle-field” type situations where the mortality rate is high, need advisors who have been in this situation before. The mental stress to the untrained is tremendous and should be softened. Military elements can provide this counseling. 

Future thoughts –

There have been a number of environmental professionals that theorize the possibility of deforestation being responsible for this VHF becoming released to humans. It has been proven that plant life does in fact keep much life threatening diseases “in-check” by providing natural means of using them for plant food. While this has yet to be proved, it would be interesting to find, that once again, our activities have released an agent that directly threatens our existence. Perhaps nature is attempting to rid itself of a harmful disease, us?

The end improvement of this “outbreak” was the peoples change in behavior, when dealing with a number of elements; food sources, cleanliness, food preparation, burial practices and I’m sure a number of others. Perhaps, this “change in behavior” should be adopted BEFORE these problems crop up. The lack of consideration for possibilities unleashed by the environment we continually insist on polluting could be lethal for the dominant species on this planet. One wonders “IF” we truly will be better prepared for the next VHF (Viral Hemorrhagic Fever).

                                   Haz Mat Mike


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