Although common instinct dictates that we “go inside immediately”, that practice has changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as we are all required to undergo decontamination procedures, especially when entering a sterile facility like a temporary medical shelter.
Therefore it is necessary for field hospitals to set up hazmat decon tents near the entrances of medical and isolation tents to make sure everyone is safe from the risk of being infected with COVID-19.
So what are the things that should be done to ensure proper decontamination of medical staff and authorized personnel upon entering the emergency zone? Read more as we are going to explore this topic further in today’s article.
The 5 ‘W’s Of Decontamination
Decontamination is essential during hazmat (hazardous materials) emergency response situations. And it’s very crucial that no one is allowed to enter a healthcare facility until an operational decon tent is set up.
In this section, we are going to discuss the 5 ‘W’s of decontamination:
The person-in-charge of the decontamination process, in general, is the health officer or site safety. And they are responsible for monitoring the staff who are working on the decon line to make sure that they have ample supplies, the level of adequate protection is maintained, and to prevent them from experiencing fatigue. The job of the person-in-charge is very crucial since workers in the decontamination area are prone to exhaustion, dehydration, and other heat-related ailments.
As for the workers in the decon line, these are composed of emergency response professionals who have experience with decontamination procedures. They are also trained with the decon specifics to be done before entering the hazmat decon tents.
The equipment needs of the decon personnel may vary depending on the type of decontamination being performed. But in the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, the decon process and the equipment used are concentrated on the prevention of the spread of the virus from person to person through wet or dry decontamination.
Wet Decon – This is commonly used for decontaminating first responders, tools, and equipment using water, hoses, buckets, brushes, tarps, pools, pumps, tanks, and cleaning agents. Easy-to-clean chairs and stools are also used for those responders who have to take off their PPEs. Moreover, disposal bags are also provided for quick disposal of gloves, tape, disposable suits, etc.
Dry Decon – Basically, it’s the decontamination process that involves the removal of disposable items within the emergency zone, which includes brushing, gross contamination removal, and collection of trash bags and spent materials.
A decon line should be established as early as the start of the emergency, or in this case, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The health or safety officer must see to it that hazmat decon tents are installed immediately to stop the spread of the virus.
Also, the decon process must be designed to specifically control the transmission of the coronavirus through contact of contaminated objects as the decon process will vary depending on the type of the emergency situation.
Decontamination tents should be established in the areas called “contamination reduction corridors” or places that are within the vicinity of the entryways of the emergency zones or medical tents. In some cases, decontamination tents are also installed near the exits of isolation/quarantine tents as the suit of the personnel is possibly contaminated due to their exposure to infected patients. And for that reason, they are required to undergo a decontamination process before leaving the premises.
In addition, the number of the decontamination line will also depend on the severity of the outbreak case of a geographical location. If the influx of COVID-19 cases is great, then the person-in-charge might decide to create multiple decon lines (one line for the responders and the other for the equipment) to speed up the decontamination process. Otherwise, there will only be a single decon line if the COVID cases in the area are less severe.
Finally, the installation of hazmat decon tents is necessary to remove any harmful substances from the staff (and equipment) and preclude and adverse health effects brought about by the coronavirus.
In essence, everything that goes in and out of the emergency zone should be decontaminated. And this goes the same with the tools and equipment as improper sanitation can result in future problems that may compromise the sterility of the facility from the virus.
Overall, observing thorough decontamination will ensure everyone’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For quality emergency and medical shelters, we suggest visiting Western Shelter’s website for more information.