Public perceptions of emergency decontamination: Effects of intervention type and responder management strategy during a focus group study

Holly Carter*, Dale Weston, Naomi Betts, Simon Wilkinson, Richard Amlot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the event of an incident involving the release of a hazardous chemical, first responders may decide to initiate emergency decontamination in order to remove any contaminant from affected casualties. Recent initiatives such as the UK Home Office-led Initial Operational Response Programme have introduced new evidence-based decontamination protocols that reduce the time taken to initiate the decontamination process, including an increased emphasis on rapidly removing contaminated clothing (disrobe), and the use of improvised dry decontamination methods. The current study used a series of focus groups to examine public perceptions of different decontamination interventions and responder management strategies. Results revealed that a decontamination shower was perceived to be more effective than dry decontamination methods and that a management strategy that included effective responder communication resulted in increased willingness to comply with the need for decontamination. This study demonstrates that public understanding and acceptance of novel decontamination methods such as dry decontamination may present additional challenges for first responders. Increased emphasis on effective communication during decontamination is needed. Furthermore, provision of information during the focus group study resulted in an increase in participants’ knowledge and confidence in taking recommended decontamination actions, which was maintained three months after the study. The longitudinal nature of these effects suggest that it may be possible to increase public awareness about actions to take during chemical incidents by developing pre-incident public education; however, further research is needed to examine this more fully.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0195922
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London in partnership with Public Health England. Dale Weston and Richard Amlôt are part-funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Modelling Methodologies at Imperial College in partnership with Public Health England. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health, or Public Health England. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Carter et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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