Emergency responders have to deal with an increasing number of natural and man-made disasters. As each large-scale disaster occurs, the need to ensure the safety and health of professional and volunteer emergency responders, before, during, and after a disaster has grown.
While some guidance has been developed on how to prepare response workers before and during deployment, less attention has been placed on monitoring the health of responders after they are finished dealing with the disaster.
Post-deployment monitoring and assessment is important because long-term health effects on responders following disasters may not be readily apparent for many years, and reconstruction of exposure information needed for long-term health monitoring and surveillance program can be difficult.
The information on responders can be used both during the incident to mitigate acute safety and health concerns, as well as provide the critical information needed to set up long-term health monitoring and surveillance systems quickly and effectively.
Recognizing the issue, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health convened a multidisciplinary public health workgroup. The workgroup include the U.S. National Response Team and a number of federal agencies, state health departments, labor unions, and volunteer emergency responder groups to develop the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) system in 2011.
The next step in the developing this system was to implement and field-test ERHMS in real-world emergency response events, practice exercises, and training venues. NIOSH tested implementing ERHMS in a large scale interagency training exercise last year, which also tested the utility of hand-held electronic data collection techniques.
The document “Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance” is now available that addresses a variety of public health measures that includes:
- Providing for medical screening that focuses on fitness and ability to safely and effectively deploy
- Providing for training regarding hazards on the site
- Developing approaches to centralized tracking
- Providing follow-up or long-term surveillance or monitoring for potential delayed or long-term adverse effects
The data needs to be acquired through electronic transfer systems, records review, and surveys. The information for worker related data should include personal information along with medical information.
For more information on ERHMS, go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/erhms.