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With financial support from the European Commission via the Health Threats Strand of the Community Action in the Field of Public Health Work Plan for 2007. With additional support from the UK Department of Health and Home Office

Evaluation and Optimisation of Emergency Mass Casualty Decontamination

The ORCHIDS project aims to strengthen the preparedness of European countries to react to incidents involving the deliberate release of potentially hazardous substances. Response capabilities can be enhanced by identifying ways of optimising decontamination processes for emergencies involving large numbers of casualties.

This project delivered quantitative evidence on the optimum techniques for dealing with a range of potential contaminants and scenarios requiring emergency mass casualty decontamination, by addressing a full range of issues through applied toxicological research to mass casualty decontamination exercising and simulation modelling. Applied research into priority contaminants was undertaken in a programme of laboratory research trials. The outcome of these trials provides evidence-based recommendations on the optimum techniques for effective decontamination. A series of operational research trials with human participants using simulant agents have tested the efficacy of the optimised decontamination methods. Two large-scale mass casualty decontamination exercises were also conducted, focusing on the operational processes and capacities of decontamination facilities. Quantitative data generated from the operational research trials and exercising was used to create a realistic simulation model of mass casualty decontamination response. This model has been used to test response capacity to mass casualty scenarios.

The ORCHIDS project was the first to explore mass casualty decontamination from 'first principles'. Evidence-based best practice guidelines have been produced and disseminated to key stakeholders within the EU and beyond. Recommendations for the procurement of second generation mass decontamination response programmes have also been generated.