Monday, September 13, 2010

Community Email - Your Turn!!

Good Morning Neighbor:

I write with great excitement this morning!  The Draft Recommendation for the National Clearing House for Chemical Emergencies is now up for view and for your public comment - .   Please take the time to read this report and to give positive input recommending that Recommendation #1 be submitted to the highest of national authorities and to become immediately operational.  I say this with all ease  - because as you will see from reading the recommendation many of the resources are already in place through Poison Control - it now needs to be expanded.  

This cannot be done without you - so please do your part to make the National Clearing House for Chemical Emergencies a reality.  I have copied the recommendation below from the report for your ease in reading it.  It begins on page 16 in the overall report.  Please go to the Resolve website above to view the entire report and to make your comment - it is time for the citizens to have their voice heard with a demand for action!!

Your neighbor,


Connie Biemiller Thomas

As Margaret Mead once said:

Never underestimate a few committed people to change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. 

RECOMMENDATION #1: The federal government should establish an office or program whose 778 
goal would be to serve as a coordinating agency, unifying and integrating the efforts of federal, 779 
state, local, and tribal government agencies with responsibilities related to preventing, preparing 780 
for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating chemical emergencies, and serving as a central 781 
program charged with creating consistency and avoiding redundancy of information on chemical 782 
emergencies on the national, state, local, and tribal levels. 783 
Establishing an Office of the Chemical Emergencies Coordinator could accomplish a variety of goals. 785 
First, this office would exist to integrate the often disparate data developed by federal agencies before, 786 
during, and after a chemical emergency, and proactively disseminate it to planners, responders, and where 787 
appropriate, the general public via a National Clearinghouse for Chemical Emergencies. Secondly, the 788 
work group envisions this office as having a role in community outreach and volunteer training on 789 
personal and community responsibilities and roles in chemical emergency prevention, preparedness and 790 
response.  791 
Ideally, this office would establish a National Clearinghouse for Chemical Emergencies. In part, the 793 
Office should collect, develop and disseminate toxicological informational tools. The Office would be 794 
charged with receiving reports of chemical emergencies and guiding timely response through referrals to 795 
agencies of jurisdiction (for instance through public health, first response, first receiver and poison center 796 
channels). In addition, this office would be responsible for ensuring that responders at all levels have 797 
access to real-time information on regional resources and response capabilities.  798 
The recommended Clearinghouse could emulate the national Poison Control System, already partially 800 
funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Advantages of using the existing 801 
hotline structure for access include: 802 
 Immediate access to medical toxicologists 804 
 Availability of specialists in poison information trained to collect exposure data 805 
 Real-time response and staff trained in risk communications with professionals/public 806 
 Alignment with academic resources  807 
 Public and professional familiarity with the existing phone number and service 808 
 Economies of scale 809 
 Robust regional knowledge of response partners and public health agencies 810 
A structure utilizing one or more regional poison control centers might form the backbone of the 812 
emergency reporting and response system under this Office. The availability of clinical toxicologists and 813 
other specialists may yield high quality interpretation of exposure data (often incomplete in the literature, 814 
or requiring collection from several esoteric sources), provide real-time treatment recommendations for 815 
first responders and first receivers, and direct access to the system for the public and other professionals. 816 
Poison control center personnel routinely capture, record and report emergency events, exercises and 817 
drills, and engage in related public health notifications and risk communications for the public. 818 
Mechanisms for raising awareness of services already exist, and modest enhancement in function and 819 
dedicated funding of one or more poison control centers to adopt this important function would shorten 820 
turn-around time for the creation of this Office and to endow it with functionality. Re-branding of poison 821 
control centers should be advertised to the public, chemical industry and professionals. Moreover, contact 822 
data for the Office and for the Poison Control system (1-800-222-1222) should be included on all MSDS 823 
sheets and similar chemical datasheets. In addition, web searches of terms such as "chemical emergency," 824 
should yield this site among the first listed. The website should be easy to navigate to find the needed 825 
information and, if additional assistance is needed, there should be the option to chat with a live operator. 826 
Because there are many potential actors involved with preventing, preparing for, responding to, 828 
recovering from, and mitigating chemical emergencies, with varying skills, education and training, it will 829 
be difficult to develop such a clearinghouse without a unifying body. Thus this recommendation focuses 830 
first on the establishment of an Office of the Chemical Emergencies Coordinator whose goal would be to 831 
coordinate and integrate the efforts of all relevant federal government agencies.  832 
In addition, there are multiple local, state, tribal, and federal agencies and NGOs at all levels, who have 834 
the resources and expertise to assist communities and industries during a chemical release. Another goal 835 
of this Office would be to establish outreach and volunteer training programs to promote and support 836 
individual and community preparedness (e.g., public education, training sessions, demonstrations), 837 
including preparedness of those with functional needs. This would allow agencies and NGOs at all levels 838 
to have a centralized location to report efforts so that duplication is avoided and stakeholders can follow 839   
the process. A comprehensive, easily accessible website should also be established for this service, with 840 
an eye toward providing ongoing education with regard to chemical release and its prevention.  841 
The Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the Department of Homeland 843 
Security, the National Response Center, and other appropriate agencies should be considered as key 844 
resources during the establishment of this office. The Office may draw upon other resources such as 845 
medical toxicologists, clinical toxicologists, or basic science toxicologists (available through 846 
organizations such as the American College of Medical Toxicologists, American Academy of Clinical 847 
Toxicology, American Association of Poison Control Centers, the Society of Toxicology and other 848 
organizations), the chemical industry, industrial hygienists, academia, ATSDR, OSHA, NIOSH, EPA and 849 
others.    850 
Although establishment of the Office of the Chemical Emergencies Coordinator could be led by DHHS, it 852 
might be more effective if it is established as an independent entity, and not under the ownership or 853 
control of any one agency. In addition, the Office of the Chemical Emergencies Coordinator should work 854 
free from political persuasion, with major funding coming from a pool of contributions by all relevant 855 
federal agencies or funding triggered by a federal emergency declaration.  856 

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