We assessed the self-reported theoretical and practical preparedness training of Canadian emergency medical services (EMS) providers in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) events.
We designed an online survey to address the theoretical and practical CBRN training level of prehospital providers. Emergency medical services staff in British Columbia and Ontario were invited to participate.
Of the 1028 respondents, 75% were male, and the largest demographic groups were front-line personnel with more than 15 years of experience. Only 63% of respondents indicated they had received either theoretical or practical training to work in a contaminated environment, leaving 37% who indicated they had received neither type of training. Of those that had received any training, 61% indicated they had received “hands-on” or practical training and 82% indicated they had received some training in identification of a possibly contaminated scene. Only 42% had received training for symptoms of nerve agents, 37% had received training for symptoms of blister agents and 46% had received training for symptoms of asphyxiants. Thirty-two percent had received training for the treatment of patients exposed to nerve agents, and 30% had received training for the treatment of patients exposed to blister agents. Only 31% of all respondents had received training for detecting radiation.
CBRN events involve unique hazards and require specific education and training for EMS providers. A large proportion of Canadian EMS providers report not having received the training to identify and work in contaminated environments.