Since the terror attacks of September 11th, emergency departments across North America have become more aware of the need to be prepared to deal with a mass casualty terror event, particularly one involving nuclear, biological or chemical contaminants. The effects of such an attack could also be mimicked by accidental release of toxic chemicals, radioactive substances or biological agents unrelated to terrorist activity.
The purpose of this study was to review the risks and characteristics of these events and to assess the preparedness of Canadian emergency departments to respond. This was done by means of a survey, which showed a significant risk of a mass casualty event (most likely chemical) coupled with a deficiency in preparedness — most notably in the availability of appropriate equipment, antidotal therapy and decontamination capability. There were also significant deficiencies in the ability to respond to a major biologic or nuclear event.