A chlorine gas release occurred at a poultry processing plant as a result of an accidental mixing of sodium hypochlorite and an acidic antimicrobial treatment. We evaluated the public health and emergency medical services response and developed and disseminated public health recommendations to limit the impact of future incidents.
We conducted key informant interviews with the state health department; local fire, emergency medical services, and police departments; county emergency management; and representatives from area hospitals to understand the response mechanisms employed for this incident.
After being exposed to an estimated 40-pound chlorine gas release, 170 workers were triaged on the scene and sent to 5 area hospitals. Each hospital redistributed staff or called in extra staff (eg, physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists) in response to the event. Interviews with hospital staff emphasized the need for improved communication with responders at the scene of a chemical incident.
While responding, hospitals handled the patient surge without outside assistance because of effective planning, training, and drilling. The investigation highlighted that greater interagency communication can play an important role in ensuring that chemical incident patients are managed and treated in a timely manner. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2016;10:553–556)