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Shortcomings Seen in Local Nuclear, Radiological Event Readiness
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should engage with high-population jurisdictions to better coordinate local nuclear and radiological threat analyses with preparations for particular contingencies, investigators with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said in a report issued on Tuesday (see GSN, Oct. 12, 2011).
President Obama's 2010 National Security Strategy described a nuclear attack as the most significant threat to the U.S. populace, the department's inspector general noted in the assessment (see GSN, May 27, 2010). "If state and local public health officials do not plan for such incidents, local public health departments will not be adequately prepared to quickly respond and protect the public," the HHS report states.
No federal mandate exists for states and local jurisdictions to make public health preparations for nuclear or radiological strikes or other atomic occurrences beyond nuclear energy accidents, the analysis notes.
Of 40 jurisdictions selected from the highest-population U.S. areas, all but four had completed nuclear and radiological threat analyses, according to the report. Still, related medical readiness plans "did not always correspond to localities' prioritized threats," the document adds.
"For example, of the four localities that categorized RN [radiological and/or nuclear] incidents as a high-priority threat, only one had RN-specific plans," the auditors wrote. "Twenty-one of the 40 selected localities conducted RN-specific public health planning in at least one of the five public health areas of responsibility we examined, but planning in the five areas varied. Localities also varied in the extent to which they coordinated with federal, state and local partners for RN-specific public health planning."
A majority of state and jurisdictional government personnel knew of federal resources for making related medical preparations, but still asked for "more comprehensive and specific planning tools," according to the report.
The investigators called for more targeted CDC advisory support on "the public health areas of responsibility to include in RN-incident planning" as well as additional recommendations "on coordination with other entities for RN-incident planning." In addition, they recommended additional training for the jurisdictions "about the unique aspects of an RN incident not addressed in all-hazards planning."
The Centers for Disease Control concurred with each of the four suggestions, the document states (U.S. Health and Human Services Department Inspector General's Office report, January 2012).
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