The role of oncology in readiness preparation for a nuclear disaster

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The current world political climate, the world's reliance on nuclear power, and the demonstrated potential for radiation disasters, such as the recent catastrophic events in Fukushima, Japan, necessitate a closer look at radiation disaster planning, presenters noted during the Oncology Nursing Society 36th Annual Congress.

How can one transplant program help?

Planning for a radiation disaster is an integral component of a comprehensive disaster plan and represents a significant opportunity for collaboration with oncology, noted September Mitchell, BSN, OCN®, CHTC, BMT, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona, and colleagues. They described their transplant program's approach to developing, implementing, and disseminating a radiation disaster preparedness plan and incorporating that plan into the facility's larger disaster plan.

In 2008, the Banner Blood and Marrow Transplant Program entered into a collaborative partnership with the Radiation Injury Treatment Network (RITN) with the goal of helping the state of Arizona—and the United States—prepare to provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment for victims of radiation exposure or other marrow toxic injuries, they said.

As a member of the network, the transplant program has conducted two tabletop exercises, developed treatment guidelines, and educated more than 40 staff representing a cross-section of the interdisciplinary team and ancillary departments. The program has also participated in one nationwide drill for a radiation injury disaster and has helped educate state and local agencies.

These collaborative efforts have served to expand the network and facilitate a coordinated response in the event of a radiation disaster, Mitchell noted, including providing treatment options for mass casualties with marrow-ablative injuries. The staff of the transplant program has also provided community education for hospital readiness in case of disaster for hospitals in the Phoenix area.

She explained that bone marrow transplant programs in particular play a significant role in US readiness preparation in the event of a nuclear disaster, whether from natural causes, such as a tsunami, or terrorist activity. Currently, 29 states operate nuclear power plants and each year, hundreds of radioactive sources are lost or stolen. Since the inception of the Homeland Security Advisory System in 2002, the terrorist threat scale has fluctuated from yellow to red, denoting an “elevated” to “severe” risk of terrorist attacks, which requires continued vigilance.
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