Understanding and Managing Behavioural and Psychological Responses to Chemical Incidents
Chemical incidents require rapid action and intervention to minimise the risk of illness and injury to affected casualties. During pre-hospital emergency response, protected first responders will guide members of the public through evacuation, decontamination and triage. The ability of casualties to complete these steps may be confounded by their inexperience of these processes, and their willingness to do so may be influenced by their perceptions of the actions of emergency responders and the risk from the incident itself. For the wider community, protective actions may need to be rapidly communicated by emergency responders. Cooperative behaviours are the norm, not the exception in emergency situations; however chemical incidents can provide unique challenges. Chemical incidents can also have wide and long-lasting psychological, social and/or economic impacts on communities. Responding organisations should proactively communicate with and support affected populations months and years after physical and environmental mitigation is complete. This chapter considers the likely psychological and behavioural responses of the public and professional responders during chemical incidents. Evidence-based strategies for the management of chemical incident response processes such as mass decontamination are presented, and recommendations for management of the impacts of chemical incidents on affected populations are described.