Concerns of Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) members about troubles at the nuclear power plant: experience from the Niigata Chuetsu-Oki earthquake, 16 July 2007, in Japan
Akashi M, Kumagaya K, Kondo H, Hirose Y.
Health Phys. 2010 Jun;98(6):804-9.
An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale struck the Niigata-Chuetsu region of Japan at 10:13 on 16 July 2007. The earthquake was followed by the sustained occurrence of numerous aftershocks, delaying the reconstruction of community lifelines. The earthquake affected the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants (NPPs), the biggest NPP site in the world. The earthquake caused damage to NPPs, resulting in a small amount of radioactive materials being released into the air and the sea. However, no significant effects were detected in the public and the environment. As medical response to this earthquake, 42 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) were sent to hospitals and first-aid care centers at the NPP site.
In order to evaluate the perceptions of the deployed DMAT personnel regarding concerns about the health effects of radiation and information about the damage to NPPs, questionnaires were sent to 40 facilities that dispatched DMATs to the earthquake area. Most of them were concerned with the effects of radiation, and adequate information about the problems at the NPPs was not communicated to them. This preliminary study suggests that communication of information is extremely important for DMAT members in the case of disasters, in particular if there exists a possibility of radiation exposure, since radiation cannot be detected by our senses. DMAT members are critical to any mass casualty incident, whether caused by humans or nature. We have learned from this earthquake that there is urgent need for an all-hazards approach, including a “combined disaster” strategy, which should be emphasized for current disaster planning and response. This is the first report on DMATs deployed to an earthquake site with damage to NPPs.