Falls Church, VA February 12, 2007 - On February 7, 2007, the White House released a Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-18 on the medical countermeasures against Weapons of Mass Destruction. Addressed was the nation's strategy to combat WMD, the feasibility to develop and stockpile medical countermeasures against every possible threat, the challenges presented by the diverse chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents (CBRN) and mitigating illness and preventing death.
The Cyanide Poisoning Treatment Coalition (CPTC), a national non-profit organization seeking to foster a rational approach to the diagnosis and treatment of cyanide poisoning through increased research, advocacy and education, supports the policies and actions of the Presidential Directive on many levels:
Focused development of agent-specific medical countermeasures;
Development of a flexible capability for new medical countermeasures;
Employ an integrated approach to WMD medical countermeasures development;
Establishment of an interagency committee to provide advise in setting medical countermeasures requirements and coordinate research, development and procurement activities;
Engaging the private sector and nongovernmental entities; and
Development of a strategic, integrated all-CBRN risk assessment that integrates the findings the intelligence and law enforcement communities with input from the scientific, medical, and public health communities.
CPTC President Dr. Donald W. Walsh, a 30-year Fire and EMS Service member, emphasized the importance of HSPD-18. "Cyanide is so easy to obtain here in the United States. Cyanide is used in many industrial applications, and with so much availability of the chemical, we need to be prepared and develop appropriate countermeasures, including antidotes and chemical treatment stockpiles," Walsh said.
Because cyanide possesses many of the characteristics of an "ideal" terrorist weapon, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security consider it to be among the most likely agents of chemical terrorism. CPTC recognizes and addresses the limited awareness of sources of cyanide poisoning posing a risk to the health and safety of communities across the country, and leading fire, medical and industry organizations.
"The general lack of knowledge about cyanide poisoning and insufficient antidote stocking levels are alarming and are two essential areas in which the CPTC focuses its educational efforts," said Dr. Walsh. "The CPTC provides and continues to develop and implement a variety of educational programs and tools to assist fire service and emergency response managers and emergency medical providers, including doctors, nurses and first responders, to help improve emergency preparedness, early recognition and response to incidents of cyanide poisoning."
Previous studies have gauged the awareness of cyanide via exposure risk and treatment preparedness:
RTI National Survey on Cyanide Risk and Preparedness
Conducted by RTI (Research Triangle Institute) International, this survey polled Advanced Life Support (ALS) emergency medical service (EMS) providers from 832 fire departments and 507 ALS providers around the country. Findings included: