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Poison Centers

Missouri Poison Center

If the Unthinkable Happens…Disaster Preparedness at the Missouri Poison Center

Simulation of mass casualty decontamination. 

Courtesy of US Army: Kevin Goode – Simulation of mass casualty decontamination.

A stadium packed with exuberant fans is suddenly interrupted by an explosion in the stands. Unbeknownst to innocent victims, they are being exposed to a dirty bomb containing a colorless, odorless nerve gas that has been aerosolized for inhalation and dermal contamination. The terror begins...

This scenario of a terrorist attack involves a dangerous chemical agent with the potential for mass injury and death. Events like this with public health significance can also involve biological agents or radiation, as well as natural disasters. In preparation for the unthinkable, the Missouri Poison Center (MPC) contributes in several ways.

The MPC has teamed with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) initiated through the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, to develop a series of Health Alerts that address emerging chemical threats with high potential. Health Alerts convey information of the highest level of importance which warrants immediate action or attention from Missouri health providers, emergency responders, public health agencies, and/or the public. The Health Alerts provide a summary of the current situation and important considerations specific to the toxin; information on decontamination and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), clinical presentation, management, and prognosis. This information is disseminated electronically in the event of a public health disaster.

Secondly, the MPC commits to disaster response training for its employees; all 24 specialists in poison information (SPI) who field the calls to the poison center in Missouri have participated in Advanced Hazmat Life Support (AHLS). Exit Disclaimer. This in-depth program is a two-day workshop followed by competency testing. A 2010 study demonstrated retention of AHLS concepts and protocols among SPIs at the MPC after a 14-month period.1

Additionally, the MPC maintains interactive voice response (IVR) capability to augment mass distribution of critical up-to-the-minute information to Missouri residents in the face of disaster.

These efforts further integrate the MPC into Missouri’s public health network with the aim of providing information and assistance in the wake of any public health disaster. Through partnership with the DHSS, training of personnel in disaster response, and IVR capability to provide information; the MPC adheres to its core public health mission of optimal treatment of the poisoned patient and poison prevention education. Learn more about the MPC. Exit Disclaimer.


1Lehman-Huskamp K et al. Disaster preparedness education and a Midwest Regional Poison Center. Am J Disaster Med. 2010; 5(4):229-236.