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Last modified: Friday, October 30, 2009 12:04 AM EDT

The Lynn Fire Department held a Mass


Decontamination Unit drill at Union Hospital
Thursday, which began with setting up the
MDU — the place where all the
decontamination takes place — in the
parking lot. Item photo / Owen O'Rourke
Lynn Fire Dept. holds annual training exercise

By Laura Paine / For The Item

LYNN - If ever there is a terrorist attack or an accident dispersing hazardous waste or chemicals in
Lynn or its surrounding towns and cities, area hospitals and the Lynn Fire Department are
educated and equipped to handle the situation's victims.

Lynn Fire held a Mass Decontamination Unit (MDU) drill Thursday at Union Hospital for both fire
and medical staff members, which the state of Massachusetts requires annually. This trains the
appropriate personnel to properly set up and operate the MDU tent, hoses and generator in the
event of an emergency.

"If there is ever a hazardous situation in the city, whether it be a terrorist attack or it is a spill of a
chemical, or an accident and a lot of people are contaminated with hazardous substances, studies
have shown that they won't wait at the scene for help, they will go to the nearest hospital on their
own and they could overwhelm the hospital emergency room," said Lynn Fire Capt. Joseph Zukas.
"We don't want to have people with contaminating chemicals or hazardous materials getting into
the hospital and effectively shutting down the hospital for 90,000 people."

The tent is set up in front of the emergency room and has three compartments: one for males,
one for females and one non-ambulatory compartment, which allows emergency personnel to
decontaminate those who are unable to move. According to Zukas, 80 percent of the
decontamination process occurs in the first part of the tent, where the individual removes their
clothing. The second tent is lined with four hoses that spray warm, soapy water, made up of
approximately 2 percent baby shampoo. The final tent is for drying off and putting on a hospital
gown.

"It is basically like a human car wash. When they come out they are all set to be evaluated and
treated," said Zukas.

In October 2002, Massachusetts received 92 MDUs and each hospital with an emergency room is
required to have one. The units can be transported from the hospital to the scene of an accident,
allowing surrounding towns to assist each other depending upon the size of the incident.

"Let's say it was on the Lynnway and there was a major accident with chemicals and stuff, and it
was affecting a lot of people who needed to be decontaminated on scene. We have the ability to
do that and we'll bring another tent in from another city to protect the hospital," Zukas said. "The
more people that are trained in this the better, because we don't know what kind of scenario this
could be."