The Department of Health & Human Services is involved in responses to chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) emergencies in conjunction with other agencies. The department is prepared to quickly assess the potential health impacts of CBR emergencies so that appropriate action can be taken to protect the health of Victorians.
CBR agents have the potential to seriously threaten community health and safety, property and the environment. While these agents – especially chemicals – may be accidentally released, a deliberate and malicious act of contamination may have more catastrophic effects and cause mass casualties.
The department developed the Decontamination guidance for hospitals to help health services prepare practical decontamination and mitigation strategies for CBR or HAZMAT emergencies.
A chemical emergency can happen anywhere as the result of a fire, explosion or a chemical spill, or from a road or train accident. Chemical emergencies may also be the result of a terrorist attack.
The deliberate release of harmful biological agents such as viruses (for example, anthrax and smallpox), bacteria, fungi and toxins has the potential to cause significant damage to human health, the environment and the Australian economy.
Australia does not have a nuclear power industry, so radiation emergency planning in Victoria and Australia deals with a range of low-probability events such as:
- a medical radiation accident
- an accidental radioactive release from a visiting nuclear-powered warship
- widespread contamination occurring from the re-entry of radioactive space debris
- an uncontrolled radioactive source
- the malicious use of radioactive material such as a nuclear weapon.
For further information see the Radiological emergencies – Australian clinical guidelines available in the documents section or visit the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency website.