the preparation of water for large numbers, the boiling procedure should be supervised. Water boiling may, of necessity, become an individual responsibility and may be so directed.
For small groups of people, the Lyster bag is provided as a suitable container for the storage of water that has already been treated for use in the purification process. Water that has not been made potable previously is purified in the Lyster bag by means of chemicals. Water purification procedures are discussed in detail in chapter 11 of the HM 3 & 2 Rate Training Manual.
In the event of a known or suspected biological attack, all exposed or unpackaged foods not in critical supply should be destroyed. In most instances, food can be rendered safe for consumption by application of moist-heat cooking procedures. In some instances, deep fat cooking is adequate. Some foods, however, cannot be sterilized because the treatment would render them unacceptable for consumption.
The extent to which personal decontamination can be carried out following actual or suspected exposure to biological agents will depend upon the existing tactical situation and the facilities available. If the situation permits, contaminated clothing should be carefully removed and the body washed thoroughly with soap and water before donning fresh clothing. Specific attention should be given to decontamination and the treatment of skin lesions.
Normally, each individual is responsible for his or her own decontamination. If a person is physically unable to decontaminate himself or herself, this process has to be performed by other available personnel, including medical personnel. Since illness resulting from exposure to biological warfare may be delayed because of the incubation period, decontamination may occur before the individual becomes ill. Decontamination of the wounded, however, will not have been carried out and is the responsibility of Medical Department personnel. In the management of the wounded, a problem of priority may exist. When the situation and the condition of the casualty permit, decontamination should come first. However, massive hemorrhage, asphyxia, or other life-endangering conditions naturally receive priority.
In general, all candidates for decontamination should first have all exposed areas thoroughly washed with soap and large amounts of water, the mask adjusted, and all contaminated clothing removed. The casualty may then be moved to a clean area where the wounds can be treated.
Decontamination procedures are the same as those used for casualties of chemical warfare.
Teams entering contaminated areas to remove casualties and those working in decontamination stations have two major concerns. One is the prevention of their own contamination and the other is preventing or reducing radioactive exposure. Contamination can be avoided by decontaminating patients and equipment prior to handling, wearing appropriate protective clothing and equipment, avoiding highly contaminated areas, and strictly observing personal decontamination procedures. Exposure to radiation should also be avoided or minimized. Alpha and beta particles and gamma rays are emitted from radioactive contaminants and present a direct risk to the health and safety of personnel in the contaminated area. This risk can be avoided or minimized by following some simple guidelines and using common sense. Time, distance, and shielding are the major principles that guide actions to avoid exposure.
Radioactive decay and the deposition of fallout products progresses rapidly in the early hours after a nuclear blast, and the hazards to rescue workers can be reduced considerably if operations can be delayed until natural decay has reduced the level of radioactivity. If teams trained in the use of survey instruments are available, guesswork can be eliminated since they will determine the intensity of radiation with their instruments and mark perimeters of danger zones.
Limiting the time of exposure is essential if total avoidance is not possible. Rotating personnel entering an exposure risk area, planning actions to minimize time in the area, and prompt decontamination reduce the total time the individual is exposed and therefore reduces the dose of radiation absorbed by the body.
Both radioactive particles and electromagnetic waves (gamma rays) lose energy and consequently lose their ability to harm tissue as they travel away from their source. Therefore, the further one is from the source, the danger of an exposure is minimized.